Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

In Act II, scene 2 of “Hamlet,” the Danish prince enters reading a book. Polonius asks, “What do you read, my lord?” Hamlet answers, “Words, words, words.” I cannot help believing that the playwright was reflecting his own fascination with the English language.

Like Hamlet our response to the fascinating English language might simply be “words, words, words.” So many words in the English language are yet to be learned. Learning more and more of them is what Vaughan’s Vocabulary is all about. When we see an advanced word, a good question to ask is, “I know of that word, but do I know that word?” Some of this week’s words may be good examples that should precipitate that question.

1. dolorous (DOE-luh-rus or DOLL-uh-rus)

A. causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief

B. having an unusual attraction to dolls

C. happy, childlike

D. None of the above

2. raison d’etre (ray-zone deh-TRUH)

A. professoriate

B. reason for existence

C. verbosity

D. laconic

3. churlish (CHUR-lish)

A. sophisticated

B. speaking with clichés

C. difficult to work with or deal with

D. None of the above

Let’s see how you did with the first three. No. 1 is A. Example: In the eulogy, the speaker said that this is a dolorous occasion. No. 2 is B. The purpose that justifies something is its raison d’etre. No. 3 is C. If something or someone is hard to work with, it/he is churlish.

4. prodigy (PROD-uh-gee)

A. A highly talented child or youth

B. a glamorous thing or person

C. an incentive

D. coinage

Aside from D, a prodigy is an act or event so extraordinary that it inspires wonder. It is also a portentous sign or event. Example: The prodigy, Felix Mendel, composed his concert overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” before his 18th birthday.

5. Which word(s) did Shakespeare invent?

A. assassination

B. bump

C. eventful

D. lonely

According to The World Book Encyclopedia, Shakespeare invented all four of these words, along with such phrases as fair play, a foregone conclusion, catch cold and disgraceful conduct.

Last week’s mystery word is copacetic. This week’s mystery word to solve is the longest word in our English language that has letters in alphabetical order.

Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D., of Eupora is a speech and theater professor at East Mississippi Community College, Golden Triangle. Contact him at