Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

Is there a certain number of words that students need to know in order to succeed? Catherine Snow of Harvard University stressed that teachers need to teach the 26 letters of the English alphabet, 44 phonemes, and – are you ready for this? – 75,000 words, at least! I learned this observation from an article titled “Understanding Vocabulary” by Francie Alexander, the chief academic officer of Scholastic Inc.

Alexander pointed out that it’s obvious that teachers must teach the sounds and letters systematically and explicitly, but the challenge is how to teach 70,000 words.

This statistic is a clear reminder that advance word building is a lifetime process, which, hopefully, begins early in life, yet it is never too late to start. I am coining the phrase “the “Francie Principle”; at every grade and in every subject, all teachers are vocabulary teachers. Methods are direct instruction (pre-teaching key words in a passage), wide reading (reading texts to introduce children to rare words that are low in frequent use but high in important meaning), words in context, reading promotions, speaking, word study, and being word conscious.

I’m doing the column differently this week. Mark the five answers that you believe are correct. Using a dictionary, make sure the responses you chose are correct. The following five are of the 75,000 words for successful people.

1. indicative (in-DIC-uh-tiv)

A. totally, entirely

B. showing, signifying or pointing out

C. causing or characterized by being hooked on something

D. showing little or no concern

2. ambiguity (am-buh-GYU-uh-tee)

A. the self-perception of feeling big

B. a word or expression that could be understood in two or more possible ways or senses

C. environment

D. someone who is eccentric

3. ubiquitous (you-BI-kwa-tus)

A. having little influence

B. inclined to take offense easily

C. existing practically everywhere

D. dangerous

4. correlation (kor-uh-LAY-shun)

A. when a mutual or reciprocal relation exists

B. something that serves to indicate

C. incompatibility

D. the act of giving utterance or expression

5. syntax (SIN-tax)

A. a system or orderly arrangement

B. the study of words

C. a price to pay for doing the wrong thing

D. a difficult situation

Last week’s mystery word is velleity (vell-LEE-uh-tee).

This week’s mystery word (actually two words) can be used for a remarkable year that you experience. Both words end in s.

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