GRE Teacher, Private Eye: A Vocabulary Detective Story


Thinking of taking one of our 9-session GRE classes? Here’s one benefit of our classes that we don’t mention anywhere else on our website, and that sometimes takes our students by surprise—when we give you a list of 49 words to learn every week (that’s 7 per day), we also follow up with a vocabulary email using those 7 words in context.

Here’s an example of the vocabulary emails our course students receive every day.

Dear Students,

Not long ago I was working as a private eye when a SLIGHT young man came in asking for my help. He was so emaciated, enervated, and lacking in VIGOR, in fact, that it looked as though he hadn’t eaten for a week, although he had just enough energy to twitch nervously.

I don’t mean to be PRESUMPTUOUS, he said in a peculiar accent, but this case is more important than anything you could possibly be moiling over and I just know you’ll be my detective.

Well, then, I said, a bit ruffled. Cut the drama — tell me EXPLICITLY what the case is about.

He began his story. He had been working as a busboy, clearing dishes from a table of pugnacious-looking women when one of the women shrieked and began grabbing at his apron. He scuttled back into the kitchen, only to find the women at his apartment door the next morning. He ran. He had been running ever since. It was a verisimilar tale.

Just then, a terrible FRACAS erupted on the street below my office. That was always happening back in my private eye days “ just as I’d sit down with the paper and a nice cigar, some petty criminal would run off with an old lady’s purse or a bunch of bananas and cause a din down below that scotched my equanimity. Anyway, this young man looked terrified. They’ve found me! he cried, attempting to hide in my coat closet.

The cacophony on the street down below seemed to be moving up the stairs, some throng of people, shouting and clamoring. In burst a coterie of young women, looking viperous. The leader said, I need a detective! I’ve lost my … brother. He’s a bit disturbed.

Cut it, lady, I said. Your motives are TRANSPARENT. You’re chasing a nice young man who’s not your brother, and I want you to tell me why. EXPLICITLY.

I just want my brother back, she faux-sobbed, pathetically trying to fake an artlessness she probably hadn’t possessed since she got her first tattoo in juvenile detention.

Just then, I put my finger on it. As a detective, it’s my job to spot things that might seem EXTRANEOUS, but are actually the crux, the pith, the very quintessence of the matter. I rapped on the closet door. Come on out, I said. The trembling young man emerged.

I picked up his passport, which had fallen to the floor in his bustle to ensconce himself in my closet. I turned to the woman.

While this young man looks remarkably like Samuel Shamattinson, star of Teen Vampire Liaisons, his name is really “ I perused the passport “ Ludvig Steinberg. He’s just a busboy who recently immigrated from Monaco.

She didn’t want to accredit my pronouncement. I continued: Why would Samuel Shamattinson have been clearing your coffee cups, lady? She pulled a worn copy of Teen Heartthrob magazine from her leather jacket and had to admit that, while the resemblance was striking, the slight, juvenescent Ludvig Steinberg still had all his natural teeth.

One of the woman’s compatriots spoke up. How did you crack the case?

Well, I said, I deduced that he was from Monaco as soon as I heard him enunciate the word ˜busboy’ “ that west Monte Carlo accent is unmistakable. And anyone who reads every single page of Wikipedia knows that the government of Monaco banned Teen Vampire Liaisons from being shown in the country, due to filmmakers’ effrontery in depicting Prince Albert II of Monaco as an evil pegasus. So I knew that our friend Ludwig here would be unaware of his resemblance to moderately talented teen inamorato Samuel Shamattinson. The final piece of the puzzle was that Miss Teen Heartthrob-Chaser here is wearing Teen Vampire Liaisons underwear. Under white pants? Major fashion faux pas. Pull it together and stop chasing busboys.

Disconsolate, the woman asked Ludwig, Can I have your autograph anyway?

I watched as this young man, having regained his sangfroid, scrawled Ludvig Steinberg in indelible ink on the woman’s prodigious left biceps.*

Now everybody out, I said. It was just another day in the office of Jennifer Dziura, Private Eye.

* Biceps is both the singular and the plural form. Bicep is not a word. Really!

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