Main Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary

Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary

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The most effective vocabulary builder in the English language provides a simple, step-by-step method that will increase your knowledge and mastery of written and spoken English. Word Power Made Easy does more than just add words to your vocabulary. It teaches ideas and a method of broadening your knowledge as an integral part of the vocabulary building process.
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(Sessions 42–44)


What verb, ending in -ate, means:

• to exhaust?

• to scold severely?

• to deny oneself?

• to repeat the main points?

• to be a victim of mental or intellectual stagnation?

• to pretend?

• to hint?

• to make (something) easier to bear?

• to show sympathy?

• to waver indecisively?


WORDS are symbols of ideas—and we have been learning, discussing, and working with words as they revolve around certain basic concepts.

Starting with an idea (personality types, doctors, occupations, science, lying, actions, speech, insults, compliments, etc.), we have explored the meanings and uses of ten basic words; then, working from each word, we have wandered off toward any ideas and additional words that a basic word might suggest, or toward any other words built on the same Latin or Greek roots.

By this natural and logical method, you have been able to make meaningful and lasting contact with fifty to a hundred or more words in each chapter. And you have discovered, I think, that while five isolated words may be difficult to learn in one day, fifty to a hundred or more related words are easy to learn in a few sessions.

In this session we learn words that tell what’s going on, what’s happening, what people do to each other or to themselves, or what others do to them.


1. complete exhaustion

You have stayed up all night. And what were you doing? Playing poker, a very pleasant way of whiling away time? No. Engaging in some creative activity, like writing a short story, planning a political campaign, discussing fascinating questions with friends? No.

The examples I have offered are exciting or stimulating—as psychologists have discovered, it is not work or effort that causes fatigue, but boredom, frustration, or a similar feeling.

You have stayed up all night with a very sick husband, wife, child, or dear friend. And despite all your ministration; s, the patient is sinking. You can see how this long vigil contains all the elements of frustration that contribute to mental, physical, and nervous fatigue.

And so you are bushed—but completely bushed. Your exhaustion is mental, it is physiological, it is emotional.

What verb expresses the effect of the night’s frustrations on you?

to enervate

2. tongue-lashing

You suddenly see the flashing red light as you glance in your rear-view mirror. It’s the middle of the night, yet the police flasher is clear as day—and then you hear the low growl of the siren. So you pull over, knowing you were speeding along at 70 on the 55-mile-an-hour-limit freeway—after all, there was not another car in sight on the deserted stretch of road you were traveling.

The cop is pleasant, courteous, smiling; merely asks for your driver’s license and registration; even says “Please.”

Feeling guilty and stupid, you become irritated. So what do you do?

You lash out at the officer with all the verbal vituperation welling up in you from your self-anger. You scold him harshly for not spending his time looking for violent criminals instead of harassing innocent motorists; you call into question his honesty, his ambition, his fairness, even his ancestry. To no avail, of course—you stare at the traffic ticket morosely as the police cruiser pulls away.

What verb describes how you reacted?

to castigate

3. altruistic

Phyllis is selfless and self-sacrificing. Her husband’s needs and desires come first—even when they conflict with her own. Clothes for her two daughters are her main concern—even if she has to wear a seven-year-old coat and outmoded dresses so that Paula and Evelyn can look smart and trim. At the dinner table, she heaps everyone’s plate—while she herself often goes without. Phyllis will deny herself, will scrimp and save—all to the end that she may offer her husband and children the luxuries that her low self-esteem does not permit her to give herself.

What verb expresses what Phyllis does?

to self-abnegate

4. repetition

You have delivered a long, complicated lecture to your class, and now, to make sure that they will remember the important points, you restate the key ideas, the main thoughts. You offer, in short, a kind of brief summary, step by step, omitting all extraneous details.

What verb best describes what you do?

to recapitulate

5. no joie de vivre

Perhaps you wake up some gloomy Monday morning (why is it that Monday is always the worst day of the week?) and begin to think of the waste of the last five years. Intellectually, there has been no progress—you’ve read scarcely half a dozen books, haven’t made one new, exciting friend, haven’t had a startling or unusual thought. Economically, things are no better—same old debts to meet, same old hundred dollars in the bank, same old job, same old routine of the eight-to-five workdays, the tuna fish or chicken salad sandwich for lunch, the same dreary ride home. What a life! No change, nothing but routine, sameness, monotony—and for what? (By now you’d better get up—this type of thinking never leads anywhere, as you’ve long since learned.)

What verb describes how you think you live?

to vegetate

6. pretense

Your neighbor, Mrs. Brown, pops in without invitation to tell you of her latest troubles with (a) her therapist, (b) her hairdresser, (c) her husband, (d) her children, and/or (e) her gynecologist.

Since Florence Brown is dull to the point of ennui, and anyway you have a desk piled high with work you were planning to light into, you find it difficult to concentrate on what she is saying. However, you do not wish to offend her by sending her packing, or even by appearing to be uninterested, so you pretend rapt attention, nodding wisely at what you hope are the right places.

What verb describes this feigning of interest?

to simulate

7. slight hint, no more

You are an author and are discussing with your editor the possible avenues of publicity and advertising for your new book. At one point in the conversation the editor makes several statements which might—or might not—be construed to mean that the company is going to promote the book heavily. For example, “If we put some real money behind this, we might sell a few copies,” or “I wonder if it would be a good idea to get you on a few talk shows …” No unequivocal commitments, no clear-cut promises, only the slight and oblique mention of possibilities.

What verb expresses what the editor is doing?

to intimate

8. helpful

Aspirin doesn’t cure any diseases. Yet this popular and inexpensive drug is universally used to lighten and relieve various unpleasant symptoms of disease: aches and pains, fever, inflammations, etc.

What verb expresses the action of aspirin?

to alleviate

9. when the bell tolls

John Donne’s lines (made famous by Ernest Hemingway):

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

are truer than you may think; any person who views another’s pain with complete detachment or indifference is shutting off important feelings.

When people have suffered a bereavement (as through death); when they have been wounded by life or by friends; then is the time they most need to feel that they are not alone, that you share their misery with them even if you cannot directly alleviate their sorrow. Your sympathy and compassion are, of course, alleviation enough.

What verb signifies this vicarious sharing of sorrow with someone who directly suffers?

to commiserate

10. when two men propose

Should you marry John or George? (You’re strongly and equally attracted to both.) John is handsome, virile, tender; George is stable, reliable, dependable, always there when you need him. George loves you deeply; John is more exciting. You decide on John, naturally.

But wait—marrying John would mean giving up George, and with George you always know where you stand; he’s like the Rock of Gibraltar (and sometimes almost as dull). So you change your mind—it’s George, on more mature reflection.

But how happy can you be with a husband who is not exciting? Maybe John would be best after all.…

The pendulum swings back and forth—you cannot make up your mind and stick to it. (You fail to realize that your indecision proves that you don’t want to marry either one, or perhaps don’t want to give either one up, or possibly don’t even want to get married.) First it’s John, then it’s George, then back to John, then George again. Which is it, which is it?

What verb describes your pendulum-like indecision?

to vacillate


Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. enervate

	  2. castigate

	  3. self-abnegate

	  4. recapitulate

	  5. vegetate

	  6. simulate

	  7. intimate

	  8. alleviate

	  9. commiserate

	10. vacillate

Can you work with the words?

	  1. enervate
	a. deny oneself

	  2. castigate
	b. stagnate

	  3. self-abnegate
	c. suggest; hint

	  4. recapitulate
	d. sympathize

	  5. vegetate
	e. waver

	  6. simulate
	f. exhaust

	  7. intimate
	g. lessen; lighten

	  8. alleviate
	h. summarize

	  9. commiserate
	i. pretend

	10. vacillate
	j. censure; scold; slash at verbally

KEY:  1–f, 2–j, 3–a, 4–h, 5–b, 6–i, 7–c, 8–g, 9–d, 10–e

Do you understand the words? (I)

  1. Should you feel enervated after a good night’s sleep?

YES      NO

  2. Do motorists who have been caught speeding sometimes start castigating the traffic officer?

YES      NO

  3. Do people who are completely self-abnegating say “No!” to their needs and desires?

YES      NO

  4. When you recapitulate, do you cover new material?

YES      NO

  5. Do people possessed of joie de vivre usually feel that they are vegetating?

YES      NO

  6. When you simulate alertness, do you purposely act somnolent?

YES      NO

  7. When you intimate, do you make a direct statement?

YES      NO

  8. Does aspirin often have an alleviating effect on pain?

YES      NO

  9. Do we naturally commiserate with people who have suffered a bereavement?

YES      NO

10. Do decisive people often vacillate?

YES      NO

KEY:  1–no, 2–yes, 3–yes, 4–no, 5–no, 6–no, 7–no, 8–yes, 9–yes, 10–no

Do you understand the words? (II)

  1. enervated—exhilarated


  2. castigate—praise


  3. self-abnegate—deny oneself


  4. recapitulate—summarize


  5. vegetate—stagnate


  6. simulate—pretend


  7. intimate—hint


  8. alleviate—make worse


  9. commiserate—sympathize


10. vacillate—decide


KEY:  1–O, 2–O, 3–S, 4–S, 5–S, 6–S, 7–S, 8–O, 9–S, 10–O

Can you recall the words?

  1. pretend

  1. S__________________

  2. scold

  2. C__________________

  3. sacrifice one’s desires

  3. S__________________

  4. waver

  4. V__________________

  5. exhaust

  5. E__________________

  6. sympathize

  6. C__________________

  7. summarize

  7. R__________________

  8. lighten

  8. A__________________

  9. hint

  9. I__________________

10. stagnate

10. V__________________

KEY:  1–simulate, 2–castigate, 3–self-abnegate, 4–vacillate, 5–enervate, 6–commiserate, 7–recapitulate, 8–alleviate, 9–intimate, 10–vegetate

(End of Session 42)



1. more than fatigue

When you are enervated, you feel as if your nerves have been ripped out—or so the etymology of the word indicates.

Enervate is derived from e- (ex-), out, and Latin nervus, nerve. Enervation (en′-Ər-VAY′-shƏn) is not just fatigue, but complete devitalization—physical, emotional, mental—as if every ounce of the life force has been sapped out, as if the last particle of energy has been drained away.

Despite its similar appearance to the word energy, enervation is almost a direct antonym. Energy is derived from the Greek prefix en-, in, plus the root ergon, work; erg is the term used in physics for a unit of work or energy. Synergism (SIN′-Ər-jiz-Əm)—the prefix syn-, together or with, plus ergon—is the process by which two or more substances or drugs, by working together, produce a greater effect in combination than the sum total of their individual effects.

Alcohol, for example, is a depressant. So are barbiturates and other soporifics. Alcohol and barbiturates work synergistically (sin′-Ər-JIS′-tik′-lee)—the effect of each is increased by the other if the two are taken together.

So if you’re drinking, don’t take a sleeping pill—or if you must take a pill for your insomnia, don’t drink—the combination, if not lethal, will do more to you than you may want done!

