Verbal Advantage - Level 05 Word 41 - Word 50 MCQ Test
- Word 41: Preclude [pri-KLOOD]
To prevent, make impossible, exclude or shut off all possibility of something happening.
Synonyms of preclude include avert, obviate (AHB-vee-ayt), and forestall. Antonyms include incite, instigate (IN-sti-gayt), and engender (en-JEN-dur).
Preclude comes from the Latin prae-, meaning “before,” and claudere, to shut, close up. By derivation preclude means to take steps beforehand to shut off or close the door on something.
In modern usage, preclude suggests preventing something by excluding or shutting off all possibility of its happening: Immunization can preclude many fatal diseases. An alarm system may decrease the chance that your car will be stolen, but it will not preclude it. The framers of the U.S. Constitution adopted the Bill of Rights as a means of precluding the passage of any law that would infringe upon or abrogate the basic rights of citizens in a democracy.
- Word 42: Castigate [KAS-ti-gayt]
To punish or criticize severely.
Synonyms of castigate include chasten (CHAY-sin), chastise (chasTYZ or CHAS-tyz), rebuke, reprimand, reprove, and censure (SENshur, word 28 of Level 3).
Antonyms of castigate include approve, reward, praise, commend, laud (LAWD), extol (ek-STOHL), and eulogize (YOO-luh-jyz).
The verbs to chasten, to chastise, and to castigate all mean to punish in slightly different ways.
Chasten is related to the word chaste, pure, and by derivation to chasten means to punish in order to purify or make chaste. In modern usage chasten usually suggests purifying by subjecting to harsh discipline, inflicting pain or suffering to improve the character of someone or something. Military recruits are chastened during basic training; a preacher may chasten a congregation for its sinful ways; a mild heart attack may chasten the workaholic to slow down and take better care of himself. You may also chasten your mind or chasten your style, purify or subdue it by subjecting it to harsh discipline.
The verb to chastise was once used as a dignified word for inflicting corporal punishment—in other words, to punish by whipping or beating. In the nineteenth century, teachers were permitted—and often expected—to chastise students who misbehaved in class, and for much of the twentieth century, before the concept of the “time-out” became popular, spanking was considered an acceptable way of disciplining a naughty or obstreperous child. (Do you need to look up obstreperous? Quick— grab your dictionary and do it now.)
Today chastise may still be used to mean to inflict corporal punishment, but more often the word suggests administering a strong verbal rebuke. When a teacher chastises a student today, it’s with harsh words, not a hickory stick. The corresponding noun chastisement may be pronounced either CHAS-tiz-ment or chasTYZ-ment. CHAS-tiz-ment is the traditional pronunciation; chasTYZ-ment has been recognized by American dictionaries since the late 1940s.
Castigate comes from the Latin castigare, to punish with words or blows. Like chastise, castigate was once used of corporal punishment, but today the word is nearly always used to mean to beat up verbally, criticize severely, especially to subject to harsh public criticism. Politicians often castigate their opponents during a campaign. Some reviewers may praise a book for its controversial ideas, while others may castigate it. If the boss reads you the riot act in front of the whole office, consider yourself castigated. The corresponding noun is castigation, as “a pugnacious radio talk show host with a vicious penchant for castigation.”
- Word 43: Colloquial [kuh-LOH-kwee-ul]
Conversational; pertaining to, characteristic of, or used in spoken language; hence, informal, casual, natural.
Colloquial, colloquium (kuh-LOH-kwee-um), and colloquy (KAHLuh-kwee) all come from the Latin loqui, which means to speak, converse. Loqui is also the source of the word loquacious (lohKWAY-shus), extremely talkative.
The noun colloquy is a dignified synonym for conversation, but while conversation may apply to any exchange of spoken words, colloquy usually refers to a more formal or intellectual discussion, the kind of talk that occurs between scholars or on television shows where journalists analyze the news. When you or I talk with people at a party or over dinner, that’s a conversation, but when William F. Buckley, Jr., talked with his guests on “Firing Line,” that was a colloquy.
The noun colloquium means a gathering in which a colloquy takes place, a conference or meeting for discussion, specifically a relatively informal meeting for the purpose of exchanging views on a subject.
The adjective colloquial means conversational, of the spoken language, and therefore informal or casual. Remember vernacular, word 15 of this level? Colloquial speech is speech that uses the vernacular, the common, everyday language of ordinary people.
