Hayes and Athens (1988) explain that we encounter more of these rare words [words beyond the 10,000 or so words that adults tend to use in their working vocabulary] in printed text than we do in oral speech. In fact, adults, when talking to other adults, will use about 17 rare words for every 1,000 words. Adults, when talking to a 10 year old child, will only use about 11 rare wortds for every 1,000 words. Television shows offer about 22 rare words per every 1,000. However, a children's book uses 30 rare words for every 1,000; an adult book uses 52 for every 1,000; a comic book (Yes! Archie lives!) uses about 53 rare words for every 1,000; and a scientific paper uses as many as 128 rare words per every 1,000.
--Kylene Beers, When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do, p. 197.
How about that, comic fans? Ranked just below scientific papers in use of rare words. That's an accomplishment, to be sure. And I doubt that this is counting "incredibly rare words" like "absorbascon" and "materioptikon" and "Khund" and "Cyttorak." You know, the gigantic vocabulary of made-up words that we use in casual conversation. Now, those of you who've been reading comics since childhood will see this passage and say "yeah, I knew that already." That's what I said. Back when I was significantly younger, when I'd actually hear about comic books "rotting my brain," I could point to the words I'd learned on the four-color page as an example of the intellectual value of floppies. Sure, I'd heard Skeletor and Megatron say "annihilate," but it wasn't until I saw it in a comic book that I knew how it was spelled. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I learned the following words from comics, and this is just off the top of my head:
And on, and on, and on. If I could paw through some of the comics I read as a kid, I could triple that list, perhaps more. Every mad scientist's monologue, every discussion of arcane technology or costume design (where else do you learn something like "epaulet"?), every magical incantation or superpower explanation was o'erteeming with new and unfamiliar words for my spongelike young brain to absorb. Comics helped me become the word nerd I am today. I suspect that it's much the same with most people who read comics in childhood, especially those who continue to do so today.
Et tu? What did you learn from comics?