Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pecuniary Respiration

Desiring to kowtow to the ziggurat that is the American Heritage Dictionaries, I wish to report an evanescent epiphany that has enervated my abstemious but tempestuous evening filibuster. Gauche, jejune, diffident moiety of a suffragist that I am... No I can't go on. The point is that AHD have issued a book 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should know. This complete list is here. It evokes a strange, pompous and distinctly eccentric world of vaguely old-fashioned learning. Why, exactly, this 100? And is 'impeach' an absolute necessity for a High School grad? A British list would be quite different, of course. But, otherwise, it makes me want to create a language consisting only of 100 words. I feel there would be less room for misunderstanding


  1. Hmmm, winnow, a word that most who define, get backwards. The wheat stays put. Which might explain the problems within the schools and universities, ;).

    Otherwise, this list idea is a bit po-faced.

  2. I have read somewhere that we only use a fairly small number of words in regular conversation , and in Spain,for comparison, it is about one third of our total. Cannot remember the numbers though...

  3. Bryan, the reason that it appears imperative that we Americans know what "impeach" means is that, for the past 35 years, one political party or the other has been busy publicly threatening to impeach the occupant of the White House. (And how many of those 100 words did you fit into your composition?)

    Janejill - I was told in the '70's that the average person's spoken daily-use vocabulary was somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000, depending on the language and level of education. (Not sure if I have remembered this correctly, BTW.)

  4. Old Man StreamMay 29, 2007 10:11 pm

    Enervate means weaken or deprive of vigour,not energise.So there.And I've never lectured any Jesuits.

  5. Well, the choices are pretty obvious all the way up to 'yeoman'. Yeoman? I can only think they needed a 'y' and that's the best they could come up with.

  6. Oh please don't talk of reducing the vocabulary Bryan! Isn't it enough that nobody - not even writers - seems to like to have FUN with it any more?

    And as for yeoman - well what word can you think of that looks (and sounds) better suited to its very special role in life?

    Winnow's an uncommonly pleasing word too... I don't go much on abjure or absteme (which I have just coined this moment)..

    But all the same - "Let's hear it for a Full English Vocabulary again!"

    (Plenty of lovely Bagpuss again last night, I note.)

  7. "The words we suggest," says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, "are not meant to be exhaustive..." Well, that's a relief. In my late teens, two of my favourite words were impecunious and moribund (I sometimes used them in the same sentence). They didn't make the list. I'm surpised and a little disappointed.

  8. well with a bit of pruning you could limit your post to 100 words and that'd be okay.

    right - are you talking relativity? that could cut out a lot of nouns. the starting point would be ''man''. a child would be ''smaller man''. a dog would be ''smaller smaller man'', a mouse, say, would become ''smaller smaller smaller man''. a horse is ''bigger bigger man''. then a house is ''bigger bigger bigger bigger bigger man'' for a council tax band A, and adding a bigger for each band group up the scale....

    then you'd get complex nouns like cow, which is between a man and a horse, so would become ''smaller bigger bigger man'', while bull becomes ''bigger smaller bigger man'' and talking of bull...

    the reason we prefer a complex language is because our memory for numbers isn't as good.

  9. susan b., lover of ziggurats and pyramids,May 30, 2007 2:55 pm

    Words fail. Obviously.

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