We’ve got lots of Text Completions in our GRE product. And, as you probably know, we have had many Vocabulary Wednesday. I wondered: how many vocabulary words overlap the two? Well, the answer is a decent number—as it should be. But there were definitely some interesting outliers, some of which appeared in the text of the question itself, not in the answer choices.
As a youth, Francis confused stilted writing for profundity, thinking that deep in the indecipherable passages of 19th prose lay hidden the great mysteries of life.
I remember when I first started using “big words” in conversation. It was around the same time that I began reading classic literature. Attempting to sound adult and scholastic, I tried to slip multisyllabic and often obscure words into conversations. At first my newfound “erudition” greatly delighted my parents. But very quickly they grew impatient, struggling to decode what I was trying to say. “The truculence of my interlocutor rendered me mute” was how I would likely have described a scuffle with a playground bully. In other words, my speaking had become stilted.
Any speech or writing that is overly formal, meaning filled with academic sounding words, is considered stilted. There is also a connotation of stiffness and unnaturalness to stilted speech.
Even when Owen had lost his entire family fortune, eating in soup kitchens to stay alive, he still had a patina of good breeding, though—given his milieu—his words often came across as stilted.
Literally speaking, a patina is a surface coating that develops over a long period of time. In statues, a patina manifests itself in grey blotches, the result of oxidation. Figuratively, a patina is any surface appearance that gives the impression of something. For instance, if I slip some GRE words into a conversation I might give off the patina of good learning (or insecurity, depending on the audience).
After initial town riot in the public square, the despotic king made sure to squelch any future dissent by issuing a public decree: any groups of more than three gathered in the public square would be immediate grounds for incarceration of all members of the group.
Having spent much of the semester’s Spanish class discussing her backpacking experiences in Patagonia, Miss Miller was clearly remiss in her role as a teacher and was summarily dismissed (she used her severance money for a one-way ticket to Argentina).
A tricky word having nothing to do with missing somebody again, “remiss” describes somebody who neglects his or her duties. Let’s say (heaven forfend!) that I do not release a Vocabulary Wednesday for a month, I would be remiss. And, as a GRE student, you’d be remiss not learning words such as remiss.
Ella got tired of her new boyfriend Pete; each night he would launch into a litany of complaints about people who had wrong him that day (she wondered if, behind her back, she was part of that lengthy list).
A long tedious account of something is a litany. Traditionally, this word was used in liturgical context (think church service). A litany, in this sense, is a long series of petitions are requests people make of God. In a broader context, the word is usually linked with “of complaints” and describes any long, tedious account of something. This is the kind of word that usually doesn’t end up as an answer choice but as part of the text.