Synergy (SIN′-Ər-jee), by the way, is an alternate form of synergism.

2. verbal punishment

Castigate is derived from a Latin verb meaning to punish; in present-day usage, the verb generally refers to verbal punishment, usually harsh and severe. It is somewhat synonymous with scold, criticize, rebuke, censure, reprimand, or berate, but much stronger than any of these—rail at, rant at, slash at, lash out at, or tongue-lash is a much closer synonym. When candidates for office castigate their opponents, they do not mince words.

Can you construct the noun form of castigate? __________________.

3. saying “No!” to oneself

Abnegate is derived from Latin ab-, away (as in absent), plus nego, to deny—self-abnegation (ab′-nƏ-GAY′-shƏn), then, is self-denial. Nego itself is a contraction of Latin neg-, not, no, and aio, I say; to be self-abnegating is to say “No!” to what you want, as if some inner censor were at work whispering, “No, you can’t have that, you can’t do that, you don’t deserve that, you’re not good enough for that.…”

To negate (nƏ-GAYT′) is to deny the truth or existence of, as in “The atheist negates God”; or, by extension, to destroy by working against, as in, “His indulgence in expensive hobbies negates all his wife’s attempts to keep the family solvent.” Can you write the noun form of the verb negate? __________________.

Negative and negativity obviously spring from the same source as negate.

4. heads and headings

Latin caput, capitis means head. The captain is the head of any group; the capital is the “head city” of a state or nation; and to decapitate (dee-KAP′-Ə-tayt′) is to chop off someone’s head, a popular activity during the French Revolution after the guillotine was invented. Write the noun form of decapitate: __________________.

Latin capitulum is a little head, or, by extension, the heading, or title, of a chapter. So when you recapitulate, you go through the chapter headings again (re-), etymologically speaking, or you summarize or review the main points.

Remembering how the noun and adjective forms are derived from adulate (Chapter 9), can you write the required forms of recapitulate?



When you capitulate (kƏ-PICH′-Ə-layt′), etymologically you arrange in headings, or, as the meaning of the verb naturally evolved, you arrange conditions of surrender, as when an army capitulates to the enemy forces under prearranged conditions; or, by further natural extension, you stop resisting and give up, as in, “He realized there was no longer any point in resisting her advances, so he reluctantly capitulated.” Can you write the noun form of capitulate? __________________.

5. mere vegetables

Vegetable is from Latin vegeto, to live and grow, which is what vegetables do—but that’s all they do, so to vegetate, is, by implication, to do no more than stay alive, stuck in a rut, leading an inactive, unstimulating, emotionally and intellectually stagnant existence. Vegetation (vej′-Ə-TAY′-shƏn) is any dull, passive, stagnant existence; also any plant life, as the thick vegetation of a jungle.



	  1. e- (ex-)

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  2. nervus

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  3. en-

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  4. ergon

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  5. syn-
	with, together

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  6. -ic
	adjective suffix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  7. -ion
	noun suffix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  8. ab-

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  9. nego
	to deny

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	10. caput, capitis

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	11. de-
	negative prefix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	12. capitulum
	little head, chapter heading

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	13. re-

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	14. -ory
	adjective suffix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	15. vegeto
	to live and grow

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________


Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. enervation

	  2. synergism

	  3. synergy

	  4. synergistic

	  5. castigation

	  6. self-abnegation

	  7. negate

	  8. negation

	  9. decapitate

	10. decapitation

	11. recapitulation

	12. recapitulatory

	13. capitulate

	14. capitulation

Can you work with the words?

	1. enervation
	a. tongue-lashing

	2. synergism, synergy
	b. denial; destruction

	3. castigation
	c. a lopping off of one’s head

	4. self-abnegation
	d. summary; review of main points

	5. negation
	e. self-denial

	6. decapitation
	f. utter exhaustion; mental, emotional, and physical drain

	7. recapitulation
	g. a working together for greater effect

	8. capitulation
	h. surrender

KEY:  1–f, 2–h, 3–a, 4–e, 5–b, 6–c, 7–d, 8–g

Do you understand the words?

1. enervating—refreshing


2. synergistic—neutralizing


3. castigation—scolding


4. self-abnegation—egoism


5. negate—accept


6. decapitate—behead


7. recapitulatory—summarizing


8. capitulate—resist


KEY:  1–O, 2–O, 3–S, 4–O, 5–O, 6–S, 7–S, 8–O

Can you recall the words?

  1. to give in

  1. C__________________

  2. working together for greater effect (adj.)

  2. S__________________

  3. total fatigue

  3. E__________________

  4. for the purpose of summarizing or review (adj.)

  4. R__________________

  5. self-denial

  5. S__________________-A__________________

  6. deny; render ineffective; nullify

  6. N__________________

  7. process by which two or more substances produce a greater effect than the sum of the individual effects

  7. S__________________
  or S__________________

  8. to cut off the head of

  8. D__________________

  9. strong censure

  9. C__________________

10. to surrender

10. C__________________

KEY:  1–capitulate, 2–synergistic, 3–enervation, 4–recapitulatory, 5–self-abnegation, 6–negate, 7–synergism or synergy, 8–decapitate, 9–castigation, 10–capitulate

(End of Session 43)



1. not the real McCoy

Simulate is from Latin simulo, to copy; and simulo itself derives from the Latin adjectives similis, like or similar.

Simulation (sim′-yƏ-LAY′-shƏn), then, is copying the real thing, pretending to be the genuine article by taking on a similar appearance. The simulation of joy is quite a feat when you really feel depressed.

Genuine pearls grow inside oysters; simulated pearls are synthetic, but look like the ones from oysters. (Rub a pearl against your teeth to tell the difference—the natural pearl feels gritty.) So the frequent advertisement of an inexpensive necklace made of “genuine simulated pearls” can fool you if you don’t know the word—you’re being offered a genuine fake.

Dissimulation (dƏ-sim′-yƏ-LAY′-shƏn) is something else! When you dissimulate (dƏ-SIM′-yƏ-layt′), you hide your true feelings by making a pretense of opposite feelings. (Then again, maybe it’s not something completely else!)

Sycophants are great dissimulators—they may feel contempt, but show admiration; they may feel negative, but express absolutely positive agreement.

A close synonym of dissimulate is dissemble (dƏ-SEM′-bƏl), which also is to hide true feelings by pretending the opposite; or, additionally, to conceal facts, or one’s true intentions, by deception; or, still further additionally, to pretend ignorance of facts you’d rather not admit, when, indeed, you’re fully aware of them.

The noun is dissemblance (dƏ-SEM′-blƏns).

In dissimulate and dissemble, the negative prefix dis- acts largely to make both words pejorative.

2. hints and helps

The verb intimate is from Latin intimus, innermost, the same root from which the adjective intimate (IN′-tƏ-mƏt) and its noun intimacy (IN′-tƏ-mƏ-see) are derived; but the relationship is only in etymology, not in meaning. An intimation (in′-tƏ-MAY′-shƏn) contains a significance buried deep in the innermost core, only a hint showing. As you grow older, you begin to have intimations that you are mortal; when someone aims a .45 at you, or when a truck comes roaring down at you as you drive absent-mindedly against a red light through an intersection, you are suddenly very sure that you are mortal.

Alleviate is a combination of Latin levis, light (not heavy), the prefix ad-, to, and the verb suffix. (Ad- changes to al- before a root starting with l-.)

If something alleviates your pain, it makes your pain lighter for you; if I alleviate your sadness, I make it lighter to bear; and if you need some alleviation (Ə-lee′-vee-AY′-shƏn) of your problems, you need them made lighter and less burdensome. To alleviate is to relieve only temporarily, not to cure or do away with. (Relieve is also from levis, plus re-, again—to make light or easy again.) The adjective form of alleviate is alleviative (Ə-LEE′-vee-ay′-tiv)—aspirin is an alleviative drug.

Anything light will rise—so from the prefix e- (ex-), out, plus levis, we can construct the verb elevate, etymologically, to raise out, or, actually, raise up, as to elevate one’s spirits, raise them up, make them lighter; or elevate someone to a higher position, which is what an elevator does.

Have you ever seen a performance of magic in which a person or an object apparently rises in the air as if floating? That’s levitation (lev′-Ə-TAY′-shƏn)—rising through no visible means. (I’ve watched it a dozen times and never could figure it out!) The verb, to so rise, is levitate (LEV′-Ə-tayt′).

And how about levity (LEV′-Ə-tee)? That’s lightness too, but of a different sort—lightness in the sense of frivolity, flippancy, joking, or lack of seriousness, especially when solemnity, dignity, or formality is required or more appropriate, as in “tones of levity,” or as in, “Levity is out of place at a funeral, in a house of worship, at the swearing-in ceremonies of a President or Supreme Court Justice,” or as in, “Okay, enough levity—now let’s get down to business!”

3. sharing someone’s misery

Latin miser, wretched, the prefix con- (which, as you know, becomes com- before a root beginning with m-), together or with, and the verb suffix -ate are the building blocks from which commiserate is constructed. “I commiserate with you,” then, means, “I am wretched together with you—I share your misery.” The noun form? __________________.

Miser, miserly, miserable, misery all come from the same root.

4. swing and sway

Vacillate—note the single c, double l—derives from Latin vacillo, to swing back and forth. The noun form? __________________.

People who swing back and forth in indecision, who are irresolute, who can, unfortunately, see both, or even three or four, sides of every question, and so have difficulty making up their minds, are vacillatory (VAS′-Ə-lƏ-tawr′-ee). They are also, usually, ambivalent (am-BIV′-Ə-lƏnt)—they have conflicting and simultaneous emotions about the same person or thing; or they want to go but they also want to stay; or they love something, but they hate it too. The noun is ambivalence (am-BIV′-Ə-lƏns)—from ambi both. (Remember ambivert and ambidextrous from Chapter 3?)

Ambivalence has best been defined (perhaps by Henny Youngman—if he didn’t say it first, he should have) as watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your new Cadillac.

To vacillate is to swing mentally or emotionally. To sway back and forth physically is oscillate—again note the double l—(OS′-Ə-layt′), from Latin oscillum, a swing. A pendulum oscillates, the arm of a metronome oscillates, and people who’ve had much too much to drink oscillate when they try to walk. The noun? __________________.



