Are we smarter than American high school graduates?

Posted on June 28, 2007

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Apparently, the editors of American Heritage dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every American high school graduate should know.

“The words we suggest,” says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, “are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language.”

Why these words anyway? Some of them seem really specialist. I wouldn’t have any clue about many of them if it weren’t for the law thing and my love of high school biology.

As a word nerd, I was interested in seeing how I measured up against presumed “first language speakers”, though actually I would count myself as one. So I have bolded all the words I currently know. How many do you know? More than any American, I’ll bet. These people seem fantastically, delusionally optimistic abut American high schoolers.

The following is the entire list of 100 words:

abjure
abrogate
abstemious
acumen
antebellum
auspicious
belie
bellicose
bowdlerize
chicanery
chromosome
churlish
circumlocution
circumnavigate
deciduous
deleterious
diffident

enervate
enfranchise
epiphany
equinox
euro
evanescent
expurgate
facetious
fatuous
feckless
fiduciary
filibuster
gamete
gauche
gerrymander
hegemony
hemoglobin
homogeneous
hubris
hypotenuse
impeach
incognito
incontrovertible

inculcate
infrastructure
interpolate
irony
jejune
kinetic
kowtow

laissez faire
lexicon
loquacious

lugubrious
metamorphosis
mitosis
moiety
nanotechnology
nihilism
nomenclature
nonsectarian
notarize
obsequious
oligarchy
omnipotent

orthography
oxidize
parabola
paradigm
parameter
pecuniary
photosynthesis
plagiarize
plasma
polymer
precipitous
quasar

quotidian
recapitulate
reciprocal
reparation
respiration
sanguine
soliloquy
subjugate
suffragist
supercilious
tautology

taxonomy
tectonic
tempestuous
thermodynamics
totalitarian
unctuous
usurp
vacuous
vehement
vortex
winnow
wrought
xenophobe
yeoman
ziggurat

I’m pretty learned, eh?

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Posted in: nerdiness