The corresponding noun colloquialism (kuh-LOH-kwee-ul-iz-’m) means a colloquial expression, a bit of vernacular language, a word or phrase used in common, everyday, informal speech. There are many thousands of colloquialisms in the language, and you probably use dozens—maybe even hundreds—of them every day without thinking twice about it. For example, every time you say yeah instead of yes you are using a colloquialism, an expression more appropriate to informal speech than to more formal speech and writing.
Here’s a dictionary usage tip: The next time you look up a word and preceding the definition you see the abbreviation coll. or colloq., that means the word—or the word used in that particular sense—is a colloquialism, and you may reasonably infer that it is characteristic of colloquial or conversational language.
In concluding this discussion, I would like to stress that colloquial speech and colloquialisms are not necessarily substandard or illiterate, as some ultrapurists might have you believe. To begin with, without the colloquial the English vocabulary would be circumscribed (word 11 of Level 3) and stiff, and if there were some way to outlaw the use of colloquialisms then communication between people of different backgrounds and levels of education would soon become impossible. Then it probably would not be long before English went the way of Latin —into extinction. Most of our communication is spoken, not written, and a liberal dose of colloquial or conversational words and expressions is what keeps a language fluid, fresh, and vital.
Of course, not all colloquialisms are useful or acceptable to all speakers. Some colloquialisms are objectionable because they suggest uneducated or coarse informality. A classic example of that sort is the word ain’t. Other colloquialisms are objectionable because they’re illogical, and here perhaps the best example is the expression “I could care less,” which is commonly used in colloquial or informal speech to mean “I could not care less.” If you can care less, then that means you still have some caring left in you, whereas if you cannot care less, then you do not care at all, which is the sense those who use the improper colloquialism mean to convey.
The point is, there are relatively few examples of exceptionable (do you need to look that up?) colloquial language. The vast majority of colloquial or informal expressions are not only acceptable but also useful and even necessary in conducting our day-to-day communication.
- Word 44: Obfuscate [ahb-FUHS-kayt or AHB-fuhskayt]
To make obscure, cloud over, darken, make unclear or indistinct.
Synonyms of obfuscate include confuse, complicate, muddle, bewilder, shroud, eclipse, and adumbrate (ad-UHM-brayt or AD-umbrayt). Antonyms of obfuscate include expose, unveil, clarify, and elucidate (i-LOO-si-dayt).
The corresponding noun is obfuscation (AHB-fuh-SKAY-shin). Have you ever heard the joke-phrase “Please eschew obfuscation”? That’s an ironic way of advising someone to avoid jargon and communicate in clear and simple terms.
Obfuscate comes from the Latin obfuscare, to darken, and by derivation means to deprive of light, make dark or dim. In modern usage obfuscate may mean either to make something obscure or indistinct, or to make it confused, muddled, or unclear. You can obfuscate the truth, obfuscate your meaning, or obfuscate your intentions. Think of obscure when you think of the verb to obfuscate.
Obfuscate may be pronounced ahb-FUHS-kayt or AHB-fuh-skayt. The latter pronunciation, which has been heard in American speech since the early twentieth century, was originally British. Although AHB-fuh-skayt was criticized and called erroneous by authorities of the 1920s and 1930s, it is now fully standard and preferred by many cultivated speakers.
- Word 45: Facile [FAS-’l, rhymes with castle]
Easy, easily done; performed or achieved in an easy, effortless way; working or acting in a smooth, free, and unrestrained manner.
Synonyms of facile include quick, ready, fluent, nimble, dexterous, expert, and adroit (word 41 of Level 3).
Antonyms of facile include difficult, awkward, unwieldy, laborious, irksome, obstinate (word 34 of Level 1), onerous (AHN-ur-us), intractable (word 12 of this level), and refractory (ri-FRAK-tur-ee).
The adjective facile, the noun facility, and the verb to facilitate all come through the Latin facilis, meaning “easy to do,” from the verb facere, which means “to make” or “to do.” All three words suggest ease of performance or action.
Facilitate means to make easier, help along, as “She was hired to facilitate the project.” When using facilitate, remember that the word applies to an action or operation, not to the performer of it. Installing new production equipment will not facilitate the workers on an assembly line; it will facilitate assembly of the product.
