A few days after high school senior Katelyn "Lyn" Leech posted a list she'd created from the Broadway hit Hamilton using the Vocabulary.com list builder, her Twitter notifications went through the roof.
She knew something was up, but it wasn't until she logged onto Twitter that she saw what it was. Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) had tweeted Lyn's list to his large following. Suddenly word learners from all over were checking out Lyn's vocabulary list, retweeting it, and sending her thank you messages.
To see the tweets, check out "Listening to a Revolution: Hamilton Upends All Expectations for Words." Here, Lyn shares the story of her word-learning adventure.
Vocabulary.com: First, let's talk about what got you making vocabulary lists in the first place. How did you come to use Vocabulary.com?
Lyn L.: Last year, it was an English class requirement. You had to earn a certain number of points [by playing the game]. Then this past year Vocabulary.com turned into a competitive thing for my school when we realized we were number two in the state of Virginia. Now that's led to a lot of people playing. Whenever something happens connected to our state ranking, they'll put it on the announcements, just like a sports achievement.
VC: We know your teacher Mr. Godfried has been posting vocabulary videos.
LL: Yes. Every morning in the announcements, he does a word of the day. Often he adds a cute little video with something memorable about the word. He made a contest where if you get a million points you get a t-shirt. At first I was going for it as a joke. Then I got into it. I realized [playing Vocabulary.com] was actually fun and helpful. There's something cool about being able to say, "Hey we're best in the state for this."
VC: Your Twitter handle is @halatious. Can we assume you were into words even before you started playing Vocabulary.com?
LL: I was. I've never taken Latin or anything to expand my understanding of words, I just think words are cool. I got an almost perfect score on the vocabulary section of the SAT, and I enjoy reading — I just read and loved The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. You have to have a pretty extensive vocabulary to do the work in my AP Literature class. (Right now we're learning a list of words to describe tones in literature.)
VC: So, why Hamilton?
LL: Ever since taking US History last year, I've been a huge history nerd. It's such an interesting topic to me, learning about storylines, and what's happened to people, the country, and the world. I like musical theater in general, too. When I started hearing about Hamilton on social media, I knew it was something I'd be interested in. I got the music on Spotify.
Now, I have a kind of dorkish level of knowledge of this play. I've listened to it exclusively for the past month or so. I know most of the lyrics to all the songs. Some of the rap parts that get super quick, I'm like, "Oh, what are you saying?" So I made the list. I didn't expect it to get any attention but I tweeted it anyway.
VC: How did it feel when it went viral?
LL: My reaction was, "Why do I have this many Twitter notifications? This never happens!" There were some people tweeting me about how they were going to use it with their kids who don't know the vocabulary words. That was so cool to think that it would affect other people. And now I'm even more excited to one day see the show!
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