WORDS YOU SHOULD SOUND SMART
EVERY SOPHISTICATED PERSON SHOU LD BE ABLE TO U SE
1,200 ESSENTIAL WORDS
ROBERT W. BLY
Dedication Acknowledgments Introduction About The Author
For Peter Archer, a saint among men
A prodigious debt of gratitude goes to Justin Cord Hayes and Katie Corcoran Lytle for the Herculean e ort they put forth to ameliorate this book. Thanks also to the following friends, family, and colleagues who suggested words for inclusion in this book: Ilise Benun, Milly Bly, Fern Dickey, Amy and Jonathan Eiten, Don Hauptman, Ken and Teri Karp, Michael Masterson, and Mike Payntner.
A Few Words about a Few Words
A radio commercial for a mail-order course on building your vocabulary states, “People judge you by the words you use.” Now, with The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart, people who hear you speak will see you as smart— perhaps even smarter than you really are. Some people who want to sound smart have cultivated a large vocabulary, which they unleash with great regularity. This book can serve as your “translator” when speaking with these pseudo-intellectuals. Many other people possess a large vocabulary but use it sparingly, preferring to speak and write in plain English. As more than one writing instructor has put it, “Your goal is to express, not to impress.” It’s possible that The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart may even put some money in your pocket. People who have a good vocabulary come o as con dent, intelligent, and motivated—qualities necessary for nancial success. The late motivational speaker Earl Nightingale liked to tell students about a twenty-year study of college graduates. The study concluded, “Without a single exception, those who had scored highest on the vocabulary test given in college were in the top income group, while those who had scored the lowest were in the bottom income group.” Scientist John O’Connor gave vocabulary tests to executive and supervisory personnel in thirty-nine large manufacturing companies. On average, test scores for the company presidents were nearly three times higher than their shop foremen. Vocabulary researchers Richard C. Anderson and W. E. Nagy write, “One of the most consistent ndings of educational research is that having a small vocabulary portends poor school performance and, conversely, having a large vocabulary is associated with school success.” Whether this book helps you get higher grades or advance in your career, it’s fun to improve your command of the English language—either to impress or express. Some of the words in The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart can do just that: make you sound educated and intelligent. But you may get pleasure out of knowing them and adding them to your vocabulary quiver, even if you keep most of them in reserve. It’s your call.
A Note on the Pronunciation
Pronunciation keys given in this book are rendered phonetically, without using special symbols or systems. Many of the words in this book have meanings and pronunciations—in addition to those listed here—that are entirely correct. Regional in uences can a ect pronunciation of certain words. In this book, we use the most commonly accepted pronunciation for each word, recognizing that it is by no means the only acceptable pronunciation.
A Note on the Sources
In his book The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, Simon Winchester observes that there are essentially three sources for the words in any dictionary: (1) words found in existing dictionaries; (2) words overheard in conversation; and (3) words found “by a concerted trawl through the text of literature.” The Words You Should Know to Sound Smart is my attempt at a listing of all three sources.
“Of course the illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is AMORPHOU S, literature is formal.”...