	  1. simulo
	to copy

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  2. similis
	like, similar

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  3. dis-
	pejorative prefix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  4. ad- (al-)
	to, toward

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  5. levis

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  6. -ate
	verb suffix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  7. -ion
	noun suffix

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  8. e- (ex-)

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	  9. intimus

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	10. miser

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	11. vacillo
	to swing back and forth

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	12. ambi-

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________

	13. oscillum
	a swing

	ENGLISH WORD   _____________


Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. simulation

	  2. dissimulate

	  3. dissimulation

	  4. dissemble

	  5. dissemblance

	  6. intimation

	  7. alleviation

	  8. alleviative

	  9. levitate

	10. levitation

	11. levity

	12. commiseration

	13. vacillation

	14. vacillatory

	15. ambivalent

	16. ambivalence

	17. oscillate

	18. oscillation

Can you work with the words? (I)

	  1. simulation
	a. hint

	  2. dissemble
	b. flippancy or joking when seriousness is required

	  3. intimation
	c. a sharing of grief

	  4. alleviation
	d. physical swaying; swinging action, as of a pendulum

	  5. levitate
	e. a swinging back and forth in indecision

	  6. levity
	f. pretense

	  7. commiseration
	g. conflicted and contrary feelings

	  8. vacillation
	h. rise in the air (as by magic or illusion)

	  9. ambivalence
	i. pretend

	10. oscillation
	j. a lightening; a making less severe

KEY:  1–f, 2–i, 3–a, 4–j, 5–h, 6–b, 7–c, 8–e, 9–g, 10–d

Can you work with the words? (II)

	1. dissimulate
	a. pretense of ignorance

	2. dissemblance
	b. a rising and floating in air

	3. alleviative
	c. having simultaneous and contrary feelings

	4. levitation
	d. tending to swing back and forth in indecision

	5. vacillatory
	e. to swing back and forth like a pendulum

	6. ambivalent
	f. to hide real feelings by pretending opposite feelings

	7. oscillate
	g. tending to ease (pain, burdens, suffering, etc.)

KEY:  1–f, 2–a, 3–g, 4–b, 5–d, 6–c, 7–e

Do you understand the words?

  1. simulated—genuine


  2. dissimulate—pretend


  3. dissemble—be truthful


  4. intimation—hint


  5. alleviation—reduction


  6. levitate—sink


  7. levity—flippancy


  8. vacillation—decisiveness


  9. ambivalent—confused


10. oscillate—sway


KEY:  1–O, 2–S, 3–O, 4–S, 5–S, 6–O, 7–S, 8–O, 9–S, 10–S

Can you recall the words?

  1. to swing back and forth

  1. O__________________

  2. feeling both ways at the same time (adj.)

  2. A__________________

  3. to conceal real feelings

  3. D__________________
  or D__________________

  4. pretense

  4. S__________________

  5. to pretend ignorance though knowing the facts

  5. D__________________

  6. joking; frivolity; flippancy

  6. L__________________

  7. indecisive

  7. V__________________
  or V__________________

  8. to rise in the air, as by illusion

  8. L__________________

  9. tending to ease (pain, etc.) (adj.)

  9. A__________________
  or A__________________

10. a sharing of another’s grief

10. C__________________

KEY:  1–oscillate, 2–ambivalent, 3–dissimulate or dissemble, 4–simulation, 5–dissemble, 6–levity, 7–vacillatory or vacillating, 8–levitate, 9–alleviative or alleviating, 10–commiseration


A. Do you recognize the words?

  1. Complete exhaustion:

(a) synergism, (b) enervation, (c) negation

  2. Co-operation in producing effects:

(a) synergy, (b) castigation, (c) capitulation

  3. Lop off the head of:

(a) castigate, (b) capitulate, (c) decapitate

  4. deny; render ineffective:

(a) castigate, (b) negate, (c) recapitulate

5. stagnate:

(a) intimate, (b) simulate, (c) vegetate

  6. concealment of true feelings:

(a) simulation, (b) dissimulation, (c) dissemblance

  7. sympathy:

(a) levity, (b) ambivalence, (c) commiseration

  8. indecisiveness:

(a) vacillation, (b) oscillation, (c) dissimulation

  9. aware of contrary feelings:

(a) alleviative, (b) dissimulating, (c) ambivalent

KEY:  1–b, 2–a, 3–c, 4–b, 5–c, 6–b and c, 7–c, 8–a, 9–c

B. Can you recognize roots?


	  1. nervus

	EXAMPLE   enervate

	  2. ergon

	EXAMPLE   energy

	  3. nego

	EXAMPLE   self-abnegation

	  4. caput, capitis

	EXAMPLE   decapitate

	  5. capitulum

	EXAMPLE   recapitulate

	  6. vegeto

	EXAMPLE   vegetate

	  7. simulo

	EXAMPLE   dissimulate

	  8. similis

	EXAMPLE   similarity

	  9. levis

	EXAMPLE   levity

	10. intimus

	EXAMPLE   intimation

	11. miser

	EXAMPLE   commiserate

	12. vacillo

	EXAMPLE   vacillate

	13. ambi-

	EXAMPLE   ambivalent

	14. oscillum

	EXAMPLE   oscillate

KEY:  1–nerve, 2–work, 3–deny, 4–head, 5–little head, chapter heading, 6–live and grow, 7–to copy, 8–like, similar, 9–light, 10–innermost, 11–wretched, 12–swing back and forth, 13–both, 14–a swing


We have previously met the Greek prefix syn-, together or with, in synonym (“names together”) and sympathy (“feeling with”), and again in this chapter in synergism (“working together”).

Syn- is a most useful prefix to know. Like Latin con-, (together or with) and ad- (to, toward), the final letter changes depending on the first letter of the root to which it is attached. Syn- becomes sym- before b, m, and p.

Can you construct some words using syn-, or sym-?

1. Etymologically, Jews are “led together” in a house of worship (agogos, leading). Can you construct the word for this temple or place of worship? __________________.

2. There is a process by which dissimilar organisms live together (bios, life) in close association, each in some way helping, and getting help from, the other (like the shark and the pilot fish). What word, ending in -sis, designates such a process? __________________.

What would the adjective form be? __________________.

3. Using Greek phone, sound, write the word that etymologically refers to a musical composition in which the sounds of all instruments are in harmony together __________________. Using the suffix -ic, write the adjective form of this word: __________________.

4. Combine sym- with metron, measurement, to construct a word designating similarity of shape on both sides (i.e., “measurement together”): __________________.

Write the adjective form of this word: __________________.

5. Syn- plus dromos, a running, are the building blocks of a medical word designating a group of symptoms that occur (i.e., run) together in certain diseases. Can you figure out the word? __________________

6. The same dromos, a running, combines with Greek hippos, horse, to form a word referring to a place in ancient Greece in which horse and chariot races were run. The word? __________________.

7. Hippos, horse, plus Greek potamos, river, combine to form a word designating one of the three pachyderms we discussed in an earlier chapter. The word? __________________.

(Answers in Chapter 18.)


You can build your vocabulary, I have said, by increasing your familiarity with new ideas and by becoming alert to the new words you meet in your reading of magazines and books.

There is still another productive method, one that will be particularly applicable in view of all the new words you are learning from your study of these pages.

That method is picking your friends’ brains.

Intelligent people are interested in words because words are symbols of ideas, and the person with an alert mind is always interested in ideas.

You may be amazed, if you have never tried it, to find that you can stir up an animated discussion by asking, in a social group that you attend, “What does __________________ mean?” (Use any word that particularly fascinates you.) Someone in the group is likely to know, and almost everyone will be willing to make a guess. From that point on, others in the group will ask questions about their own favorite words (most people do have favorites), or about words that they themselves have in some manner recently learned. As the discussion continues along these lines, you will be introduced to new words yourself, and if your friends have fairly good vocabularies you may strike a rich vein of pay dirt and come away with a large number of words to add to your vocabulary.

This method of picking your friends’ brains is particularly fruitful because you will be learning not from a page of print (as in this book or as in your other reading) but from real live persons—the same sources that children use to increase their vocabularies at such prodigious rates. No learning is quite as effective as the learning that comes from other people—no information in print can ever be as vivid as information that comes from another human being. And so the words you pick up from your friends will have an amazingly strong appeal, will make a lasting impression on your mind.

Needless to say, your own rich vocabulary, now that you have come this far in the book, will make it possible for you to contribute to your friends’ vocabulary as much as, if not more than, you take away—but since giving to others is one of the greatest sources of a feeling of self-worth, you can hardly complain about this extra dividend.

(End of Session 44)

[image: ] Brief Intermission One [image: ]


How good is your English? Have you ever said me and then wondered if it shouldn’t have been I—or vice versa? Do you sometimes get a little confused about lay and lie or who and whom? Perhaps you are often a little less than certain about the distinction between effect and affect, principal and principle, childish and childlike?

Here is a series of quick tests that will show you how skillful you are in using the right word in the right place, that will give you a reliable indication of how your language ability compares with the average.


If your English is every bit as good as average, you will have no difficulty making a proper choice in at least eight of the following ten sentences.

  1. There is a beautiful moon out tonight and Estelle and I are going for a stroll—would you like to come along with (she and I, her and me?)

  2. Your husband doesn’t believe that you are older than (I, me).

  3. Maybe we’re not as rich as (they, them), but I bet we’re a lot happier.

  4. Does your child still (lay, lie) down for a nap after lunch?

  5. When we saw Mary openly flirting with Nellie’s husband, we (could, couldn’t) hardly believe our eyes.

  6. You should (of, have) put more vermouth into the martini.

  7. Does your company (leave, let) you have as long a lunch break as you would like?

  8. Harriet feels that her (brothers-in-law, brother-in-laws) are impossible to get along with.

  9. “What (kind of, kind of a) car are you looking for?” asked the salesman.

10. Mrs. White was delighted that the Fennells had invited John and (she, her) to their party.

Is your English up to par? HERE ARE THE CORRECT ANSWERS

1–her and me, 2–I, 3-they, 4–lie, 5–could, 6–have, 7–let, 8–brothers-in-law, 9–kind of, 10–her


Choose correctly in at least seven of the following problems to consider that your skill is distinctly above average—get all ten right to conclude that you rarely, if ever, make an error in grammar.

  1. What (effect, affect) has the new administration’s policies had on investor confidence?

  2. A feeling of one’s worth is one of the (principle, principal) goals of psychological therapy.

  3. There’s no sense (in, of) carrying on that way.

  4. I can’t remember (who, whom) it was.

  5. The infant (lay, laid) quietly sucking its thumb.

  6. No one but (she, her) ever made a perfect score on the test.

  7. In the early days of frontier history, horse thieves were (hanged, hung).

  8. Neither of your responses (are, is) satisfactory.

  9. Either of these two small cars, if properly maintained, (is, are) sure to give over thirty miles per gallon in highway driving.

10. Tell (whoever, whomever) is waiting to come in.

Is your English above average? HERE ARE THE CORRECT ANSWERS

1–effect, 2–principal, 3–in, 4–who, 5–lay, 6–her, 7–hanged, 8–is, 9–is, 10–whoever


Now you can discover how close you are to being an expert in English. The next ten sentences are no cinch—you will be acquitting yourself creditably if you check the correct word five times out of ten. And you have every right to consider yourself an expert if you get nine or ten right.

  1. We have just interviewed an applicant (who, whom) the committee believes is best qualified for the position.

  2. She is one of those gifted writers who (turns, turn) out one best seller after another.

  3. Don’t sound so (incredulous, incredible); what I am saying is absolutely true.

  4. We were totally (disinterested, uninterested) in the offer.

  5. This recipe calls for two (cupsful, cupfuls) of sugar.

  6. Are you trying to (infer, imply) by those words that he is not to be trusted?

  7. We thought the actress to be (she, her), but we weren’t sure.

  8. Was it (she, her) you were talking about?

  9. Your criteria (is, are) not valid.

10. “It is I who (is, am) the only friend you’ve got,” she told him pointedly.


