Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

I am doing a study of the play “Much Ado About Nothing.” In Elizabethan English, the word “nothing” was pronounced “noting.”

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a comedy in which characters are eavesdropping and noting. Therefore, the title of Shakespeare’s work, written just before the turn of the 16th century, could read “Much Ado About Noting.”

Individuals who are trying to build their vocabulary are involved in observing and noting. Anytime we see or hear an advanced word that we are unsure of, it should be written in a special notebook. Next to the word we should paraphrase a definition based on a dictionary, and craft sentences in which the word is used and underscored. We should make much ado about noting!

See how well you do with the following vocabulary-building words. Please let me know how you did.

1. ostensible (ah-STEN-suh-bul)

A. with elasticity

B. very sensible because of keen observation

C. outwardly appearing as such; professed, pretended

D. genuine

2. spar (SPAR)

A. to bandy words, dispute

B. to consume

C. to unite

D. to placate

Let’s see how you did with the first two. In addition to C, ostensible means apparent, evident, or conspicuous. Example: Ostensibly, Ken is uxorious, but he really does not love his wife. No. 2 is A. Example: In “Much Ado About Nothing” there is a continual sparring of words between Beatrice and Benedick.

3. erudite (AIR-you-dite)

A. characterized by great knowledge

B. learned or scholarly

C. sapient

D. possessing or displaying erudition

4. abhor (ab-HAWR)

A. to admire

B. to scrutinize

C. to loathe

D. to approve

All four choices are correct for No. 3, erudite. No. 4, abhor, is C.

5. synecdoche (si-NECK-duh-key)

A. a technique for eliminating a crick in the neck

B. a figure of speech

C. the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

D. None of the above

Make a note that C under No. 5 is the definition for zeitgeist, another good vocabulary building word. The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines synecdoche as “a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).

Last week’s mystery word is sinecure.

This week’s mystery word to solve starts with the letter a and the part of speech it is begins with an a. It literally means “from the egg.”

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