Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your

On the “Vocabulary Can Be Fun” website I came upon a strategy of how to expand vocabulary. Divide your vocabulary into three groups. The first category has words you’re confident in using; the second one has words you encounter that you have an idea of what they mean but are not confident in using them. The third category has completely unfamiliar words.

Visualize these groups as air balloons of different sizes. Your goal is to pump up the smallest one until it is bigger than the other two. By the way, this analogy is not insinuating that advanced words are hot air.

Set a goal. Joe might learn two words a day; Mary might learn 10. Both are pumping air, as it were, into their smallest air balloons. A college-ruled spiral notebook of fewer than 100 sheets is ideal to write down paraphrased sentences in which the unfamiliar word was used. The article pointed out that context shouldn’t be ignored.

Identify which category each word fits. Let me know how you did.

1. internecine (in-tuhr-NES-een)

A. relating to the middle part

B. within the nighttime hours

C. harmless, innocuous

D. of or relating to conflict within a nation, an organization, or a group.

2. offal (AH-ful)

A. any item of any value

B. waste parts, rubbish

C. a lookout place

D. one who is prudent

No. 1 is D. The daytime drama centered on an internecine family’s schemes to cheat one another. No. 2 is B. This word can be mistaken for “awful” if one does not give it the “AH” sound for the first syllable. Waste parts especially of a butchered animal are the offal.

3. turpitude (TUR-puh-tyude)

A. strong determination

B. lack of discernment

C. vivacity

D. a vile act

The word looks like an adjective, but it is always a noun. Aside from D, think of turpitude as someone’s baseness or vileness against what is right.

4. de rigueur (duh-ree-GUR)

A. the degree conferred by U.S. colleges and universities

B. prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

C. a sharp instrument

D. a lesson in morals

I tell my students, “Professional-casual attire that has no writing, numbers or pictures is de rigueur for classroom speeches.” B is the answer.

5. disconsolate (dis-KON-suh-lut)

A. confused, upset

B. out of order, disarrayed

C. deeply dejected and dispirited

D. None of the above

If one is disconsolate, he or she is extremely saddened, beyond consolation. Shakespeare used the adjective disconsolate in Act V scene 3 of “Julius Caesar.”

Last week’s mystery word is leitmotif.

This week’s mystery word to solve is the title of a 1977 hit song. The word means a children’s game of chance.

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