1–who, 2–turn, 3–incredulous, 4–uninterested, 5–cupfuls, 6–imply, 7–her, 8–she, 9–are, 10–am

[image: ]

[image: ] Brief Intermission Ten [image: ]


In each line you will find four words—one of them purposely, subtly, and perhaps unexpectedly misspelled. It’s up to you to check the single error. If you can come out on top at least fifteen times out of twenty, you’re probably a better speller than you realize.

  1. (a) alright, (b) coolly, (c) supersede, (d) disappear

  2. (a) inoculate, (b) definately, (c) irresistible, (d) recommend

  3. (a) incidentally, (b) dissipate, (c) seperate, (d) balloon

  4. (a) argument, (b) ecstasy, (c) occurrance, (d) analyze

  5. (a) sacrilegious, (b) weird, (c) pronunciation, (d) repitition

  6. (a) drunkeness, (b) embarrassment, (c) weird, (d) irritable

  7. (a) noticeable, (b) superintendant, (c) absence, (d) development

  8. (a) vicious, (b) conscience, (c) panicy, (d) amount

  9. (a) accessible, (b) pursue, (c) exhilarate, (d) insistant

10. (a) naïveté, (b) necessary, (c) catagory, (d) professor

11. (a) rhythmical, (b) sergeant, (c) vaccuum, (d) assassin

12. (a) benefitted, (b) allotted, (c) corroborate, (d) despair

13. (a) diphtheria, (b) grandeur, (c) rediculous, (d) license

14. (a) tranquillity, (b) symmetry, (c) occassionally, (d) privilege

15. (a) tarriff, (b) tyranny, (c) battalion, (d) archipelago

16. (a) bicycle, (b) geneology, (c) liquefy, (d) bettor

17. (a) defense, (b) batchelor, (c) stupefy, (d) parallel

18. (a) whisky, (b) likable, (c) bookkeeper, (d) accomodate

19. (a) comparitive, (b) mayonnaise, (c) indispensable, (d) dexterous

20. (a) dictionary, (b) cantaloupe, (c) existance, (d) ukulele

KEY:  1–a (all right), 2–b (definitely), 3–c (separate), 4–c (occurrence), 5–d (repetition), 6–a (drunkenness), 7–b (superintendent), 8–c (panicky), 9–d (insistent), 10–c (category), 11–c (vacuum), 12–a (benefited), 13–c (ridiculous), 14–c (occasionally), 15–a (tariff), 16–b (genealogy), 17–b (bachelor), 18–d (accommodate), 19–a (comparative), 20–c (existence)



(Sessions 1–3)


What word best describes your personality if you:

• are interested solely in your own welfare?

• constantly talk about yourself?

• dedicate your life to helping others?

• turn your mind inward?

• turn your mind outward?

• hate humanity?

• hate women?

• hate marriage?

• lead a lonely, austere existence?


Every human being is, in one way or another, unique.

Everyone’s personality is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Let us examine ten personality types (one of which might by chance be your very own) that result from the way culture, growth, family background, and environment interact with heredity.

And, of course, we begin not with the words, but with the ideas.


1. me first

Your attitude to life is simple, direct, and aboveboard—every decision you make is based on the answer to one question: “What’s in it for me?” If your selfishness, greed, and ruthless desire for self-advancement hurt other people, that’s too bad. “This is a tough world, pal, dog eat dog and all that, and I, for one, am not going to be left behind!”

An egoist

2. the height of conceit

“Now, let’s see. Have you heard about all the money I’m making? Did I tell you about my latest amorous conquest? Let me give you my opinion—I know, because I’m an expert at practically everything!” You are boastful to the point of being obnoxious—you have only one string to your conversational violin, namely, yourself; and on it you play a number of monotonous variations: what you think, what you have done, how good you are, how you would solve the problems of the world, etc. ad nauseam.

An egotist

3. let me help you

You have discovered the secret of true happiness—concerning yourself with the welfare of others. Never mind your own interests, how’s the next fellow getting along?

An altruist

4. leave me alone

Like a biochemist studying a colony of bacteria under the microscope, you minutely examine your every thought, feeling, and action. Probing, futile questions like “What do other people think of me?”, “How do I look?”, and “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that?” are your constant nagging companions, for you are unable to realize that other people do not spend as much time and energy analyzing you as you think.

You may seem unsocial, yet your greatest desire is to be liked and accepted. You may be shy and quiet, you are often moody and unhappy, and you prefer solitude or at most the company of one person to a crowd. You have an aptitude for creative work and are uncomfortable engaging in activities that require cooperation with other people. You may even be a genius, or eventually turn into one.

An introvert

5. let’s do it together

You would be great as a teacher, counselor, administrator, insurance agent. You can always become interested—sincerely, vitally interested—in other people’s problems. You’re the life of the party, because you never worry about the effect of your actions, never inhibit yourself with doubts about dignity or propriety. You are usually happy, generally full of high spirits; you love to be with people—lots of people. Your thoughts, your interests, your whole personality are turned outward.

An extrovert

6. neither extreme

You have both introverted and extroverted tendencies—at different times and on different occasions. Your interests are turned, in about equal proportions, both inward and outward. Indeed, you’re quite normal—in the sense that your personality is like that of most people.

An ambivert

7. people are no damn good

Cynical, embittered, suspicious, you hate everyone. (Especially, but never to be admitted, yourself?) The perfectibility of the human race? “Nonsense! No way!” The stupidity, the meanness, and the crookedness of most mortals (“Most? Probably all!”)—that is your favorite theme.

A misanthrope

8. women are no damn good

Sometime in your dim past, you were crossed, scorned, or deeply wounded by a woman (a mother, or mother figure, perhaps?). So now you have a carefully constructed defense against further hurt—you hate all women.

A misogynist

9. “marriage is an institution—and who wants to live in an institution?”

You will not make the ultimate legal commitment. Members of the opposite sex are great as lovers, roommates, apartment- or house-sharers, but not as lawfully wedded spouses. The ties that bind are too binding for you. You may possibly believe, and possibly, for yourself, be right, that a commitment is deeper and more meaningful if freedom is available without judicial proceedings.

A misogamist

10. “…  that the flesh is heir to …”

Self-denial, austerity, lonely contemplation—these are the characteristics of the good life, so you claim. The simplest food and the least amount of it that will keep body and soul together, combined with abstinence from fleshly, earthly pleasures, will eventually lead to spiritual perfection—that is your philosophy.

An ascetic


You have been introduced to ten valuable words—but in each case, as you have noticed, you have first considered the ideas that these words represent. Now say the words—each one is respelled phonetically so that you will be sure to pronounce it correctly.1

Say each word aloud. This is the first important step to complete mastery. As you hear a word in your own voice, think of its meaning. Are you quite clear about it? If not, reinforce your learning by rereading the explanatory paragraph or paragraphs.

Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. egoist

	  2. egotist

	  3. altruist
	AL′-tr[image: ]-ist

	  4. introvert

	  5. extrovert

	  6. ambivert

	  7. misanthrope

	  8. misogynist

	  9. misogamist

	10. ascetic

Can you work with the words?

You have taken two long steps toward mastery of the expressive words in this chapter—you have thought about the ideas behind them, and you have said them aloud.

For your third step, match each personality with the appropriate characteristic, action, or attitude.

	  1. egoist
	a. turns thoughts inward

	  2. egotist
	b. hates marriage

	  3. altruist
	c. talks about accomplishments

	  4. introvert
	d. hates people

	  5. extrovert
	e. does not pursue pleasures of the flesh

	  6. ambivert
	f. is interested in the welfare of others

	  7. misanthrope
	g. believes in self-advancement

	  8. misogynist
	h. turns thoughts both inward and outward

	  9. misogamist
	i. hates women

	10. ascetic
	j. turns thoughts outward

KEY:  1–g, 2–c, 3–f, 4–a, 5–j, 6–h, 7–d, 8–i, 9–b, 10–e

Do you understand the words?

Now that you are becoming more and more involved in these ten words, find out if they can make an immediate appeal to your understanding. Here are ten questions—can you indicate, quickly, and without reference to any previous definitions, whether the correct answer to each of these questions is yes or no?

  1. Is an egoist selfish?

YES        NO

  2. Is modesty one of the characteristics of the egotist?

YES        NO

  3. Is an altruist selfish?

YES        NO

  4. Does an introvert pay much attention to himself?

YES        NO

  5. Does an extrovert prefer solitude to companionship?

YES        NO

  6. Are most normal people ambiverts?

YES        NO

  7. Does a misanthrope like people?

YES        NO

  8. Does a misogynist enjoy the company of women?

YES        NO

  9. Does an ascetic lead a life of luxury?

YES        NO

10. Does a misogamist try to avoid marriage?

YES        NO

KEY:  1–yes, 2–no, 3–no, 4–yes, 5–no, 6–yes, 7– no, 8–no, 9–no, 10–yes

Can you recall the words?

You have thus far reinforced your learning by saying the words aloud, by matching them to their definitions, and by responding to meaning when they were used in context.

Can you recall each word, now, without further reference to previous material? And can you spell it correctly?

  1. Who lives a lonely, austere life?

  1. A_________________

  2. Whose interests are turned outward?

  2. E_________________

  3. Who is supremely selfish?

  3. E_________________

  4. Who hates people?

  4. M_________________

  5. Whose interests are turned both inward and outward?

  5. A_________________

  6. Who is incredibly conceited?

  6. E_________________

  7. Who is more interested in the welfare of others than in his own?

  7. A_________________

  8. Who hates women?

  8. M_________________

  9. Whose interests are turned inward?

  9. I_________________

10. Who hates marriage?

10. M_________________

KEY:  1–ascetic, 2–extrovert, 3–egoist, 4–misanthrope, 5–ambivert, 6–egotist, 7–altruist, 8–misogynist, 9–introvert, 10–misogamist

(End of Session 1)



Every word in the English language has a history—and these ten are no exception. In this section you will learn a good deal more about the words you have been working with; in addition, you will make excursions into many other words allied either in meaning, form, or history to our basic ten.

1. the ego

Egoist and egotist are built on the same Latin root—the pronoun ego, meaning I. I is the greatest concern in the egoist’s mind, the most overused word in the egotist’s vocabulary. (Keep the words differentiated in your own mind by thinking of the t in talk, and the additional t in egotist.) Ego itself has been taken over from Latin as an important English word and is commonly used to denote one’s concept of oneself, as in, “What do you think your constant criticisms do to my ego?” Ego has also a special meaning in psychology—but for the moment you have enough problems without going into that.

If you are an egocentric (ee′-gō-SEN′-trik), you consider yourself the center of the universe—you are an extreme form of the egoist. And if you are an egomaniac (ee′-gō-MAY′-nee-ak), you carry egoism to such an extreme that your needs, desires, and interests have become a morbid obsession, a mania. The egoist or egotist is obnoxious, the egocentric is intolerable, and the egomaniac is dangerous and slightly mad.

