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Do You Know These 100 Words?

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I recently came across a link to 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know, by the folks who brought you the American Heritage Dictionaries. The cool part is that they went ahead and printed the 100 words on the web site, leaving you to buy the book (a quite reasonable $5.95 at Amazon) if you want to learn more about them. But my motto is: have Google, will learn.

I approached the list with some trepidation. I'm a high school graduate, so by definition I "should" know these. I'm a writer, so I really should know these. But how many would stump me? It turns out, I only identified six words which made me uncomfortable: abjure, abstemious, bowdlerize, moiety, orthography, tautology. A few of those I might "get by on" (like abjure, which I could probably figure it out in usage), but bowdlerize? Well, thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I've got all 100. (For example: read about Thomas Bowdler's expurgation of classic works, which led to the term bowdlerize.)

Now it's your turn -- which of these words do you need to learn? (List of words after the jump.)

abjure
abrogate
abstemious
acumen
antebellum
auspicious
belie
bellicose
bowdlerize
chicanery
chromosome
churlish
circumlocution
circumnavigate
deciduous
deleterious
diffident
enervate
enfranchise
epiphany
equinox
euro
evanescent
expurgate
facetious
fatuous
feckless
fiduciary
filibuster
gamete
gauche
gerrymander
hegemony
hemoglobin
homogeneous
hubris
hypotenuse
impeach
incognito
incontrovertible
inculcate
infrastructure
interpolate
irony
jejune
kinetic
kowtow
laissez faire
lexicon
loquacious
lugubrious
metamorphosis
mitosis
moiety
nanotechnology
nihilism
nomenclature
nonsectarian
notarize
obsequious
oligarchy
omnipotent
orthography
oxidize
parabola
paradigm
parameter
pecuniary
photosynthesis
plagiarize
plasma
polymer
precipitous
quasar
quotidian
recapitulate
reciprocal
reparation
respiration
sanguine
soliloquy
subjugate
suffragist
supercilious
tautology
taxonomy
tectonic
tempestuous
thermodynamics
totalitarian
unctuous
usurp
vacuous
vehement
vortex
winnow
wrought
xenophobe
yeoman
ziggurat

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Words
How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Live Smarter
Why You Should Drop 'Kind of' and 'Sort of' From Your Vocabulary
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How many times have you heard something like this before: “I sort of agree” or “I just kind of wish you had asked me before making that decision.” People tend to couch phrases in qualifying language to protect someone else’s feelings or to protect themselves when they say something that’s potentially inaccurate or makes them feel vulnerable. But no matter how safe and comfortable those words make you feel, they only end up confusing your listeners and hurting your reputation.

Fast Company includes “kind of” and “sort of” on their list of expressions that make you sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about. When you preface a sentence with those words, you’re immediately letting your audience know that they shouldn’t fully trust whatever comes next. Not only does this discredit you as a leader or a confidant, it obscures any feedback or request you were hoping to convey.

“Sort of” and “kind of” aren’t the only crutches insecure speakers love to lean on. Other offenders on Fast Company’s list include “maybe,” “possibly,” “potentially,” and “I’m not sure, but … ”

If qualifiers make poor security blankets, what strategies should speakers use to communicate with confidence? One way is to replace filler words and passive past-tense language with strong action verbs. That way your message will come across clearly and better persuade whomever you're speaking to. If the thought of talking this way terrifies you, try some preemptive confidence exercises before going into your next big meeting or confronting a friend or partner. Working out, practicing power poses, and even checking your own Facebook wall are all ways you can boost your self-image in a pinch.

[h/t Fast Company]

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