Mastering new words helps us think new thoughts. Unfortunately, the shenanigans of those in charge of the SAT will soon disallow the rooting out of nepotism –because we won’t know the word nepotism. We will be disinclined to admire a diamante lorgnette and will be unable to sit down to a hare terrine.
Educators seem to have forgotten that increasing vocabulary is a way to rise up in the world. That very kind of rising, in fact, is the subplot of the novel The Color Purple. Readers who waited at American wharves for the latest installment of Dickens expected to find new terms in those pages, and they would gladly reach for their dictionaries to master them.
The current SAT compilers intend to limit vocabulary to what can be reasonably used in future professions. Considering that 75% of future professions will involve computers, that indicates they will be texted on terms like mouse pad, Google, format and type face–perhaps carbon footprint and hundred-year storm–rather than prestidigitation, red herring, anomaly, flexor, ort or pallet. This leaning in 21st-century education is unfortunate because it will produce adults who are incapable of thinking not only outside the box but also outside the cubicle.
Amortize sheds no light on crenellations or crepuscules. Principle gives no insight into troubadours. How can these prospective adults be expected to create original ideas if they do not have the terms in which to house them? They will consider selfies portraits. They will be unaware of the frog in flower arranging and the nightingale floors in Japanese architecture, not to mention the palmate feet of many water birds, the palliative in medicine and the tongues in shoes. Winston Churchill’s Black Dog will become a household pet.
Streets will be numbered, not named. Hirsute, flue, dirk, inclemency, ringlet, protuberance, anomie, merman, menhir, inchoate, persiflage, denizens, epergne, orogeny and gunk hole will all vanish into some silent circle of hell.
American civilization will be the poorer for every precise and memorable term suppressed. Word-bare poets will shiver in the thoroughfares, depressed novelists under bridges. Shakespeare and his pithy ilk will be thrown out with the bathwater.
Must we brook this ludicrous interference, this testing treachery? Or shall we take arms against a sea of verbal troubles? Rise up. Refute. Be vociferant in your dissent. You have nothing to lose but your mentation. Howl out your objection now, or forever be condemned to inarticulateness.
Ann Chandonnet is a nonfiction writer, food historian and poet who resides in Vale, North Carolina. She writes the Musings column for the Hickory Observer. Her next book, a food history titled “Barn Raisings and Cemetery Cleanings,” will be published this spring by Second Wind.