Egocentric is both a noun (“What an egocentric her new roommate is!”) and an adjective (“He is the most egocentric person I have ever met!”).

To derive the adjective form of egomaniac, add -al, a common adjective suffix. Say the adjective aloud:

egomaniacal      ee′-gō-mƏ-NĪ′-Ə-kƏl

2. others

In Latin, the word for other is alter, and a number of valuable English words are built on this root.

Altruism (AL′-tr[image: ]-iz-Əm), the philosophy practiced by altruists, comes from one of the variant spellings of Latin alter, other. Altruistic (al-tr[image: ]-IS′-tik) actions look toward the benefit of others. If you alternate (AWL′-tƏr-nayt′), you skip one and take the other, so to speak, as when you play golf on alternate (AWL′-tƏr-nƏt) Saturdays.

An alternate (AWL′-tƏr-nƏt) in a debate, contest, or convention is the other person who will take over if the original choice is unable to attend. And if you have no alternative (awl-TUR′-nƏ-tiv), you have no other choice.

You see how easy it is to understand the meanings of these words once you realize that they all come from the same source. And keeping in mind that alter means other, you can quickly understand words like alter ego, altercation, and alteration.

An alteration (awl′-tƏ-RAY′-shƏn) is of course a change—a making into something other. When you alter (AWL′-tƏr) your plans, you make other plans.

An altercation (awl′-tƏr-KAY′-shƏn) is a verbal dispute. When you have an altercation with someone, you have a violent disagreement, a “fight” with words. And why? Because you have other ideas, plans, or opinions than those of the person on the other side of the argument. Altercation, by the way, is stronger than quarrel or dispute—the sentiment is more heated, the disagreement is likely to be angry or even hot-tempered, there may be recourse, if the disputants are human, to profanity or obscenity. You have altercations, in short, over pretty important issues, and the word implies that you get quite excited.

Alter ego (AWL′-tƏr EE′-gō), which combines alter, other, with ego, I, self, generally refers to someone with whom you are so close that you both do the same things, think alike, react similarly, and are, in temperament, almost mirror images of each other. Any such friend is your other I, your other self, your alter ego.


Can you pronounce the words?

Digging a little into the derivation of three of our basic words, egoist, egotist, and altruist, has put us in touch with two important Latin roots, ego, I, self, and alter, other, and has made it possible for us to explore, with little difficulty, many other words derived from these roots. Pause now, for a moment, to digest these new acquisitions, and to say them aloud.

	  1. ego

	  2. egocentric

	  3. egomaniac

	  4. egomaniacal

	  5. altruism
	AL′-tr[image: ]-iz-Əm

	  6. altruistic
	al-tr[image: ]-IS′-tik

	  7. to alternate (v.)

	  8. alternate (adj. or noun)

	  9. alternative

	10. alteration

	11. to alter

	12. altercation

	13. alter ego
	AWL′-tƏr EE′-gō

Can you work with the words? (I)

You have seen how these thirteen words derive from the two Latin roots ego, I, self, and alter, other, and you have pronounced them aloud and thereby begun to make them part of your active vocabulary.

Are you ready to match definitions to words?

	  1. ego
	a. one who is excessively fixated on his own desires, needs, etc.

	  2. egocentric
	b. to change

	  3. altruism
	c. argument

	  4. to alternate
	d. one’s concept of oneself

	  5. to alter
	e. to take one, skip one, etc.

	  6. altercation
	f. philosophy of putting another’s welfare above one’s own

KEY:  1–d, 2–a, 3–f, 4–e, 5–b, 6–c

Can you work with the words? (II)

	  1. egomaniacal
	a. a change

	  2. altruistic
	b. other possible

	  3. alternative
	c. interested in the welfare of others

	  4. alteration
	d. one’s other self

	  5. alter ego
	e. a choice

	  6. alternate (adj.)
	f. morbidly, obsessively wrapped up in oneself

KEY:  1–f, 2–c, 3–e, 4–a, 5–d, 6–b

Do you understand the words?

If you have begun to understand these thirteen words, you will be able to respond to the following questions.

  1. Is rejection usually a blow to one’s ego?

YES      NO

  2. Are egocentric people easy to get along with?

YES      NO

  3. Does an egomaniac have a normal personality?

YES      NO

  4. Are egomaniacal tendencies a sign of maturity?

YES      NO

  5. Is altruism a characteristic of selfish people?

YES      NO

  6. Are altruistic tendencies common to egoists?

YES      NO

  7. Is an alternate plan necessarily inferior?

YES      NO

  8. Does an alternative allow you some freedom of choice?

YES      NO

  9. Does alteration imply keeping things the same?

YES      NO

10. Do excitable people often engage in altercations?

YES      NO

11. Is your alter ego usually quite similar to yourself?

YES      NO

KEY:  1–yes, 2–no, 3–no, 4–no, 5–no, 6–no, 7–no, 8–yes, 9–no, 10–yes, 11–yes

Can you recall the words?

Have you learned these words so well that you can summon each one from your mind when a brief definition is offered? Review first if necessary; then, without further reference to previous pages, write the correct word in each blank. Make sure to check your spelling when you refer to the Key.

1. one’s other self

1. A_________________

2. to change

2. A_________________

3. a heated dispute

3. A_________________

4. excessively, morbidly obsessed with one’s own needs, desires, or ambitions

4. E_________________

5. unselfish; more interested in the welfare of others than in one’s own

5. A_________________

6. utterly involved with oneself; self-centered

6. E_________________

7. a choice

7. A_________________

8. one who substitutes for another

8. A_________________

KEY: 1–alter ego, 2–alter, 3–altercation, 4–egomaniacal, 5–altruistic, 6–egocentric, 7–alternative, 8–alternate

(End of Session 2)



1. depends how you turn

Introvert, extrovert, and ambivert are built on the Latin verb verto, to turn. If your thoughts are constantly turned inward (intro-), you are an introvert; outward (extro-), an extrovert; and in both directions (ambi-), an ambivert. The prefix ambi-, both, is also found in ambidextrous (am′-bƏ-DEKS′-trƏs), able to use both hands with equal skill. The noun is ambidexterity (am′-bƏ-deks-TAIR′-Ə-tee).

Dexterous (DEKS′-trƏs) means skillful, the noun dexterity (deks-TAIR′-Ə-tee) is skill. The ending -ous is a common adjective suffix (famous, dangerous, perilous, etc.); -ity is a common noun suffix (vanity, quality, simplicity, etc.).

(Spelling caution: Note that the letter following the t- in ambidextrous is -r, but that in dexterous the next letter is -e.)

Dexter is actually the Latin word for right hand—in the ambidextrous person, both hands are right hands, so to speak.

The right hand is traditionally the more skillful one; it is only within recent decades that we have come to accept that “lefties” or “southpaws” are just as normal as anyone else—and the term left-handed is still used as a synonym of awkward.

The Latin word for the left hand is sinister. This same word, in English, means threatening, evil, or dangerous, a further commentary on our early suspiciousness of left-handed persons. There may still be some parents who insist on forcing left-handed children to change (though left-handedness is inherited, and as much an integral part of its possessor as eye color or nose shape), with various unfortunate results to the child—sometimes stuttering or an inability to read with normal skill.

The French word for the left hand is gauche, and, as you would suspect, when we took this word over into English we invested it with an uncomplimentary meaning. Call someone gauche (GŌSH) and you imply clumsiness, generally social rather than physical. (We’re right back to our age-old misconception that left-handed people are less skillful than right-handed ones.) A gauche remark is tactless; a gauche offer of sympathy is so bumbling as to be embarrassing; gaucherie (GŌ′-shƏ-ree) is an awkward, clumsy, tactless, embarrassing way of saying things or of handling situations. The gauche person is totally without finesse.

And the French word for the right hand is droit, which we have used in building our English word adroit (Ə-DROYT′). Needless to say, adroit, like dexterous, means skillful, but especially in the exercise of the mental facilities. Like gauche, adroit, or its noun adroitness, usually is used figuratively. The adroit person is quickwitted, can get out of difficult spots cleverly, can handle situations ingeniously. Adroitness is, then, quite the opposite of gaucherie.

2. love, hate, and marriage

Misanthrope, misogynist, and misogamist are built on the Greek root misein, to hate. The misanthrope hates mankind (Greek anthropos, mankind); the misogynist hates women (Greek gyne, woman); the misogamist hates marriage (Greek gamos, marriage).

Anthropos, mankind, is also found in anthropology (an-thrƏ-POL′-Ə-jee), the study of the development of the human race; and in philanthropist (fƏ-LAN′-thrƏ-pist), one who loves mankind and shows such love by making substantial financial contributions to charitable organizations or by donating time and energy to helping those in need.

The root gyne, woman, is also found in gynecologist (gīn-Ə-KOL′-Ə-jist or jīn-KOL′-Ə-jist), the medical specialist who treats female disorders. And the root gamos, marriage, occurs also in monogamy (mƏ-NOG′-Ə-mee), bigamy (BIG′-Ə-mee), and polygamy (pƏ-LIG′-Ə-mee).

(As we will discover later, monos means one, bi- means two, polys means many.)

So monogamy is the custom of only one marriage (at a time).

Bigamy, by etymology, is two marriages—in actuality, the unlawful act of contracting another marriage without divorcing one’s current legal spouse.

And polygamy, by derivation many marriages, and therefore etymologically denoting plural marriage for either males or females, in current usage generally refers to the custom practiced in earlier times by the Mormons, and before them by King Solomon, in which the man has as many wives as he can afford financially and/or emotionally. The correct, but rarely used, term for this custom is polygyny (pƏ-LIJ′-Ə-nee)—polys, many, plus gyne, woman.

What if a woman has two or more husbands, a form of marriage practiced in the Himalaya Mountains of Tibet? That custom is called polyandry (pol-ee-AN′-dree), from polys plus Greek andros, male.

3. making friends with suffixes

English words have various forms, using certain suffixes for nouns referring to persons, other suffixes for practices, attitudes, philosophies, etc, and still others for adjectives.


	Practice, etc.

	  1. misanthrope or misanthropist

	  2. misogynist
	misogynous or misogynistic

	  3. gynecologist

	  4. monogamist

	  5. bigamist

	  6. polygamist

	  7. polygynist

	  8. polyandrist

	  9. philanthropist

	10. anthropologist

You will note, then, that -ist is a common suffix for a person; -y for a practice, attitude, etc.; and -ic or -ous for an adjective.

4. living alone and liking it

Ascetic is from the Greek word asketes, monk or hermit.

A monk lives a lonely life—not for him the pleasures of the fleshpots, the laughter and merriment of convivial gatherings, the dissipation of high living. Rather, days of contemplation, study, and rough toil, nights on a hard bed in a simple cell, and the kind of self-denial that leads to a purification of the soul.