The noun facility means dexterity, aptitude, ease of movement or action. The word usually suggests a practiced ability to do something with quick, skillful ease: he plays the piano with facility; her facility in handling a tricky situation; an impressive facility with words.
Our keyword, facile, is often used of speech or the mind to mean able to perform quickly and smoothly, as “a facile wit,” or “a facile tongue.” Facile is now often used in a negative sense to mean done or arrived at too easily, without sufficient care or effort: a facile answer is smooth and easy to the point of being glib (word 8 of Level 3); a facile solution is simplistic or superficial.
In Modern English Usage, the classic guide by H. W. Fowler, first published in 1926, Fowler notes that the value of facile “as a synonym for easy or fluent or [dexterous] lies chiefly in its depreciatory implication. A facile speaker or writer is one who needs to expend little pains (& whose product is of correspondingly little import). A facile triumph or victory is easily won (& comes to little).”
- Word 46: Convivial [kun-VIV-ee-ul]
Sociable, merry, festive.
Synonyms of convivial include jovial (word 19 of this level), and also genial (JEE-nee-ul), companionable, affable (AF-uh-bul), and gregarious (gruh-GAIR-ee-us). Antonyms include unsociable, reserved, solitary, and aloof (word 20 of Level 1).
Convivial comes from the Latin convivium, a feast, banquet, which in turn comes from the prefix con-, meaning “together,” and vivere, to live. By derivation convivial means gathering together to eat, drink, and be merry. In modern usage convivial may mean either “pertaining to a feast or festive occasion” or “fond of eating, drinking, and good company.” A convivial atmosphere is a merry, festive atmosphere; a convivial person is a friendly, sociable person, especially someone who likes to socialize while eating and drinking.
- Word 47: Eschew [es-CHOO, like s plus the word chew]
To avoid, shun, abstain from; keep away from something harmful, wrong, or distasteful.
Don’t be misled by the sound and spelling of eschew; the word has nothing to do with the act of chewing—for which the fancy synonym, by the way, is mastication (MAS-ti-KAY-shin). When you masticate your food, you chew it thoroughly.
Eschew comes through Middle English from Old French and Old High German words meaning to shun, avoid, or dread. According to the third edition of The American Heritage Dictionary, eschew suggests avoiding or abstaining from something “because to do otherwise would be unwise or morally wrong.” Morally upright people eschew evil, teetotalers eschew alcohol, nonsmokers eschew tobacco, and vegetarians eschew meat—which doesn’t mean they masticate it but that they avoid eating it.
In recent years some people have begun pronouncing eschew as es-SHOO, like s plus shoe, so that in 1993 one dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition, recognized this mispronunciation along with the even more eccentric e-SKYOO (almost like askew). For a thorough account of why you should eschew these variants, see the entry for eschew in my Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations. In the meantime, remember that there is no shoe in eschew (and no skew either). Put a chew in it.
You may recall that in the introduction to this level I noted that there are two bad habits you must eschew at all costs. First, don’t invent your own pronunciations, and second, don’t blindly imitate the way other people pronounce words. If you follow those two guidelines, you will have no trouble eschewing objectionable pronunciations and mastering the correct ones.
- Word 48: Prodigious [pruh-DIJ-us]
Enormous, huge, tremendous, immense; extraordinary in size, extent, force, or degree.
Synonyms of prodigious include mammoth, monumental, colossal, gargantuan, elephantine, herculean, and Brobdingnagian.
The last four synonyms are interesting words worthy of brief comment.
Gargantuan (gahr-GAN-choo-in) comes from the name Gargantua, the hero of the famous satirical romance by Franois Rabelais, published in 1532. Gargantua, says the Century Dictionary, is “a giant of inconceivable size, who could drink a river dry. The name is doubtless from Spanish garganta, [throat], gullet.” In modern usage gargantuan sometimes suggests gluttony, as a gargantuan feast, but it is perhaps most often used as a stronger synonym of gigantic or enormous, as a gargantuan house or a gargantuan achievement.
Elephantine (EL-uh-FAN-tin, also EL-uh-FAN-teen or EL-uh-FAN-tyn) may mean pertaining to an elephant, but the word is most commonly used to mean resembling an elephant, and therefore huge, heavy, and awkward. A person may be of elephantine proportions or walk with an elephantine gait. A king-sized bed or an overlarge couch might also be described as elephantine, suitable for an elephant, immense.
