Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

I remember the lyrics of a song from more than 30 years ago by the American music group Steely Dan. “They’ve got a name for the winners of the world. I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues.”

As far as I am concerned — and you would expect this from me — the winners in the world are those who accurately communicate. The right words are the winner’s tools. Learning advanced words and learning the context in which they should be used is what Vaughan’s Vocabulary is about. Learn the following five, if you haven’t already, and learn how to use them in your writing and speaking.

[1] unalloyed (un-uh-LOYD)

A. not scattered

B. pure

C. impure

D. None of the above

[2] simile (SI-muh-LEE)

A. replacing an offensive or disagreeable expression with one that is pleasant and inoffensive

B. two words that sound alike

C. a figure of speech comparing two unlike things, often using as or like

D. the way in which linguistic elements are put together

No. 1 is B. I recently heard unalloyed in a sermon: God’s will is for us to live an unalloyed and uncompromising lifestyle. No. 2, simile, last week’s mystery word, is C. Example: Kim told Mark that she appreciated his simile, “You look as lovely as an October afternoon.”

[3] affable (AF-uh-bul)

A. fable-like

B. pleasantly easy to approach and talk with

C. laughable

D. bland

E. liable

[4] obfuscate (AHB-foo-skate)

A. to make obscure or unclear

B. to clarify

C. to sophisticate

D. to eradicate

E. a technique used in ice skating

Mrs. Lane encouraged her students not to obfuscate their answers on the test. A is the answer.

[5] sine qua non (si-knee-QUAY-non)

A. an indispensable condition

B. something absolutely essential

C. an essential requirement

D. All of the above

I like for the third syllable in sine qua non to rhyme with ray. The professor told the class that not missing any of her lectures is sine qua non for an A or B. You’re right if you selected D for No. 5.

This week’s mystery word to solve is a five-syllable adjective; some dictionaries have the first syllable as “de”; others have the first syllable as “del.”

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