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One Man

One Man’s Plan: Behold the passing of the expansive vocabulary

Say goodbye to big words. I just learned the puppet masters at the College Board (“Ruining Teen Dreams since 1901!”) have determined that the verbal portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test is just too hard for today’s youth. Starting in 2016, high school juniors and seniors with designs on post-secondary education will take a simpler test that emphasizes words they’re more likely to see in real life. Out are words like “dragoon,” “piebald” and “occlusion,” and in are more basic words like “friend,” “bunny” and “hug.” No more will college-bound kids memorize words like, “peccadillo” and “parsimonious,” instead dedicating their time to more apt expressions, such as “Peanut M&M” and “Pringle.”

With this change, feel free to expunge memories of your favorite analogies. “Obfuscation is to Eclipse as Perspicacity is to Acumen” is now replaced by more prudent word comparisons, such as “Participation is to Trophy as Helicopter is to Parent.”

So much for the millions of us who’ve sweated out the vocab for decades – we believed them when they told us “palliate” and “adumbrate” would serve us well in life. We listened, memorized and prayed for those words to show up one dismal Saturday morning in a gym where we’d slow-danced to “Freebird” the week before, wondering if our girlfriends knew we were as adumbrate as they come.

I took an SAT prep course in the basement of the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, N.Y., in the fall of 1984 with a man named Mr. Leverage. He was partial to the math section, using catchy mnemonic tricks like, “Boo, boo, radical two.” I still have no idea what he meant, but I deserve points for using the word “mnemonic.”

I’ve made vocabulary an important part of my life and try working big words into everyday conversation, much to the chagrin of my less-erudite consorts. For example, a friend tells a joke, and I’ll exclaim, “What a pithy maxim!” passing along the encomium with brio and delectation, relishing in our sagacious repartee.

But no more – the era of big words is over, cast aside like mental detritus, and I’m not happy. I wouldn’t mind creating an occlusion with a dragooned piebald bunny in the College Board’s executive washroom to manifest my disinclination at this calamitous development, but I won’t. Instead, I propose we celebrate our big words on one final day, using as many as we can before setting them aside for posterity. I proclaim this Wednesday to be “Big Words Wednesday,” a day to revel in the sublimity that is a robust and expansive vocabulary.

All you knackers, join hands with the coopers, fletchers, tanners and apiarists and shout your métier to the welkin above on Wednesday, because come Thursday, you’ll all be known as “people who work with their hands.” You fakirs, mendicants and supplicators, smile and plead for succor – by the end of the week, you’ll just be straight-up bums hassling drivers for loose change. Take not umbrage with such assertions – surcease your harangue of my temerity as Big Word Wednesday approaches with precipitancy, for we have work to do.

Perhaps you should call in sick, instead why not gambol across a nearby heath in the tarn’s direction so that you might witness a glorious coruscation in the eventide firmament! Do it soon – if you try it next weekend, you’ll be that dummy who skipped into the woods towards a big cold puddle and almost got hit by lightning.

Spend Wednesday sounding the tocsin for a surfeited lexicon, for such vaingloriousness will end in a fat lip given by a freshman in high school thrilled that his SAT test will be as challenging as reading a Friendly’s menu.

I plan on spending Wednesday fighting the ennui of what the future brings, eschewing the more saturnine aspects of the world we’ll inhabit, refusing to wallow in mawkish desolation for long, instead accepting the reality that future family escutcheons will be festooned with tiny images of TV remotes and Skittle colors instead of leather-bound books and woodland sprites.

Join me in waving the gonfalon for big words one last time, exclaiming their virtue from pinnacles far and near. I, the cockalorum of Concord, will do my best to use as many big words as I can on Wednesday. After that, I’ll instead just be that self-important little man who once knew a lot of fancy words that were a total waste of time.

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