Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

I was reading about Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) and had forgotten that he had been a newspaper reporter and an editor for a number of magazines and for a publishing house before writing his first novel. The Minnesotan gained fame for writing about his perceived weaknesses of American society.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, I was required to read “Babbitt,” his satiric account of an American entrepreneur. The story became so famous that “babbitt” (often lowercase) has come to mean a self-satisfied individual who conforms to conventional middle class ideas and ideals.

As a theater teacher I found it interesting that Lewis was a playwright; Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia pointed out that among his plays are “Hobohemia” (1919), a 1934 dramatization of his 1929 novel “Dodsworth,” and “Jayhawker” (1934). Lewis was one of the most prominent members of an American school of writing which, during and after World War I, opposed a romantic and complacent conception of American life with one that was realistic and even bitter. In 1930, Lewis was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

1. SL’s first novel was

A. “Arrowsmith”

B. “Warily”

C. “Our Mr. Wrenn”

D. “Main Street”

E. “Elmer Gantry”

2. Which verb fits what Lewis did in “Dodsworth”?

A. empathized

B. satirized

C. Hellenized

D. plagiarized

The novel “Arrowsmith” didn’t come until 1925. In 1914, while writing for a newspaper, Lewis wrote “Our Mr. Wren,” his first novel. All except “Warily” are titles of SL novels (I recently heard the adverb warily, liked the way it sounded and wanted to use it). No. 2 is B. Through Sam Dodson’s wife, Fran, Lewis satirized a type of American woman sometimes found in upper-class circles.

3. Which U.S. president’s name is in a title of a SL novel?

A. Harding

B. Wilson

C. Lincoln

D. Coolidge

In 1928, Lewis wrote “The Man Who Knew Coolidge,” which is a man’s story of how he came to know then-President Coolidge.

4. warily (WEAR-uh-lee)

A. in a watchful, cautious manner

B. polemical

C. relevant

D. trenchantly

Warily means in a wary manner, ; cautiously. No. 4 is A.

Last week’s mystery word is de rigueur.

The first two letters in this week’s mystery word to solve are the first two letters in Lewis. The mystery word means a branch of linguistics concerned with the signification and application of words.

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