Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A vocabulary quiz

From Bryan Garner, a “20-question vocabulary exam based on Johnson O’Connor’s 1948 book English Vocabulary Builder.”

[I think I should get partial credit for no. 18.]

comments: 6

Daughter Number Three said...

So you sent me down a rabbit hole, trying to assess the size of my vocabulary.

Sounds like the best test is testyourvocab.com, which uses 40,000 words as the top end of the range. Yet Garner said lawyers' vocabularies bottom out at 45,000 and extend up to 120,000. Even though there are 300,000 words in the OED, does that discrepancy between lawyers and the over-achievers taking the testyourvocab test (http://testyourvocab.com/blog/2013-05-08-Native-speakers-in-greater-detail#newMainchartNative) seem very likely?

I got 38,100 from testyourvocab, by the way. And 16 out of 20 from Garner. Humph. (Only 1 of the 4 errors was something I definitely should have been able to figure out.)

Michael Leddy said...

No, it doesn’t seem likely.

I went down the rabbit hole too: 37,000. There were several I thought I knew, but I couldn’t be sure. One — fuliginous — I knew only because of David Foster Wallace.

I had eighteen of twenty with Garner, but I have asked for partial credit with restive. I am prepared to file a grade appeal if necessary. :)

Daughter Number Three said...

There were a lot of words on testyourvocab that I'm sure I knew back when I studied lists for the SAT or GRE, but I couldn't claim I knew their definition any more.

Fuliginous is one I have to admit didn't sound familiar. Which tells you I have not read DFW.

Your higher score on Garner makes me wonder if I was completely honest on testyourvocab. Relying on self-report, as always, is inherently unreliable.

Michael Leddy said...

I think it’s also partly the luck of the draw: I’m not sure what results one can extrapolate from small samples of vocabulary. But still fun.

Daughter Number Three said...

And either way, the endorsement of reading fiction as the best way to build vocabulary is a good link to keep for those times when you need such a thing.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes. I think finding words in the wild is the best way to learn about them.