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The Exclusive System to Learn-Not Just Memorize-Essential Words
A powerful vocabulary opens a world of opportunity. Building your word power will help you write more effectively, communicate clearly, score higher on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE, and be more confident and persuasive in everything you do.
But in order to truly increase your vocabulary, you need a system that works. With most guides, you end up only memorizing the new words for a short time, often not even long enough to use them in tests. Fiske WordPower is different.
Using the exclusive Fiske system, you will not just memorize words, but truly learn their meanings and how to use them correctly. This knowledge will stay with you longer and be easier to recall-and it doesn't take any longer than less-effective memorization.
How does it work? This book uses a simple three-part system:
1. Patterns: Words aren't arranged randomly or alphabetically, but in similar groups that make words easier to remember over time.
2. Deeper Meanings, More Examples: Full explanations-not just brief definitions-of what the words mean, plus multiple examples of the words in sentences.
3. Quick Quizzes: Frequent short quizzes help you test how much you've learned, while helping your brain internalize their meanings.
Fiske WordPower is the most effective system for building a vocabulary that gets you clear and successful results.
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About the Author
Edward B. Fiske served for 17 years as education editor of the New York Times, and authors the Fiske Guide to Colleges.
Jane Mallison has more than twenty years of experience teaching English and has been a member of the College Board SAT committee.
Margery Mandell has an MA in English from Columbia and is the coauthor of Million Dollar Words.
Read an Excerpt
Have you ever learned a new word and then immediately seen or heard it again? Let's say you just learned exotic ("out of the ordinary") and within a week you see an ad for "exotic tropical fruit drinks," hear someone talk about "traveling to exotic places," and find a reference in a history text to the fact that in the eighteenth century the English considered Italian opera "exotic" entertainment." Spooky? Mystical? Weird? Not really.
The universe didn't suddenly thrust those words in your path to reward you for your new knowledge. No, it's the other way around-you noticed the word because you'd just learned it. (The same phenomenon occurs when people plan to buy, say, a used car or an engagement ring. Suddenly their worldview becomes newly aware that some cars have two doors and some have four, that Aunt Tilda has a huge pear-shaped diamond.) In short, you're developing what we call strong verbal antennae, an ability to sense what you earlier ignored. These antennae will be your new best friends. If writers are, as novelist Henry James suggested, people "on whom nothing is lost," then alpha students of vocabulary are people on whom no word is lost. If you see it, learn it. If you hear it, learn it. If you learn it, use it.
The system in this book is designed to help you fully learn the one thousand words inside. However, there are many things you can, and should, do to make the process easier as well as to learn new words that aren't even in this book.
Rule #1: Get the proper tools.
No wordsmith worthy of the name will be without a good dictionary-or maybe even dictionaries. If it's possible, have several-one at home, one at school or in your workplace, and maybe even a portable dictionary to carry with you so you can check a meaning whenever you come across a word that pleases you.
Rule #2: Don't be shy.
If someone uses a word you don't know, ask what it means. When the father of your best friend says he's tired of hearing people pontificate, you can quickly learn that it means "speaking in a preachy manner." No, people won't think you're stupid for asking; they'll feel good about teaching you something.
Rule #3: Find a way to capture those exotic new words.
Maybe you'll carry a small notebook with you and jot them down quickly. If you prefer an electronic device, that's fine too. Just don't let them get away. Then, be sure to follow through with the next step-learning the meaning of your new words. (See the box on pages 6 to 8 for some suggestions to make this process easier.)
Rule #4: Consider the possibility of a study buddy.
If you know someone who's also motivated to build his or her vocabulary, ask that person to study with you. The same principle that has made Weight Watchers successful for dieters can build your word power. Studying with another person can keep you motivated and make practicing the recommended techniques more fun. For example, your fellow Word Watcher may know some of the words on your list (see Rule #2), saving you the effort of looking them up; similarly, your partner can share his or her list of new words with you.
Rule #5: Employ interstitial learning.