That person is an ascetic who leads an existence, voluntarily of course, that compares in austerity, simplicity, and rigorous hardship with the life of a monk.

The practice is asceticism (Ə-SET′-Ə-siz-Əm), the adjective ascetic.


Notice how efficiently you can master words by understanding their etymological structure. Stop for a moment to review the roots, prefixes, and suffixes you have studied. Can you recall a word we have discussed in this chapter that is built on the indicated prefix, root, or suffix?


	  1. ego
	self, I

	  2. alter

	  3. intro-

	  4. extro-

	  5. verto

	  6. ambi-

	  7. misein

	  8. anthropos

	  9. gyne

	10. gamos

	11. asketes

	12. centrum

	13. mania

	14. dexter
	right hand

	15. sinister
	left hand

	16. gauche
	left hand

	17. droit
	right hand

	18. monos

	19. bi-

	20. polys

	21. andros

	22. -ist
	person who (noun suffix)

	23. -y
	Practice, custom, etc. (noun suffix)

	24. -ous
	adjective suffix

	25. -ity
	quality, condition, etc. (noun suffix)


Can you pronounce the words? (I)

Say each word aloud! Hear it in your own voice! Say it often enough so that you feel comfortable with it, noting carefully from the phonetic respelling exactly how it should sound.

Remember that the first crucial step in mastering a word is to be able to say it with ease and assurance.

	  1. ambidextrous

	  2. ambidexterity

	  3. dexterous

	  4. dexterity

	  5. sinister

	  6. gauche
	GŌSH (Say the English word go, then quickly add -sh.)

	  7. gaucherie

	  8. adroit

	  9. adroitness

	10. anthropology

	11. anthropologist

	12. anthropological

	13. philanthropist

	14. philanthropy

	15. philanthropic

	16. gynecologist
	gīn (or jin or jīn)-Ə-KOL′-Ə-jist

	17. gynecology
	gīn (or jin or jīn)-Ə-KOL′-Ə-jee

	18. gynecological
	gīn (or jin or jīn)-Ə-kƏ-LOJ′-Ə-kƏl

	19. monogamist

	20. monogamy

	21. monogamous

Can you pronounce the words? (II)

	  1. bigamist

	  2. bigamy

	  3. bigamous

	  4. polygamist

	  5. polygamy

	  6. polygamous

	  7. polygynist

	  8. polygyny

	  9. polygynous

	10. polyandrist

	11. polyandry

	12. polyandrous

	13. misanthropist

	14. misanthropy

	15. misanthropic

	16. misogyny

	17. misogynous

	18. misogynistic

	19. misogamy

	20. misogamous

	21. asceticism

Can you work with the words? (I)

Check on your comprehension! See how successfully you can match words and meanings!

	  1. ambidextrous
	a. evil, threatening

	  2. dexterous
	b. hating mankind

	  3. sinister
	c. skillful

	  4. gauche
	d. awkward

	  5. misanthropic
	e. capable of using both hands with equal skill

KEY:  1–e, 2–c, 3–a, 4–d, 5–b

Can you work with the words? (II)

	  1. anthropology
	a. system of only one marriage

	  2. gynecology
	b. hatred of women

	  3. monogamy
	c. illegal plurality of marriages

	  4. bigamy
	d. study of human development

	  5. misogyny
	e. study of female ailments

KEY:  1–d, 2–e, 3–a, 4–c, 5–b

Can you work with the words? (III)

	  1. polygamy
	a. devotion to a lonely and austere life

	  2. misogamy
	b. skill, cleverness

	  3. asceticism
	c. custom in which one man has many wives

	  4. philanthropy
	d. love of mankind

	  5. adroitness
	e. hatred of marriage

KEY:  1–c, 2–e, 3–a, 4–d, 5–b

Can you work with the words? (IV)

	  1. polygynist
	a. student of the development of mankind

	  2. polyandrist
	b. one who engages in charitable works

	  3. anthropologist
	c. male with a plurality of wives

	  4. gynecologist
	d. women’s doctor

	  5. philanthropist
	e. female with a plurality of husbands

KEY:  1–c, 2–e, 3–a, 4–d, 5–b

Do you understand the words?

  1. Can ambidextrous people use either the left or right hand equally well?

YES      NO

  2. Should a surgeon be manually dexterous?

YES      NO

  3. Is a sinister-looking person frightening?

YES      NO

  4. Is gaucherie a social asset?

YES      NO

  5. Is an adroit speaker likely to be a successful lawyer?

YES      NO

  6. Is a student of anthropology interested in primitive tribes?

YES      NO

  7. Does a gynecologist have more male than female patients?

YES      NO

  8. Is monogamy the custom in Western countries?

YES      NO

  9. Is a misogamist likely to show tendencies toward polygamy?

YES      NO

10. Is a bigamist breaking the law?

YES      NO

11. Is a philanthropist generally altruistic?

YES      NO

12. Does a misanthropist enjoy human relationships?

YES      NO

13. Does a misogynist enjoy female companionship?

YES      NO

14. Are unmarried people necessarily misogamous?

YES      NO

15. Are bachelors necessarily misogynous?

YES      NO

16. Is asceticism compatible with luxurious living and the pursuit of pleasure?

YES      NO

17. Does a polyandrist have more than one husband?

YES      NO

KEY:  1–yes, 2–yes, 3–yes, 4–no, 5–yes, 6–yes, 7–no, 8–yes, 9–no, 10–yes, 11–yes, 12–no, 13–no, 14–no, 15–no, 16–no, 17–yes

Can you recall the words?

  1. philosophy of living austerely

  1. A_________________

  2. hatred of women

  2. M_________________

  3. hatred of marriage

  3. M_________________

  4. hatred of mankind

  4. M_________________

  5. skillful

  5. D_________________

  6. awkward

  6. G_________________

  7. evil, threatening

  7. S_________________

  8. describing hatred of women (adj.)

  8. M_________________
  or M_________________

  9. skill

  9. A_________________

10. pertaining to hatred of marriage. (adj.)

10. M_________________

11. pertaining to hatred of mankind (adj.)

11. M_________________

12. social custom of plural marriage

12. P_________________
or P_________________
or P_________________

13. unlawful state of having more than one spouse

13. B_________________

14. doctor specializing in female disorders

14. G_________________

15. custom of one marriage at a time

15. M_________________

16. one who hates the human race

16. M_________________
or M_________________

17. able to use both hands with equal skill

17. A_________________

18. study of mankind

18. A_________________

19. one who loves mankind

19. P_________________

20. skill in the use of both hands

20. A_________________

KEY:  1–asceticism, 2–misogyny, 3–misogamy, 4–misanthropy, 5–dexterous, 6–gauche, 7–sinister, 8–misogynous or misogynistic, 9–adroitness, 10–misogamous, 11–misanthropic, 12–polygamy, polyandry, or polygyny, 13–bigamy, 14–gynecologist, 15–monogamy, 16–misanthropist or misanthrope, 17–ambidextrous, 18–anthropology, 19–philanthropist, 20–ambidexterity


A. Do you recognize the words?

1. Puts selfish desires first: (a) egoist, (b) egotist, (c) altruist

2. Is self-analytical: (a) extrovert, (b) introvert, (c) ambivert

3. Hates women: (a) misogamist, (b) misanthrope, (c) misogynist

4. One’s other self: (a) altercation, (b) alter ego, (c) alteration

5. Awkward, clumsy: (a) adroit, (b) dexterous, (c) gauche

6. Plural marriage as a custom: (a) bigamy, (b) polygamy, (c) monogamy

7. Study of human development: (a) asceticism, (b) philanthropy, (c) anthropology

8. Plurality of husbands as a custom: (a) misogyny, (b) polygyny, (c) polyandry

KEY:  1–a, 2–b, 3–c, 4–b, 5–c, 6–b, 7–c, 8–c

B. Can you recognize roots?


	  1. ego

	EXAMPLE   egoist

	  2. alter

	EXAMPLE   alternative

	  3. verto

	EXAMPLE   introvert

	  4. misein

	EXAMPLE   misogynist

	  5. anthropos

	EXAMPLE   anthropologist

	  6. gyne

	EXAMPLE   gynecologist

	  7. gamos

	EXAMPLE   bigamy

	  8. centrum

	EXAMPLE   egocentric

	  9. dexter

	EXAMPLE   dexterous

	10. droit

	EXAMPLE   adroit

	11. monos

	EXAMPLE   monogamy

	12. andros

	EXAMPLE   polyandry

KEY:  1–self, 2–other, 3–to turn, 4–to hate, 5–mankind, 6–woman, 7–marriage, 8–center, 9–right hand, 10–right hand, 11–one, 12–male


Suppose you met the following words in your reading. Recognizing the roots on which they are constructed, could you figure out the meanings? Write your answers on the blank lines.

  1. anthropocentric: _________________

  2. andromania: _________________

  3. gynandrous: _________________

  4. monomania: _________________

  5. misandrist: _________________

(Answers in Chapter 18.)


In three sessions, you have become acquainted with scores of new, vital, exciting words. You understand the ideas behind these words, their various forms and spellings, their pronunciation, their derivation, how they can be used, and exactly what they mean. I do not wish to press a point unduly, but it is possible that you have learned more new words in the short time it took you to cover this chapter than the average adult learns in an entire year. This realization should make you feel both gratified and excited.

Funny thing about time. Aside from the fact that we all, rich or poor, sick or well, have the same amount of time, exactly twenty-four hours every day (that is looking at time from a static point of view), it is also true that we can always find time for the things we enjoy doing, almost never for the things we find unpleasant (and that is looking at time from the dynamic point of view). I am not merely being philosophical—I am sure you will agree with this concept if you give it a little thought.

If you have enjoyed learning new words, accepting new challenges, gaining new understanding, and discovering the thrill of successful accomplishment, then make sure to stay with the time schedule you have set up for yourself.

A crucial factor in successful, ongoing learning is routine.

Develop a comfortable time routine, persevere against all distractions, and you will learn anything you sincerely want to learn.

So, to give yourself an edge, write here the day and hour you plan to return to your work:

 DAY: ____________________
DATE: ____________________
TIME: ____________________

(End of Session 3)

1 See Introduction, Section 2, Master the pronunciation system.

[image: ] Brief Intermission Nine [image: ]


Even in the most painstakingly edited of magazines, a silly little misspelling of a perfectly common word will occasionally appear. How the error eluded the collective and watchful eyes of the editor, the associate editor, the assistant editor, the typesetter, and the proofreader, no one will ever know—for practically every reader of the magazine spots it at once and writes an indignant letter, beginning: “Didn’t you ever go to school …?”

Even if you went to school, you’re going to have plenty of trouble spotting the one misspelled word in each group below. And not one of these words will be a demon like sphygmomanometer (a device for measuring blood pressure) or piccalilli (a highly seasoned relish), which no one would ever dare spell without first checking with a dictionary. On the contrary, every word will be of the common or garden variety that you might use every day in your social or business correspondence.

Nevertheless, you’re letting yourself in for ten minutes of real trouble, for you will be working with fifty particularly difficult spelling words. So put on your thinking cap before you begin.

