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GRE Verbal Online Prep

GRE Word List #2 | Welcome to the blob!

Yes, you read that right. It’s an example of the first word in this GRE Word List Blog. Read on to find out! 

We hope you liked our debut GRE Word List Blog last week, where we wrote about Latin loanwords.
Each week, we’ll post GRE Vocabulary Flashcards on our social media handles, and finish the set off with 2 extra words here, our GRE Blog, accompanied by stories, facts and some questions for you to answer. 

#1 – It’s all Greek and Latin!
#2 – Welcome to the Blob!
#3 – Must-Know GRE Words Set 1
#4 – GRE-Ology
#5 – Reading Apprehension

The words in our set this week are Malapropism, Aphorism, Hearsay, Soliloquy, and Lexicon. 

i. Malapropism  

Part Of Speech – noun 
Definition – the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect.  
E.g. saying ‘She’s the pineapple of patience’ instead of pinnacle
Word Origin: “malapropism” (and its earlier variant “malaprop”) comes from a character named “Mrs Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play, The Rivals. 
In the play, she utters other malapropisms such as “illiterate him quite from your memory” (instead of “obliterate”), and “she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile” (instead of alligator). 
Synonyms – solecism, misusage, error, slip of the tongue. 
Usage – In class, everyone laughed at Bill’s malapropism when he complained about electrical votes instead of electoral votes. 

Ore’s another hen

Another interesting form of speech errors is Spoonerism

Reverend Spooner was an Oxford don (a tutor of sorts) and tended to mix up the first syllables of adjacent words while speaking, often changing the meaning completely, and often to comedic effect. 

He was the quintessential ‘absent-minded professor.’ 

Do you think Spoonerism is the same as Malapropism? Or a variant? Express your opinion in the comments.

Some examples of spoonerisms

You have hissed all my mystery lectures. (You have missed all my history lectures.) 

The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer. (The rate of wages will press hard upon the employer.) 

A fun word game

In the domain of Word Games, Spoonerisms are extremely popular and are seen in many competitions and forms. A phrase is given, containing synonyms for the Spoonerisms. The enumeration (number of letters) is also provided. 
An example of a clue : 
1. Pick on assembled lodestone. (3,3)(6) 
Ans. Nag met, Magnet. 

Here are a few spoonerisms for you to solve. Simply find a set of words, the meanings of which are altered when the first syllable of each word is interchanged. 
1. Cry a Spanish artist’s festival of lights. (4, 1, 4)(9) 
2. Crow’s call charge to shoot up. (3,4)(6) 
Leave your answers in the comments! 

For more Spoonerisms and other kinds of word games, check out IITM Word Games Club here.

(Back to the GRE Blog now!)

ii. Aphorism 

Part of Speech – noun 

Definition – a succinct observation which contains a general truth.  
E.g. A bad penny always turns up. 

Synonyms – maxim, adage, epigram. 

Usage – Bill began his speech with a humorous aphorism from one of his favorite authors. 

iii. Hearsay 

Part of Speech – noun 
Definition – information received from other people which cannot be substantiated. 
E.g. I heard Bill steals from the cash register. 
Synonyms – gossip, rumour, stories. 
Usage – You can’t judge someone solely on the basis of hearsay. 

Is it the same as heresy?

Hearsay is close to the word Heresy and can be easily mistaken for it. 
Heresy is having an opinion/belief that is contrarian to well-established / widely held opinions/beliefs. 
The strongest examples of heresy are in religion and politics. In medieval times, pagans, people of religious minorities were often branded heretics, and exiled/ostracized. 

Now, that takes us to Ancient Greece

Ostracism is a fascinating practice, originating from Ancient Greek times.

Athens is widely known as the first democracy. Common people, as a collective, held a lot of power over political and societal goings-on.

In an ostracism proceeding, people convened to vote/exile someone out of the city for a period of ten years, if said person had committed some grave wrongdoings. Sometimes, the ostracisms were preemptive (before committing any wrongdoing), if they were perceived as a potential threat to the state (city-states in Greece, not cities).

Contrary to modern trials, where juries are asked whether the accused is guilty or not, in an ostracism proceeding, the jury (comprising of a minimum of 6000 people) is asked if they want to find someone/anyone guilty or not, and then the subject is accused to stand judgement. 

The word ‘Ostracism’ itself comes from the voting procedure. Instead of paper, which was a luxurious resource, and had to be imported from Egypt (papyrus), the Greeks used shards of broken pottery, called ostraka 
singular : ostrakon). 
People would write the names of the person who they wanted exiled, and scribes would tally up the shards. In certain cases, there’d be an ostracism to see which one of two selected people would be exiled. 

Assassins’ Creed : Odyssey depicts the attempted ostracism of Socrates. Worth a watch/play.

Ostracisms are present in other cultures too. Check out how it works in Iran here.

iv. Soliloquy

Part of Speech – noun 

Definition – an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. 

E.g. O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? 

Synonyms – monologue, speech, sermon. 

Word Origins: Latin sōlus, alone; Latin loquī, to speak

Usage – “Edmund ends the scene as he had begun it, with a soliloquy” 

Question for you : What do you call someone who performs a soliloquy? 
(Hint: There’s more than one correct answer.) Leave your answer in a comment!

v. Lexicon 

Part of Speech – noun 
Definition – the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. 
Also : a dictionary, especially of Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, or Arabic. 
Word Origins : early 17th century: modern Latin, from Greek lexikon (biblion) ‘(book) of words’, from lexis ‘word’, from legein ‘speak’. 
Synonyms – glossary, thesaurus. 
Usage – “It is difficult to understand what teenagers say because their lexicon is constantly changing.” 

Cheers, and see you next week! 

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  1. Spoonerism
    1. Weep , a , Dali – Deep a wali (deepawali)
    2. Caw, rate – rocket ( not too sure about this one!)

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