This fancy adjective refers to "space between cracks," in this case, small spaces of time. Study whenever you have a small bit of time. You'll be amazed how studying whenever you have a little bit of time can add up. A successful book for students in graduate school is called Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. If someone a little older than you can write a long scholarly treatise using such a method, you can build your vocabulary in even smaller units of time. So however silly it may initially feel, get out that list, those cards (see Rule #6 below), while you're waiting for the bus or sitting in the dentist's waiting room. Your new bits of knowledge will add up quickly.
Rule #6: Different techniques.
Try several techniques for getting newly noticed words into your memory, into your vocabulary. Learning styles differ from person to person, and you'll be able to determine fairly quickly what works best for you.
Flash Cards: A system of flash cards (3" x 5") with one word per card, definition on the back of the card, offers little in novelty, but its familiarity doesn't cancel out its effectiveness. Your ever-growing pack can fit in your bookbag or your pocket, readily available at a moment's notice.
Silly Sentences. Make up sentences using your new words, the sillier the better. These are even more fun if you're learning words in a partnership. You'll both remember the day you asked Max if he had done any ancillary reading, and after only a brief pause, he slyly replied, "Oh, yes, an egregious amount." (ancillary = extra, egregious = outstandingly bad)
Story Time. Think about expanding the sentence idea into the writing of a little story. You don't have to write it down. You can just run it through your head while you're brushing your teeth. Take twenty words you're trying to master and see how many you can use in retelling, say, an old fairy tale or the plot of a movie you just saw. Little Red Riding Hood will find herself in an umbrageous (shaded) area with a nefarious (wicked) wolf waiting to accost (suddenly speak to) her. Or, the virile (manly) actor will be planning to avenge (get revenge for) the wrong done to his pulchritudinous (beautiful) sister. What happens next in each of these scenarios? What new words can you use to build the plot?
Mnemonic Devices. Employ mnemonic devices (memory tricks) whenever they come to you. If you fix ravenous (very hungry) in your head by thinking of some really hungry black birds, no representative of the Word Police is going to come arrest you for ignoring the fact that the adjective doesn't come from the name of the bird. Don't censor your silly associations; if they walk into your mind, they'll help you remember. Watch that saturnine (gloomy) man get into his Saturn and be unhappy that he's out of gas!
Root Words. While your mnemonic devices can float free of the root meanings of words, do help yourself another way by building some knowledge in this area. For example, if you learn that "pli" is a root referring to bending or folding (think "two-ply" tissues"), then you've smoothed the road to learning implicate, explicate, implicit, explicit, complicate, supplication, pliant, and some other "pli" cousins. If you're lucky enough to have experience with a foreign language such as Latin, Spanish, or French in your present or your past, you can make strong connections with words you've learned in that area.
Prefixes and Suffixes. Similarly, mastering some basic prefixes and suffixes can help. If you know that "a" at the start of many words means "absence of" (think of amoral-absence of morals-or apathy-absence of feelings), you'll be ready to make some informed guesses. (If I approach the world in an ahistorical manner, am I a dedicated student of the past?) Likewise, if I think how insecticide kills insects, I'm set up to conquer homicide, fratricide, genocide, and regicide (killing of a person, a brother, a group of people related in some way, a king).
Table of Contents
Stage One: Consciousness
Chapter 1: Short Words
Chapter 2: Putting Together/Taking Apart
Chapter 3: Down from Mount Olympus
Quick Quiz #1
Chapter 4: Give and Take
Chapter 5: The Menagerie
Chapter 6: Talking About Talking
Quick Quiz #2
Chapter 7: What's In? Who's Out?
Chapter 8: Something's Coming
Chapter 9: The Art of Losing
Quick Quiz #3
Usage Test #1
Chapter 10: What's Cookin'?
Chapter 11: Fortune's Fool
Chapter 12: Stubborn as a Mule
Quick Quiz #4
Chapter 13: Miss Manners
Chapter 14: Be Bloody, Bold, and Resolute
Chapter 15: Oddballs
Quick Quiz #5
Chapter 16: Work Ethic
Chapter 17: Words For the Ages
Chapter 18: True Believers
Quick Quiz #6
Usage Test #2
Chapter 19: Enemies, Adversaries, and Antagonists
Chapter 20: Comrades, Cohorts, and Companions
Chapter 21: Sounds Like, Smells Like
Quick Quiz #7
Chapter 22: Them Thar's Fightin' Words
Chapter 23: I'm Against That-Or Am I Next to It?