A half-dozen high school teachers who took this test were able to make an average score of only five proper choices. Can you do better? Six or seven right is very good, eight or nine right is excellent, and 100 per cent success marks you as an absolute expert in English spelling.

Check the only misspelled word in each group.

A: 1–surprise, 2–disappear, 3–innoculate, 4–description, 5–recommend

B: 1–privilege, 2–separate, 3–incidentally, 4–dissipate, 5–occurence

C: 1–analize, 2–argument, 3–assistant, 4–comparative, 5–truly

D: 1–grammar, 2–drunkeness, 4–parallel, 4–sacrilegious, 5–conscience

E: 1–precede, 2–exceed, 3–accede, 4–procede, 5–concede

F: 1–pronunciation, 2–noticable, 3–desirable, 4–holiday, 5–anoint

G: 1–wierd, 2–seize, 3–achieve, 4–receive, 5–leisure

H: 1–superintendent, 2–persistent, 3–resistant, 4–insistent, 5–perseverence

I: 1–accessible, 2–permissible, 3–inimitable, 4–irresistable, 5–irritable

J: 1–pursue, 2–pastime, 3–kidnapped, 4–rhythmical, 5–exhillarate

KEY:  A–3 (inoculate), B–5 (occurrence), C–1 (analyze), D–2 (drunkenness), E–4 (proceed), F–2 (noticeable), G–1 (weird), H–5 (perseverance), I–4 (irresistible), J–5 (exhilarate)


Copyright  © 1949, 1978 by Norman Lewis

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies. Originally published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House LLC, New York, in 1949. This edition originally published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, in 1979

Anchor and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Extract from “Be a Perfect Speller in 30 Minutes,” by Norman Lewis, copyright © 1946, by Esquire, Inc. Reprinted from February 1946 Coronet.

Extract from “How to Spell a Word,” by Norman Lewis, © copyright 1948, by Esquire, Inc. Reprinted from January 1949 Coronet.

Extract from “Mind Over Grammar,” by Norman Lewis, © copyright 1947, by Fawcett Publications, Inc.

Extract from “Can You Catch a Misspelled Word,” by Norman Lewis, © copyright 1948, by Fawcett Publications, Inc.

Extract from “Watch That Word,” by Norman Lewis, © copyright 1948, by Fawcett Publications, Inc.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-307-81749-5








(Sessions 19–23)


What verb means to:

• belittle?

• be purposely confusing?

• tickle someone’s fancy?

• flatter fulsomely?

• prohibit some food or activity?

• make unnecessary?

• work against?

• spread slander?

• give implicit forgiveness for a misdeed?

• change hostility to friendliness?


Verbs are incalculably useful to you.

Every sentence you think, say, read, or write contains an implied or expressed verb, for it is the verb that carries the action, the movement, the force of your ideas.

As a young child, you used verbs fairly early.

Your first words, of course, were probably nouns, as you identified the things or people around you.

Mama, Dada, doll, baby, bottle, etc. perhaps were the first standard syllables you uttered, for naming concrete things or real persons is the initial step in the development of language.

Soon there came the ability to express intangible ideas, and then you began to use simple verbs—go, stop, stay, want, eat, sleep, etc.

As you gained maturity, your verbs expressed ideas of greater and greater complexity; as an adult you can describe the most involved actions in a few simple syllables—if you have a good store of useful verbs at your command.

The richer and more extensive your vocabulary of verbs, the more accurately and expressively you can communicate your understanding of actions, reactions, attitudes, and emotions.

Let’s be specific.


1. playing it down

Ready to go back thirty or more years? Consider some post-World War II American political history:

Harry Truman couldn’t win the 1948 election. The pollsters said so, the Republicans heartily agreed, even the Democrats, some in high places, believed it. Mr. Truman himself was perhaps the only voter in the country who was not entirely convinced.

Came the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November—well, if you were one of those who stayed up most of the night listening to the returns, and then kept your ear to the radio most of the next day, you recall how you reacted to the unique Truman triumph.

It was no mean accomplishment, thought many people. Pure accident, said others. If one out of twelve voters in a few key states had changed his ballot, Harry could have gone back to selling ties, one Republican apologist pointed out. It wasn’t anything Truman did, said another; it was what Dewey didn’t do. No credit to Truman, said a third; it was the farmers—or labor—or the Republicans who hadn’t bothered to vote—or the ingenious miscounting of ballots. No credit to Truman, insisted a fourth; it was Wallace’s candidacy—it was the Democrats—it was Republican overconfidence—it was sunspots—it was the Communists—it was the civil service workers who didn’t want to lose their cushy jobs—it was really Roosevelt who won the election.

Anyway Harry didn’t accomplish a thing—he was just a victim of good fortune.

What were the apologists for Dewey’s failure doing?

They were disparaging Truman’s achievement.

2. playing it safe

Willing to look at some more history of the late 1940s?

Of course, Dewey did campaign, in his own way, for the presidency. As the Republican aspirant, he had to take a stand on the controversial Taft-Hartley Act.

Was he for it? He was for that part of it which was good. Naturally, he was against any of the provisions which were bad. Was he for it? The answer was yes—and also no. Take whichever answer you wanted most to hear.

What was Dewey doing?

He was equivocating.

3. enjoying the little things

Have you ever gone through a book that was so good you kept hugging yourself mentally as you read? Have you ever seen a play or motion picture that was so charming that you felt sheer delight as you watched? Or perhaps you have had a portion of pumpkin-chiffon pie, light and airy and mildly flavored, and with a flaky, delicious crust, that was the last word in gustatory enjoyment?

Now notice the examples I have used. I have not spoken of books that grip you emotionally, of plays and movies that keep you on the edge of your seat in suspense, or of food that satisfies a ravenous hunger. These would offer quite a different, perhaps more lasting and memorable, type of enjoyment. I have detailed, rather, mental or physical stimuli that excite enjoyably but not too sharply—a delightful novel, a charming play, a delicious dessert.

How do such things affect you?

They titillate you.

4. playing it way up

You know how the teen-agers of an earlier generation adored, idolized, and overwhelmed Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles?

And of course you know how certain people fall all over visiting celebrities—best-selling authors, much publicized artists, or famous entertainers. They show them ingratiating, almost servile attention, worship and flatter them fulsomely.1

How do we say it in a single word?

They adulate such celebrities.

5. accentuating the negative

What does the doctor say to you if you have low blood sugar? “No candy, no pastries, no chocolate marshmallow cookies, no ice cream!”, your morale dropping lower and lower as each favorite goody is placed on the forbidden list.

What, in one word, is the doctor doing?

The doctor is proscribing harmful items in your diet.

6. accentuating the affirmative

You are warm, friendly, enthusiastic, outgoing, easy to please; you are quick to show appreciation, yet accept, without judgment or criticism, the human weaknesses of others.

You are a fascinating talker, an even better listener.

You believe in, and practice, honest self-disclosure; you feel comfortable with yourself and therefore with everyone else; and you have a passionate interest in experiencing, in living, in relating to people.

Need you have any fears about making friends? Obviously not.

Your characteristics and temperament obviate such fears.

7. playing it wrong

Theodor Reik, in his penetrating book on psychoanalysis Listening with the Third Ear, talks about neurotic people who unconsciously wish to fail. In business interviews they say exactly the wrong words, they do exactly the wrong things, they seem intent (as, unconsciously, they actually are) on insuring failure in every possible way, though consciously they are doing their best to court success.

What effect does such a neurotic tendency have?

It militates against success.

8. playing it dirty

“Harry?” He’s a closet alcoholic. Maud? She’s sleeping around—and her stupid husband doesn’t suspect a thing. Bill? He’s embezzling from his own company. Paul? He’s a child molester. Sally? You don’t know that she’s a notorious husband-beater?”

What is this character doing?

He’s maligning everyone.

9. giving the benefit of any doubt

Do you think it’s all right to cheat on your income taxes? At least just a little? It’s wrong, of course, but doesn’t everybody do it?

How do you feel about marital infidelity? Are you inclined to overlook the occasional philandering of the male partner, since, after all, to invent a cliché, men are essentially polygamous by nature?

If your answers are in the affirmative, how are you reacting to such legal or ethical transgressions?

You condone them.

10. changing hostility

Unwittingly you have done something that has aroused anger and resentment in your best friend. You had no desire to hurt him, yet he makes it obvious that he feels pretty bitter about the whole situation. (Perhaps you failed to invite him to a gathering he wanted to come to; or you neglected to consult him before making a decision on a matter in which he felt he should have some say.) His friendship is valuable to you and you wish to restore yourself in his good graces. What do you do?

You try to placate him.


Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. disparage

	  2. equivocate

	  3. titillate

	  4. adulate

	  5. proscribe

	  6. obviate

	  7. militate

	  8. malign

	  9. condone

	10. placate

Can you work with the words?

	  1. disparage
	a. flatter lavishly

	  2. equivocate
	b. work against

	  3. titillate
	c. prohibit

	  4. adulate
	d. forgive

	  5. proscribe
	e. change hostility to friendliness

	  6. obviate
	f. purposely talk in such a way as to be vague and misleading

	  7. militate
	g. slander

	  8. malign
	h. play down

	  9. condone
	i. make unnecessary

	10. placate
	j. tickle; stimulate pleasurably

KEY:  1–h, 2–f, 3–j, 4–a, 5–c, 6–i, 7–b, 8–g, 9–d, 10–e

Do you understand the words?

  1. Do you normally disparage something you admire?

YES      NO

  2. Do you equivocate if you think it unwise to take a definite stand?

YES      NO

  3. Do pleasant things titillate you?

YES      NO

  4. Do emotionally mature people need constant adulation?

YES      NO

  5. Is sugar proscribed for diabetics?

YES      NO

  6. Does a substantial fortune obviate financial fears?

YES      NO

  7. Does a worker’s inefficiency often militate against his keeping his job?

YES      NO

  8. Do people enjoy being maligned?

YES      NO

  9. Do we generally condone the faults of those we love?

YES      NO

10. Can you sometimes placate a person by apologizing?

YES      NO

KEY:  1–no, 2–yes, 3–yes, 4–no, 5–yes, 6–yes, 7–yes, 8–no, 9–yes, 10–yes

Can you use the words?

In this exercise you gain the value of actually writing a new word as a meaningful solution to a problem. To think about a word, to say it, to write it, to use it—that is the road to word mastery. Write the verb that best fits each situation.

  1. You’ve been asked to take a stand on a certain issue, but you don’t have the courage to be either definitely for or against.

You __________________.

  2. You spread around an unpleasant story that you know will blacken someone’s reputation.

You __________________ that person.

  3. Your friend is justifiably angry—you asked him to go to a party with you, ignored him all evening, and then finally left with someone else. What must you do if you wish to restore the relationship?

You must try to __________________ him.

  4. You virtually worship your therapist. You express your admiration in lavish flattery; you praise her in such excessive terms that she appears devoid of all human frailty.

