Kos, this morning, linked to an interesting press release, 100 words every high-school graduate should know, wondering in the process what a ziggurat is.

A list like this is a great marketing ploy, but it highlights one of my pet language peeves – the measurement of vocabulary by size, and not accuracy. Rather than suggesting that graduates should, perhaps, expand their vocabularies, I somewhat wish an emphasis could be put on people learning how to use the words they already know, correctly.

A great example is “naked” and “nude”. Believe it or not, they’re not synonyms, and it’s quite possible to be either one without being the other. You see, nude is essentially synonymous with “bare”; it just means “unclothed”. Naked, however, means “vulnerable”, or “defenseless”, and has nothing to do with the state of one’s attire. Nudity is, or should be, a good thing; the human form holds great beauty for those unencumbered by artificial stigma about the topic. Nakedness, not so much so, unless you get a power trip from weakness.

One complaint I do have with the hundred-words list is their inconsistency in presenting word roots without modifiers – they include “nonsectarian”, for instance, which is probably less useful than the base “sectarian”, yet include “enfranchise”, which is a lot less common, and useful, than “disenfranchise”. In my opinion, anyway. Likewise “recapitulate”. Oh, and though it’s probably a little gauche, I’d like to point out that lassez faire is two words, not one. Pointing out that knowing what “abjure” means, without ensuring one also knows “conjure”, however, is just pedantic.

Hey, I’m still sick, so that’s my excuse…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on May 31st, 2007| Comments Off on Fluency

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