Chapter 24: Splendor in the Grass
Quick Quiz #8
Chapter 25: Farrago
Chapter 26: I Beg of You
Chapter 27: Me, Myself, and I
Quick Quiz #9
Usage Test #3
Chapter 28: I Just Don't Understand You
Chapter 29: What A Relief
Chapter 30: Bad Guys
Quick Quiz #10
Chapter 31: Not-Quite-Naughty Words
Chapter 32: "The Stream I Go A-fishing In"
Chapter 33: Confound It!
Quick Quiz #11
Chapter 34: Earth, Air, Fire, Water
Chapter 35: Lighten Up!
Chapter 36: Don't Yell at Me!
Quick Quiz #12
Usage Test #4
Stage Two: Competence
Chapter 37: Speech Therapy
Chapter 38: How Deep Is the Ocean, How High Is the Sky?
Chapter 39: Sycophants Galore
Quick Quiz #13
Chapter 40: Down with Everybody
Chapter 41: Oh What a Tangled Web
Chapter 42: The Words of War
Quick Quiz #14
Chapter 43: Bored and Lazy
Chapter 44: See What I Mean?
Chapter 45: In Sickness and Health
Quick Quiz #15
Usage Test #5
Chapter 46: Mad as a Hatter
Chapter 47: Play It Again, Sam
Chapter 48: What a Mess!
Quick Quiz #16
Chapter 49: Keep It Clean
Chapter 50: How Divine!
Chapter 51: Godliness Redux
Quick Quiz #17
Chapter 52: Hodgepodge
Chapter 53: Too Much
Chapter 54: Not Enough
Quick Quiz #18
Usage Test #6
Chapter 55: Send in the Clowns
Chapter 56: Dionysian or Apollonian?
Chapter 57: All in the Family
Quick Quiz #19
Chapter 58: Yield...or Don't Yield
Chapter 59: Bits and Pieces
Chapter 60: Darkness, My Old Friend
Quick Quiz #20
Chapter 61: Do It In Style
Chapter 62: Scary Things
Chapter 63: No End in Sight
Quick Quiz #21
Usage Test #7
Chapter 64: Om
Chapter 65: Oy
Chapter 66: Chalk Talk
Quick Quiz #22
Chapter 67: Over the Rainbow
Chapter 68: How Sweet It Is
Chapter 69: Sourpuss
Quick Quiz #23
Chapter 70: The Wonderful World of "O"
Chapter 71: The Play's the Thing
Chapter 72: Not Fully Defined
Quick Quiz #24
Usage Test #8
Stage Three: Mastery
Chapter 73: The Blues...and Other Unpleasant States of Mind
Chapter 74: Get Happy
Chapter 75: Eponyms
Quick Quiz #25
Chapter 76: Gallimaufry
Chapter 77: Bright Lights! Loud Music!
Chapter 78: Crime and Punishment
Quick Quiz #26
Chapter 79: Words, for a Change
Chapter 80: High Finance
Chapter 81: What's My Line?
Quick Quiz #27
Usage Test #9
Chapter 82: The Body and Beyond
Chapter 83: Off and On
Chapter 84: Who's the Boss?
Quick Quiz #28
Chapter 85: Man is a Political Animal
Chapter 86: Quarantine Ward
Chapter 87: Bottoms Up!
Quick Quiz #29
Chapter 88: Home Furnishings
Chapter 89: Country Yokel or City Slicker?
Chapter 90: How Interesting
Quick Quiz #30
Usage Test #10
Chapter 91: On the Road
Chapter 92: Parlez-Vous Anglais?
Chapter 93: Achtung!
Quick Quiz #31
Chapter 94: Weighty Words
Chapter 95: What's in a Name?
Chapter 96: Am I Timid? Or Are You Intimidating?
Quick Quiz #32
Chapter 97: Have Mercy!
Chapter 98: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Chapter 99: Potpourri
Chapter 100: We're Out of Here
Quick Quiz #33
Usage Test #11
Postscript: More Practice
About the Authors