The adjective herculean (hur-KYOO-lee-in or HUR-kyoo-LEE-in) comes from the name Hercules, the famous hero of Greek mythology renowned for his great feats of strength and courage. By derivation herculean means worthy or characteristic of the mighty Hercules. A herculean task demands all your strength and stamina; a herculean effort is a mighty, powerful effort. (The word is now usually spelled with a small h.)
The unusual word Brobdingnagian (BRAHB-ding-NAG-ee-in, don’t forget to pronounce the ding) refers to the gigantic inhabitants of the imaginary land of Brobdingnag (BRAHB-ding-nag) in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, or to anyone or anything equally enormous. Because of its literary flavor and peculiar sound, Brobdingnagian (always spelled with a capital B) is probably best reserved for situations in which you want to achieve a humorous or satirical effect. For example, when your very large, very formidable Aunt Eloise makes her thunderous entrance at your next family reunion, you might greet her by saying, “My dear, you look positively Brobdingnagian this evening!” The antonym of Brobdingnagian is the more familiar word Lilliputian (LIL-i-PYOO-shin), which also comes to us from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
And now back to our keyword. Prodigious comes through the Latin prodigiosus, strange, wonderful, marvelous, from prodigium, an omen, portent, sign. From the same source we have inherited the word prodigy (PRAH-di-jee), a person of marvelous talent or wonderful ability.
Since about 1600, prodigious has been used to mean huge, enormous, of extraordinary size or extent, and also marvelous, wonderful, phenomenal, causing wonder or amazement. In modern usage the context often suggests both senses: a prodigious talent is both enormous and amazing; a prodigious accomplishment is both phenomenal and huge; prodigious energy is both astonishing and tremendous; and a prodigious event or a prodigious undertaking is often both extraordinary and wonderful.
When you think of the word prodigious, consider this: William Shakespeare composed twenty of his plays in only ten years, an output that can only be described as prodigious.
- Word 49: Idiosyncrasy [ID-ee-oh-SING-kruh-see]
A peculiarity, distinctive characteristic of a person or group, an identifying trait or mannerism.
An idiosyncrasy, an eccentricity (EK-sen-TRIS-i-tee), and a quirk (KWURK, rhymes with shirk) all designate behavior that is peculiar or distinctive.
Quirk is a mild term for any unusual trait, characteristic, or mannerism. Constant use of um, like, and y’know is a quirk of adolescent speech. Old people often have quirks, odd preferences or strange ways of doing things.
An eccentricity is a habit or characteristic that seems strange or peculiar because it differs from what is considered usual or normal. A friend of mine who is also a writer prefers to spell his name without the customary period after the middle initial. Of course, every time he publishes an article he winds up in a battle with some copyeditor who insists on “correcting” this eccentricity.
Our keyword, idiosyncrasy, comes from Greek and means literally “one’s own peculiar temperament, habit, or bent.” In modern usage the word suggests a distinctive characteristic or identifying trait that sets a person apart. An idiosyncrasy may appear somewhat strange or odd, or it may simply mark someone or something as individual and different from others: a writer may have certain stylistic idiosyncrasies; a wine connoisseur can tell you the idiosyncrasies of a particular vintage; and to a person from the Midwest, the speech of someone from New England is full of idiosyncrasies, peculiar or distinctive characteristics.
Idiosyncrasy is the noun; the corresponding adjective is idiosyncratic (ID-ee-oh-sin-KRAT-ik), peculiar, distinctive, odd.
- Word 50: Approbation [AP-roh-BAY-shin]
Approval, acceptance; especially, official approval or authorization.
Synonyms of approbation include commendation, endorsement, sanction, ratification, and acclamation (AK-luh-MAY-shin).
Antonyms include rejection, opposition, disapprobation, renunciation, repudiation, disavowal, and abjuration (AB-juu-RAY-shin).
The noun approbation comes from the Latin approbare, to approve, and by derivation means approval. However, because of its Latin derivation, approbation is more formal and dignified than approval. Children seek the approval of their parents; the president of the United States seeks the approbation of Congress or the electorate. When you want the go-ahead on a plan, you ask your boss for approval. When your plan succeeds and your boss rewards you with a raise or a promotion, that’s approbation.