You __________________ her.

  5. You are crowding 260 on the scales, so your doctor warns against high-calorie meals, rich desserts, second helpings, excessive carbohydrates, etc.

The doctor __________________ these foods.

  6. Your child Johnnie has smacked the neighbor’s kid—entirely without provocation, you are forced to admit. But after all, you think, tomorrow the other kid will, with equal lack of provocation, probably smack Johnnie.

You __________________ Johnnie’s behavior.

  7. When your son, understandably expecting praise, mentions the three B’s and two A’s he earned in his courses, you respond, callously, “Is that the best you can do? What stopped you from getting all A’s?”

You __________________ his accomplishment.

  8. You have run out of cash and plan to go to the bank to make a withdrawal; then unexpectedly you discover a twenty-dollar bill you secreted in your desk drawer months ago.

Your find __________________ a trip to the bank.

  9. You are the soul of honesty, but unfortunately, you have a sneaky, thievish, sinister look—and no one ever trusts you.

Your appearance __________________ against you.

10. The centerfold of Playboy or Playgirl provides a mild and agreeable stimulation.

The centerfold __________________ you.

KEY:  1–equivocate, 2–malign, 3–placate, 4–adulate, 5–proscribes, 6–condone, 7–disparage, 8–obviates, 9–militates, 10–titillates

Can you recall the words?

  1. change hostility into friendliness

  1. P__________________

  2. make unnecessary

  2. O__________________

  3. belittle

  3. D__________________

  4. overlook or forgive a transgression

  4. C__________________

  5. tickle; delight; stimulate pleasurably

  5. T__________________

  6. spread malicious rumors about

  6. M__________________

  7. purposely use language susceptible of opposite interpretations

  7. E__________________

  8. act to disadvantage of

  8. M__________________

  9. forbid

  9. P__________________

10. worship; flatter fulsomely

10. A__________________

KEY:  1–placate, 2–obviate, 3–disparage, 4–condone, 5–titillate, 6–malign, 7–equivocate, 8–militate (against), 9–proscribe, 10–adulate

(End of Session 19)



1. equality

If you play golf, you know that each course or hole has a certain par, the number of strokes allowed according to the results achieved by expert players. Your own accomplishment on the course will be at par, above par, or below par.

Similarly, some days you may feel up to par, other days below par.

Par is from a Latin word meaning equal. You may try, when you play golf, to equal the expert score; and some days you may, or may not, feel equal to your usual self.

When we speak of parity payments to farmers, we refer to payments that show an equality to earnings for some agreed-upon year.

So when you disparage, you lower someone’s par, or feeling of equality, (dis- as you know, may be a negative prefix). The noun is disparagement (dis-PAIR′-Əj-mƏnt), the adjective disparaging (dis-PAIR′-Əj-ing), as in “Why do you always make disparaging remarks about me?”

Parity (PAIR′-Ə-tee) as a noun means equality; disparity (dis-PAIR′-Ə-tee) means a lack of equality, or a difference. We may speak, for example, of the disparity between someone’s promise and performance; or of the disparity between the rate of vocabulary growth of a child and of an adult. The adjective disparate (DIS′-pƏ-rƏt) indicates essential or complete difference or inequality, as in “Our philosophies are so disparate that we can never come to any agreement on action.”

The word compare and all its forms (comparable, comparative, etc.) derive from par, equal. Two things are compared when they have certain equal or similar qualities, (con-, com-, together, with).

Pair and peer are also from par. Things (shoes, socks, gloves, etc.) in pairs are equal or similar; your peers are those equal to you, as in age, position, rank, or ability. Hence the expression “to be judged by a jury of one’s peers.”

(British peers, however, such is the contradiction of language, were nobles.)

2. how to say yes and no

Equivocate is built on another Latin word meaning equal—aequus (the spelling in English is always equ-)—plus vox, vocis, voice.

When you equivocate (Ə-KWIV′-Ə-kayt′), you seem to be saying both yes and no with equal voice. An equivocal (Ə-KWIV′-Ə-kƏl) answer, therefore, is by design vague, indefinite, and susceptible of contradictory interpretations, quite the opposite of an unequivocal (un′-Ə-KWIV′-Ə-kƏl) response, which says Yes! or No!, and no kidding. Professional politicians are masters of equivocation (Ə-kwiv′-Ə-KAY′-shƏn)—they are, on most vital issues, mugwumps; they sit on a fence with their mugs on one side and their wumps on the other. You will often hear candidates for office say, publicly, that they unequivocally promise, if elected, to…; and then they start equivocating for all they are worth, like people who say, “Let me be perfectly frank with you”—and then promptly and glibly lie through their teeth.

3. statements of various kinds

Do not confuse equivocal with ambiguous (am′-BIG′-y[image: ]-Əs). An equivocal statement is purposely, deliberately (and with malice aforethought) couched in language that will be deceptive; an ambiguous statement is accidentally couched in such language. Equivocal is, in short, purposely ambiguous.

You will recall that ambi-, which we last met in ambivert and ambidextrous, is a root meaning both; anything ambiguous may have both one meaning and another meaning. If you say, “That sentence is the height of ambiguity,” you mean that you find it vague because it admits of both affirmative and negative interpretations, or because it may mean two different things. Ambiguity is pronounced am′-bƏ-GY[image: ]-Ə-tee.

Another type of statement or word contains the possibility of two interpretations—one of them suggestive, risqué, or sexy. Such a statement or word is a double entendre. This is from the French and translates literally as double meaning. Give the word as close a french pronunciation as you can—D[image: ]B′-lƏhn-TAHN′-drƏ. (The n’s are nasalized, the r somewhat throaty, and the final syllable is barely audible.)



	  1. par

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  2. -ment
	noun suffix attached to verbs

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  3. -ity
	noun suffix attached to adjectives

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  4. dis-
	negative prefix

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  5. con-, com-
	with, together

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  6. aequus (equ-)

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	7. vox, vocis

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  8. -ate
	verb suffix

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	  9. -ion
	noun suffix attached to verbs ending in -ate

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	10. -ous
	adjective suffix

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________

	11. ambi-

	ENGLISH WORD:   _________________


Can you pronounce the words?

	  1. parity

	  2. disparity

	  3. disparate

	  4. disparagement

	  5. disparaging

	  6. peer

	  7. equivocate

	  8. equivocation

	  9. equivocal

	10. unequivocal

	11. ambiguous
	am-BIG′-y[image: ]-Əs

	12. ambiguity
	am′-bƏ-GY[image: ]′-Ə-tee

	13. double entendre

Can you work with the words?

	1. parity
	a. belittlement

	2. disparity
	b. act of being deliberately vague or indirectly deceptive; statement that is deceptive or purposely open to contrary interpretations

	3. disparagement
	c. quality of being open to misinterpretation; statement with this quality

	  4. peer
	d. statement or word with two meanings, one of them risqué, indelicate, or of possible sexual connotation

	5. equivocation
	e. inequality

	6. ambiguity
	f. equality

	7. double entendre
	g. one’s equal

KEY:  1–f, 2–e, 3–a, 4–g, 5–b, 6–c, 7–d

Do you understand the words?

  1. Is there a disparity in age between a grandfather and his granddaughter?

YES      NO

  2. Is an equivocal statement clear and direct?

YES      NO

  3. Is an unequivocal answer vague and misleading?

YES      NO

  4. Are politicians often masters of equivocation?

YES      NO

  5. Are ambiguous sentences somewhat confusing?

YES      NO

  6. Are people with disparate perceptions of life likely to experience reality in the same way?

YES      NO

  7. Is a disparaging look one of admiration?

YES      NO

  8. When people equivocate, are they evading the issue?

YES      NO

  9. Is the deliberate use of double entendres likely to shock puritanical people?

YES      NO

10. Are supervisors and their subordinates peers?

YES      NO

KEY:  1–yes, 2–no, 3–no, 4–yes, 5-yes, 6–no, 7–no, 8–yes, 9–yes, 10–no

Can you recall the words?

  1. accidentally vague

  1. A__________________

  2. purposely vague

  2. E__________________

  3. equality

  3. P__________________

  4. word or statement one meaning of which may be interpreted as risqué

  4. D__________________

  5. lack of equality

  5. D__________________

  6. belittlement

  6. D__________________

  7. clear; direct; capable of only one interpretation

  7. U__________________

  8. essentially or widely unequal or different

  8. D___________________

  9. one’s equal in age, rank, etc.

  9. P__________________

10. to use words in a calculated effort to mislead or to be ambiguous

10. E__________________

KEY:  1–ambiguous, 2–equivocal, 3–parity, 4–double entendre, 5–disparity, 6–disparagement, 7–unequivocal, 8–disparate, 9–peer, 10–equivocate

(End of Session 20)



1. more on equality

The root aequus, spelled equ- in English words, is a building block of:

1. equity (EK′-wƏ-tee)—justice, fairness; i.e., equal treatment. (By extension, stocks in the financial markets are equities, and the value of your home or other property over and above the amount of the mortgage you owe is your equity in it.) The adjective is equitable (EK′-wƏ-tƏ-bƏl).

2. inequity (in-EK′-wƏ-tee)—injustice, unfairness (equity plus the negative prefix in-). Adjective: inequitable (in-EK′-wƏ-tƏ-bƏl).

3. iniquity (in-IK′-wƏ-tee)—by one of those delightful surprises and caprices characteristic of language, the change of a single letter (e to i), extends the meaning of a word far beyond its derivation and original denotation. Injustice and unfairness are sinful and wicked, especially if you naïvely believe that life is fair. So a “den of iniquity” is a place where vice flourishes; an iniquity is a sin or vice, or an egregiously immoral act; and iniquity is wickedness, sinfulness. Adjective: iniquitous (in-IK′-wƏ-tƏs).

4. equinox (EE′-kwƏ-noks′)—etymologically, “equal night,” a combination of aequus and nox, noctis, night. The equinox, when day and night are of equal length, occurs twice a year: about March 21, and again about September 21 or 22. (The adjective is equinoctial—ee′-kwƏ-NOK′-shƏl.) Nocturnal (nok-TURN′-Əl), derived from nox, noctis, describes people, animals, or plants that are active or flourish at night rather than during daylight hours. Cats and owls are nocturnal, as is the moonflower, whose blossoms open at night; not to mention “night people,” whose biorhythms are such that they function better after the sun goes down, and who like to stay up late and sleep well into midmorning. A nocturne (NOK′-turn) is a musical composition of dreamy character (i.e., night music), or a painting of a night scene.

5. equanimity (ee′-kwƏ-NIM′-Ə-tee or ek′-wƏ-NIM′-Ə-tee)—etymologically aequus plus animus, mind, hence “equal mind.” Maintain your equanimity, your evenness of temper, your composure, your coolness or calmness, when everyone around you is getting excited or hysterical, and you will probably be considered an admirable person, though one might wonder what price you pay for such emotional control. (Other words built on animus, mind, will be discussed in Chapter 12.)

6. Equability (ee′-kwƏ-BIL′-Ə-tee or e