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GRE Article of the Month – April and May 2015

April: Sight Unseen: The hows and whys of invisibility
May: What part of “No, Totally” Don’t You Understand?

Both articles by Kathryn Schulz for The New Yorker


The next two articles of the month are going to be a two-for-one special. That is, not only are the articles drawn from the same publication (The New Yorker-my favorite, if you haven’t figured out by now) but the same person wrote them, Kathryn Schulz, a brand new staff writer for the magazine.

The two articles, however, couldn’t be more different. The first is about invisibility in all its various guises (yes, that’s an oxymoron), from the lowest brow, magic spells that supposedly confer this ability, to the highest brow: the author discusses how invisibility relates to Plato’s Republic. And there’s a whole lot in between, including invisible buildings, racism, and X-ray vision.

But this is no laundry list about visibility and invisibility. The piece is suffused with a philosophical yet playful intelligence that makes a reread rewarding. Indeed, you might find yourself wondering, as you read, about all that invisible matter in the universe (including your own thoughts) and just what you’d do if you ever got your hands on an invisibility cloak (I hear they are hard to find!)

The second article is about a phrase that has popped up recently. In fact, I’m probably used it several times in the last month. Yet, like the myriad verbal anomalies, you’ve probably, if you’re like me, never given it a second thought. If you just nodded and thought, “no, totally”, then you’ve stumbled across the very phrase that this article explores in depth.

And do I mean in depth. The writer parses–and then parses some more–the word ‘no’ Is it an adjective? A noun? An adverb? An interjection? All of the above? Though you might find yourself exclaiming, “no more ‘no’”, I’m sure you’ll find many of the piece’s insights about language and how it evolves fascinating.

Vocabulary from April Article “Sight Unseen”

  • Felonious
  • Prosaic
  • Lucrative
  • Ambivalent
  • Consummately
  • Heretofore
  • Inscrutable
  • Caveat
  • Tantamount
  • Impunity
  • Cornerstone
  • Perennial
  • Impotence
  • Rendered
  • Bestowed
  • Interlocutor
  • Allegory
  • Attenuating
  • Hinterlands
  • Unequivocal


Vocabulary from May Article “What Part of ‘No, Totally’ Don’t You Understand?”

  • Appropriation
  • Disparage
  • Semantic
  • Amelioration (general meaning)
  • Philistine
  • Pliable
  • Unambiguous
  • Dubious
  • Uncanny
  • Occam’s razor (not really a vocabulary word, but just a cool idea to know)


Image Credit: Will Milne


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