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11 Fun Word Lists to Drill Your Vocabulary On

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I was feeling pretty smug about my big, nerdy vocabulary when I tried out the word challenge at Vocabulary.com, but it didn’t take long for the game to find my weak spots. That’s because it quickly adapts to your level and learns to predict what words you don’t know. There’s also an app version you can take around with you, which is good, because while there are lots of ways to kill time on your phone while waiting in line, this one actually pays off in words learned. In the past few days I’ve gained osculate, litotes, and flagitious.

You can customize by choosing particular word lists to work on, and while many of the lists are organized around sober, practical topics—SAT prep, current events, historical documents, great books—there are a number of lists that are just plain word fun. Here are 11 of the best themed lists from Vocabulary.com for you to master, or just enjoy.

1. Words from Shakespearean insults

Knave, sere, dissembling, scorn…cut down your rivals with Elizabethan flair.

2. Words for frustrating situations

Vex, dumbfound, stupefy, perplex…develop a more engaging way to describe your bad day.

3. Words from '70s songs

If your example sentences come from The Clash (feckless), Warren Zevon (fray), or Stevie Wonder (dissipate), you might remember them better.

4. Words for ways of walking

There are so many ways to get around. Do you amble, careen, falter, somnambulate…?

5. Words from Latin cadere, to fall

A bunch of lists are organized around words that relate to a particular Latin root. Can you see how falling relates to casualty, deciduous, and catapult? It might help you learn them.

6. Words with prefix con- (together)

Grouping words with the same prefix can also help them stick. Look for the togetherness in concerted, conciliatory, concurrently…

7. Words related to Minecraft

Can’t get your 8-year-old to study? Try example sentences like this one, for “access”: “A portal is the only way to access the Nether and its contents.”

8. Words from dialogue written by Harold Ramis

Or maybe you’ve got a Ghostbusters fan who would do better with movie quotes from Harold Ramis. Rational: “Sorry, Venkman. I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.”

9. Words from Stephen Sondheim lyrics

You can get a lot out of the Sondheim songbook: précis, abstention, apse…

10. Words for writing about cheese 

They picked out the good ones from a New York Times article about cheese: rustic, earthy, dulcet…

11. Words pirates might like to say

At first it’s not clear what these words have to do with pirates. Arbitrary? Artichoke? Then you realize they are words pirates might like to say. Focus on that first syllable. Draw it out a little. Draw it out a little more—now you’re ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day!

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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