Sunday, March 17, 2013

Increase Your Word Power with Dickens – 2013

I made my way through most of a Reader’s Digest one evening a couple of weeks ago for the first time in many years – decades even. Knowing I would write a blog post on Dickens’s vocabulary soon, I paid special attention to the the regular feature “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power,” and I was quite disappointed in how much it had been dumbed down since the 70s. Maybe I know more than I did when, as a teenager, I read this column faithfully every month, aiming in fact to increase said power; so maybe this monthly vocabulary exercise only appears easier to me now, partly because it did its work with me forty years ago. But I still find it sad that a prominent national magazine considers the words “bazaar” and “annals” as improvements on the education of Americans. (Don’t fifth graders still have to write “bazaar” ten times a day for a week and use it in a sentence? Maybe not.) More damning, though, is the grading scale at the end: 9 and below (and that category includes the score of 0) earns the quiz-taker an A-. That’s right, you’re still on the low side of excellent if you don’t know any of the words – and in defiance of the odds can’t even guess a single right answer – because you are all excellent, and each one of you is special and deserves a steady stream of prizes for just being wonderful you.

Here’s my quiz based on vocabulary from Little Dorrit. I’m a tougher grader than RD. If you get a 0 on my quiz, you FAIL. As a consequence, I assign you to a lifetime of enjoyable reading accompanied by enlightening consultation of dictionaries. Good luck!

1. nonage
      a. brevity   b. group of nine   c. period of youth
2. refection
      a. refreshment, esp. of food   b. return, esp. of good feelings   c. surrender, esp. of money
3. desultory
      a. without joy   b. without purpose   c. without companionship
4. asperity
      a. sour taste   b. severity, harshness   c. pain
5. perquisition
      a. a difficult exam   b. a completed purchase   c. a thorough search
6. repast
      a. nonage   b. refection   c. asperity
7. scrofulous
      a. having a diseased, run-down appearance   b. guarded about personal information
      c. in possession of many luxurious items
8. umbrageous
      a. affording shade or slow to learn   b. affording shade or inclined to take offense
      c. affording shade or nearly impossible
9. pollard
      a. an unscrupulous barrister   b. a rough wooden serving spoon   c. a tree pruned to the trunk
10. irrefragable
      a. impossible to refute or to break   b. impossible to cover or to hide  
      c. impossible to open or to reveal
11. marplot
      a. a pompous ruler   b. a pattern of tiles   c. a meddler
12. asseveration
      a. a clean break   b. a deep regret   c. a positive declaration

Scroll down for the answers.

But don’t scroll down too far until you’re ready.

The answers are coming.

And here they are . . .


1-c (non-age, get it?), 2-a, 3-b, 4-b, 5-c, 6-b, 7-a, 8-b, 9-c, 10-a, 11-c, 12-c 

Didn’t answer them all correctly? Well, before your nonage is too far behind you, prepare a repast, find an umbrageous spot, and make a perquisition of a tried classic. That the exercise will do you good is irrefragable. (By the way, blogspot's editor doesn't recognize words 5, 10, and 11.)

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