Expand Your Wardrobe Vocabulary



Fear grips my brain when an unknown word comes up on an assignment. Solution? Research and prepare a term list. Sue Ellen Wright, my terminology professor at the Institute for Applied Linguistics taught us to develop our own lists. Today we start with clothing. You can expand  to include not only nouns but also verb patterns (Nike’s Anorak covers your hips) to increase recall. My fellow interpreter Steve Sachs remarked years ago to learn words in context, not isolation.


Prepare a clothing list with the document below in a format that works for you (Word, Excel, Notes). Tailor the table to meet your needs (no pun intended) with more columns. A suggestion is to form a phrase to link a garment to a verb: “Raúl wears jeans to work”, “Put on a smock before painting” and “Monica’s evening gown dazzled the crowd at Saturday’s gala.” Click on these links for further investigation: Proz, Linguee and IATE linguee. I find Google images helps further capture meaning.

beater 2


A confession: my problem words are blazer (a plain jacket not forming part of a suit but considered appropriate for formal wear), bow tie and a certain t-shirt, the wife beater. The latter tripped me up while a detective interviewed a rape suspect. Urban Dictionary defines a wife beater: “a form fitting white ribbed tank top worn by men; looks good on well-built fellas, pathetic on skinny fellas, and disgusting on fat beer bellied fellas: Brad Pitt looks damn good in a wife beater.


Onesie: an infant’s one-piece close-fitting lightweight garment, usually having sleeves but leaving the legs uncovered and fastening with snaps at the crotch.


“Onesie” came up in a pediatrician’s office: “Mrs. Belaunde, you can dress him in his onesie and leave his legs bare for the DTAP vaccine.” A “onesie”? Twosie, threesie, foursie and the word does not come to mind yet. In the moment my work around was to drop the onesie and include the “dress” portion. A later search produced mameluco on Proz. Does anyone have other suggestions for this infant wear?


Another pat phrase in pediatric clinics asks parents to prepare a little one for measurements. “Undress Edgardo down to the diaper.” The assistant wants the dad to remove clothing but keep the diaper on. I used to say “Take off her clothes but keep the diaper on.” A Honduran mother asked “¿Permanece con el pañal?/Does he keep the diaper on?” Today I say “Permanezca con el pañal.” I learned “to wear” from native Hondurans: traer puesto. “Does your daughter wear glasses all the time?” The verb phrase also works when an audiologist asks if Marcos wears his hearing aids at school or at home.


Now that you have a list, decide how to gain rapid access on the fly. As a caution I notify the provider why I reach for the iPhone for terms. Storage options include Notes or Dropbox. Choose which works best for you. Have fun with your research and post any ideas or comments.

TERM Definition Source Sentence ES,
Anorak Usually a pullover hooded jacket long enough to cover hips https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anorak


This playful, very packable nylon ANORAK from Nike is the perfect antidote to gray skies that threaten to ruin your trip. Chubascero (ES), chaqueta polar; From Inuit, Greenland annoraaq




Published by The Interpreter Fellow

I am an Ohio State Certified Court Interpreter and Certified Healthcare Interpreter in Spanish. MA Translation from The Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. Currently I serve Akron Children's Hospital Pediatrics and local courts.

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Liam O'Dell

Freelance Journalist and Campaigner

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