Articles published in September 2010

Easily Confused Words: Gradation and Graduation

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gradation ≠ graduation

Graduation, of course, is what happens at the end of a course of study. Gradation, however, is any change or process taking place in stages, or gradually.

Something with gradations is gradated.

The dress showed a gentle gradation of color, beginning at the top with a robin’s egg blue and ending at the hem with a sea-foam green.

Some spelling bee manuals divide words into easy, medium, and difficult, but relative difficulty among spelling words is really far more gradated than those three categories would suggest.

Pop Quiz: Which One’s Different?

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pop quizPop Quiz!

Today’s quiz: one of these words is not like the others. Which word is not a synonym with the other five?

Make your decision, then click “more.”

INCIPIENT
NASCENT
DIDACTIC
FLEDGLING
NEOPHYTE
TYRO

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Visual Dictionary: Truss

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

This is a truss. It supports a roof.

This is also a truss. It supports the wearer’s back.

You get the idea. Let’s try an Antonyms problem!

TRUSS:
A. IMPLODE
B. UNBURDEN
C. DETERIORATE
D. UNBIND
E. UNTWIST

Choose your own answer, then click “more.”

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Three-Letter Words: Vim

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definitionSome of the most perplexing words on the GRE are diminutive. Who doesn’t see PAN : REVIEW and metaphorically scratch his or her head, or wonder what, exactly, a nib or a gin is on its own? Welcome to Three-Letter Words. A few of them might make you want to deploy some four-letter words.

Vim means “lively or energetic spirit; enthusiasm; vitality.”

Vim almost always appears in the phrase “vim and vigor,” and thus is an especially difficult word when seen alone. Incidentally, vigor is a synonym for vim, so the expression is a bit redundant and should be taken as expressing emphasis.

Choose your own answer before clicking “more”:

The first half of the day, she had been full of vim, but after four hours of Coach Weebly’s castigation, she started to _________.

A. despoil
B. flag
C. wax
D. mar
E. excise

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Easily Confused Words: Indignant, Indigent, Indigenous

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indignant ≠ indigent ≠ indigenous

Indignant means offended; feeling or expressing displeasure at something unjust or insulting.

Indigent means poor.

Indigenous means native, inherent, originating in and characteristic of a particular place.

Fill in each blank with one indignant, indigent, or indigenous, then click “more”:

The Native American leader said, “We are ________ that, due to persistent treaty violations and other acts of governmental abuse and neglect, so many of this nation’s ___________ people are tragically _________.”

The apparently ___________ man on the subway was ___________ that we didn’t donate money after his off-key rendition of “My Girl.”

I am in Borneo to study the ___________ flora and fauna.

While the so-called “wolf girl” had been seriously neglected in her childhood, she apparently possessed an ___________ intelligence and was later able to learn to communicate and solve complex problems.

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Visual Dictionary: Hatch

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

If you saw an Analogies problem that read HATCH : SEWER, there would be many reasons to be confused.

If you were thinking of a chicken hatching from an egg and a sewer in the sense of a tailor or seamstress, you might just walk right out of the GRE and down to the local pub to tell a sympathetic bartender your tale of verbal woe.

But if you glanced down at the answer choices in such a problem, you’d see that the first word in each choice is a noun, and that HATCH here must also be a noun. SEWER here means “the place your toilet water goes,” and also where the Joker lived in the Batman saga.

This is a hatch. A hatch is an opening, such as in a ship, aircraft, roof, or floor.

A good relationship sentence for HATCH : SEWER would be, of course, “A HATCH is an entrance/opening to a SEWER” or “A 1 is an entrance/opening to a 2.”  (A “sewer hatch” is the thing most of us would call a “manhole cover”).

Let’s try the entire problem.

HATCH : SEWER ::
A. LOBBY : BUILDING
B. SASH : WINDOW
C. DOOR : ENTRANCE
D. MOUTH : CAVE
E. INCISION : SURGERY

Choose an answer on your own, then click “more.”

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Vocab at the Movies: Sleeping Beauty

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maleficentIn Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora’s main nemesis is the evil Maleficent, whose imprecation is the impetus for the film’s plot.

Maleficent, of course, is an adjective meaning evil, malicious, and a near-synonym of malevolent. Angry at having not been invited to baby Aurora’s christening, Maleficent curses Aurora — that is, places a malediction on her — to “prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die” on her sixteenth birthday.

Of course, it all works out fine when Aurora’s inamorato defeats Maleficent, with the help of some beneficent fairies.

Maleficent’s pet raven is named Diablo. Diablo is the Spanish word for devil, and is of course related to the word diabolical.

Pop Quiz: Six Words, Two Groups

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pop quizPop Quiz!

The following six words can be grouped by meaning into two categories.

Mentally place them into two synonym groups, then click “more.”

CASTIGATE
TRUNCATE
CHIDE
UPBRAID
ABRIDGE
DIGEST

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Visual Dictionary: Conflagration

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Welcome to Visual Dictionary, a series of posts about words that are better expressed in pictures.

Conflagration

A conflagration is a fire, especially an extensive one, such as a forest fire.

Conflagration comes from the same root as flagrant, which means obvious in a bad way, glaring, scandalous. As in, “burningly” terrible.

Conflagration also shares a root with the Latin expression “in flagrante delicto,” meaning “red-handed,” or “in the middle of committing a crime.”

Choose your own answer before clicking “more.”

CAMPFIRE : CONFLAGRATION ::
A. drip : reservoir
B. pamphlet : tome
C. mansion : shack
D. hydrant : truck
E. cup : pitcher

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Pop Quiz: The Life of the Party

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pop quizPop Quiz!

If I told you that my friend Javier is “the life of the party,” which words would be appropriate to apply to him based only on the information I told you?

Make your choices, then click “more.”

CONVIVIAL
POMPOUS
TACITURN
VACILLATING
GENIAL
HETEROGENEOUS

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