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SAT Vocabulary: Using New Words in Context

You have a choice when trying to improve your SAT vocabulary: You can open up a dictionary and start memorizing words, or you can read some funny and (hopefully) interesting stories that help you remember not just new words and their definitions, but also the correct way to use them. SAT Vocabulary For Dummies contains many such stories; here is a sample.

"Thooothee, I finthed all the homework you gave me." Greg, usually the most articulate of my students, sat down at the desk and casually wiped off the little trickle of drool that had run down on his T-shirt. "What'th the matter?"

I stared at him, and he gave me a big grin. There was a scintillation in his smile . . . and I suddenly saw why: He had pierced his tongue! He was wearing a big silver tongue stud!

I had been working with Greg for three months, and thought I had seen everything. There was the day when he looked as if a haberdashery had blown up and sent mismatched items his way: a red jacket, an orange T-shirt, and lime green jeans. I remember well another day during which he sauntered in, even more resplendent in a banana yellow shirt with day-glo pink surfboard stickers on it. No one could ever accuse Greg of being the fade-into-the-background type.

"Greg, Greg, Greg." I shook my head and laughed. "What on earth have you done to yourself now? Are you trying to emulate some Australian aborigine tribe, look like a New Zealand Maori warrior, or what? You look just like some of the pictures I've seen in the travel magazines and history books."

My student shook his head. "I juth like it, okay? I think it lookth great. And more importantly, my girlfriend thinkth it'th virile — maketh me look more manly."

I chuckled. "A piece of metal in your tongue makes you look more manly? You're kidding, right? You just want to put me in a good mood with your banter and chaff. As far as I can tell, all the stud does is raise your recycling value, if the price of silver goes up! Maybe your decision makes fiscal sense, not physical sense!"

I continued. "Let's figure this out as a math problem. If the price of silver is currently —"

Greg interrupted me. "Thop being such a pedant, pleath! Can't you talk about anything without having to turn it into a teaching lethon?"

I laughed, and changed the subject. "Okay, okay, you win. No more discussions of your aesthetic qualities. From now on, you and I will stick to the matter at hand, increasing your SAT sagacity." And we did just that.

I thought nothing more of the matter, until about three months later. I got a package in the mail. It was a note from Greg, telling me his SAT score had gone up nearly 200 points, and thanking me for my help. At the end of the note was a P.S. "I got early admission to my first choice college, so I don't need my talisman anymore. I can think of no one who deserves it more than you." I gingerly picked up something that was wrapped in tissue paper: It was a candy wax tongue with a silver stud sticking through it!

Going back on your (vocabulary) words

Don't worry; none of the words Greg said with a lisp are among the tested vocabulary! In this section, you find definitions of the words you find in the not-star-studded but vocabulary-studded story.

aesthetic (rhymes with, yes bet ick): pertaining to beauty. These days, women who do makeup don't call themselves beauticians, but the more elegant-sounding "aestheticians."

articulate (are tick you late): able to speak clearly and express thoughts well. An articulate person gets his or her point across without saying, "Uh, well, it's like, you know" every other sentence.

chaff (rhymes with, laugh): good-natured teasing or joking. You hear a lot of chaff at the lunch table with your friends. Chaff can also be a verb. You chaff your buddy when you give him a hard time over his new outfit.

Be sure to use chaff in a cheerful, fun way. You chaff someone you like, not someone you're slamming or insulting.

Did you notice the bonus word in the passage, banter? It also means good-natured teasing or joking.

emulate (rhymes with, them you late): imitate. When you're standing in front of the mirror in your bedroom, holding the deodorant bottle as if it's a microphone and belting out songs, you're trying to emulate your favorite singers.

gingerly (rhymes with, hinge her lee): carefully, cautiously. If you have a sprained foot, you would step on it very gingerly, not wanting to put all your weight on it and make things worse.

haberdashery (hab er dash her ree): store selling gentleman's clothing, such as shirts and neckties. The next time you go to the mall to buy a T-shirt for yourself or a male friend, show some class and tell your mom you're "preparing to visit the neighborhood haberdashery."

pedant (rhymes with, said ant): a narrow-minded teacher, especially one who stresses minor points of learning. If you've ever made the mistake of correcting the grammar in your boyfriend or girlfriend's letters, you might just find yourself being called a pedant for the rest of the relationship.

resplendent (re splen dent): dazzling, shining brightly. If you dye your hair traffic-cone orange for a party, you have a resplendent head.

saunter (rhymes with, lawn ter): stroll, walk leisurely. On a Sunday afternoon when you're hanging out with your friends, you don't power walk around the neighborhood, you saunter.

scintillation (rhymes with, win till nation): sparkle, flash. When a lady gets a diamond ring, the first thing she does is put it on her finger and move her hand back and forth, watching the ring scintillate.

talisman (rhymes with, pal is man): a magic charm, a good luck charm. The people on TV who spin the Big Wheel to win a lottery are often clutching numerous talismans, like rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers, and Beanie babies.

virile (rhymes with, here while): manly. Advertisements for gyms show brawny, virile guys pumping iron and being admired by all the girls.

Stepping up to the plate: An exercise

Directions: Match the definition to the word.

1. talisman

a. pertaining to beauty

2. chaff

b. manly

3. gingerly

c. a narrow-minded teacher

4. emulate

d. dazzling

5. articulate

e. strolled

6. scintillation

f. gentleman's clothing store

7. aesthetic

g. carefully, cautiously

8. resplendent

h. sparkle, flash

9. virile

i. able to speak clearly

10. sauntered

j. imitate

11. pedant

k. good-natured teasing

12. haberdashery

l. a magic charm

Answers to the exercise

1. l

2. k

3. g

4. j

5. i

6. h

7. a

8. d

9. b

10. e

11. c

12. f

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