Puerile describes something childish or relating to childhood.
Synonyms: Infantile, juvenile
Word Origin: Puerile was adopted from the French puéril, “like a boy,” in the late 16th century. It comes from the Latin puer, which means “boy.” Overtime, however, its denotation has broadened from “boyish” to “childish.”
Sample 1: After their verbal altercation, which quickly devolved into childish name calling, the two men were reprimanded by their boss for their puerile behavior in the workplace.
Sample 2: Violet read the underwhelming story with resentment; she couldn’t believe a student as smart as Jasmine would turn in such a puerile work of fiction.
Sample 3: Sterling often wondered what would have happened had he not given up his puerile dream of becoming an astronaut.
This Week’s Word: Ephemeral
/ɪˈfɛm ər əl/ [ih-fem-er-uh l] adj.
Ephemeral describes something short-lived or something that lasts for only a day.
Synonyms: Fleeting, evanescent, transitory
Word History: The term ephemera was adopted into 14th century English from Latin as a medical term, describing a fever or ailment that lasted only a day. The Latin traces even further back to the Greek ephḗmeros, meaning of/for/during the day. Now the noun ephemeron (pl. ephemera), denoting something short-lived or meant for limited use, is less common than the adjective ephemeral. However, the form of the word with the -al suffix can also be used as a noun to denote something that lives for a day or a short while, such as a flower or insect.
Sample 1: Some argue that pop culture in the age of the internet is much more ephemeral than it was when the television reigned supreme; the “information superhighway” has sped our access to new ideas up so much that widespread fads, jokes, and even debates last only a short while before being replaced by the next big thing.
Sample 2: At the end of the movie, Roxie learns that the public’s macabre interest in her crime was entirely ephemeral, fading immediately after her acquittal.
Sample 3: Yuki saves tickets, postcards, notes, and other ephemera for her scrapbook.
This Week’s Word: Bucolic
/byuˈkɒl ɪk/ [byoo-kol-ik] adj. :: noun
Bucolic describes something that pertains to a country setting. It can also be used as a noun to reference a pastoral poem.
Synonyms: pastoral, agrarian, arcadian
Origin: Originally from the Greek bous, “cow,” combined with the suffix -kolos (tender of), the word for herdsman eventually took on another suffix to become boukolikos, meaning “pastoral” or “rustic.” The word was adopted into Latin, bucolicus, and by the early seventeenth century was adopted into early modern English as bucolical.
Sample: The poet’s bucolic odes exhibit such sumptuous diction—a quality which is not apparent in her love poetry.
Sample 2: The bucolic environment of his cousin’s ranch provided George with the peace and quiet he needed after his nervous breakdown.
This Week’s Word: Artifice
/ˈɑr tə fɪs/ :: [ahr-tuh-fis]
April fool’s day seems like the perfect day to learn a synonym for trickery. Artifice can refer to a particular deceit or stratagem or the trait of cunning itself. However, the word artifice does not necessarily connote deceit done with malicious intention; fooling an audience for the purpose of entertainment is still artifice.
Synonyms: duplicity, guile, craftiness, wile
Etymology: The word artifice was borrowed into English from Middle French shortly before the Elizabethan period (circa 1530s). The word comes from adding the Latin ars (art) and facere (make or do—also the root for facetious) and originally referred more to craftsmanship or skill in a trade rather than craftiness in terms of deceit.
Sample: The artifice with which the play was written makes the actors’ jobs easy; the artful dialogue makes for compelling and convincing characters.
Sample 2: Although she was not happy about washing the sticky honey out of her hair, Latrice had to admire Tyrone’s prank for its artifice.
At the end of every SAT Math section, the test makers try to come up with an extremely difficult problem that will leave even the cleverest students scratching their heads. The really evil part, though, is that even these problems can be solved in under a minute without a calculator – if you know what to do. This means that once you “figure out the trick,” these difficult problems become easy. So, while those test makers are busy cackling with sadistic glee, let’s see if we can’t beat them at their own game. Continue reading “Extra Hard SAT Math Question – Combinations” »
This Week’s Word: Ennui
/ɑnˈwi, ˈɑn wi/ [ahn-wee, ahn-wee] noun
Ennui is best described as a state of boredom resulting from a complete lack of interest, but it is often used to connote that particular type of tedium that is a result of being completely satisfied (#FirstWorldProblems).
Synonyms: Boredom, lassitude, listlissness
Origin: Unsurprisingly, ennui is a French word meaning, you guessed it, “boredom.” Actually, the term has an interesting history; the Latin phrase mihi in odio est, which means, “it is hateful to me,” shortened to in odio was borrowed into Old French as anoier (v) and anoi (n). Both words survive in French as ennuyer and ennui, respectively. The former made its way into middle English and eventually became “annoy,” while the latter was borrowed into English in the late 17th century.
Sample: The writer enjoyed the success of his latest novel for a while, but one gets the sense that his failure to start a new project has left him in a state of ennui.
Sample 2: Lucretia tried not to stare at the clock, but the general sense of ennui that pervaded the office made Thursday afternoon interminable.
Convivial can be used to describe your one friend who is not shy and always ready to party. It can also be used to convey a particularly festive, lively, or amiable mood.
Synonyms: Friendly, amiable, festive, merry
Etymology: Convivial comes from the Latin convivialis, which describes something that is fit for a convivium, or “feast.” If we break down the word further, we find that it is a combination of the roots con, which (you might know from Spanish class) means “with,” and vivere, meaning “live,” so the original Latin, convivere, merely meant to live or carouse together.
Sample: The hostess was praised for her ability to create a convivial atmosphere with such short notice.
Sample 2: Lydia loved Xander’s conviviality; no matter where the two went, people were captivated by his genial spirit and ability to have a good time.
We’re all familiar with the old adage “you can’t compare apples and oranges.” The phrase is so ubiquitous, in fact, that “Apples to Apples” is now a popular party game. If you think about it, the title fits—you can only compare your red cards because you’ve related them all to the same green card. As the saying implies, any time we compare things we have to compare like terms.
Is this a lesson for a six-year-old? you may be asking yourself. But you’d be surprised at how easy it is to make an illogical comparison—and even more surprised at how hard it can be to spot one. As with many of the other errors you’ll be tested over, illogical comparisons have become commonplace in some of our more colloquial ways of phrasing things. Since our brains are able to fill in the correct information, we rarely notice the flaws associated with some illogical comparisons, but that doesn’t make them logical.
If you’re taking the SAT before March 2016, you’ll be asked to write a two page essay that makes a completely one-dimensional argument supporting a yes or no answer to a vaguely philosophical question. In fact, one of the most difficult parts about the 25 minute section might just be finding any sort of direction given the lameness of the prompt. But once you get going, if you can come up with some specific examples to support your claim and fill up two pages in the process, you’re pretty much golden. In fact, while your examples do have to be “specific” they do not have to be factual: a student writing that D-Day ended the Cold War between Siam and Spain in the year 1066 will likely receive a higher grade than a student who accurately identifies D-Day as the day the Allies invaded Normandy but forgets to include when it happened, provided that the first student was able to support his claim with his uninformed example.
You might say, “well, that’s not really fair,” and you’d be right! This shortcoming—and a few others that make this a less-than-ideal writing sample—has prompted the College Board to rethink the essay.