Earlier this year, the College Board announced that they would be making sweeping changes to the SATs in 2016 in order to create a more practical standardized test. (Unfortunately, these “sweeping changes” do not involve eliminating the test entirely like I had hoped.) The company plans to reduce the total score from 2,400 to 1,600, eliminate penalties for selecting incorrect answers and, most significantly, replace the section on obscure vocabulary with reading questions designed to emphasize “real-life” words. As rising juniors celebrate the new changes, let us high-school graduates take a second to mourn the countless hours spent studying painfully specific words that we would never actually need.
1) Lachrymose (adj.): given to weeping
While you can certainly describe your mother as lachrymose, the number of confused looks you’ll get is not worth the few seconds of pride you’ll feel in having used an SAT word outside the classroom. Telling people she’s prone to crying at reality TV finales will get the same message across, and it will be easier to pronounce.
2) Inchoate (adj.): just beginning
Inchoate might just be the most underrated word in the dictionary. Its high number of vowels mixed with its obscurity make it simultaneously the easiest and hardest word to guess in hangman, an honor which any word would be proud to have.
3) Mawkish (adj.): overly sentimental
Mawkish is an adjective used to describe something that is so sentimental, it’s almost sickening. The word comes from the Middle English term “maggot,” which is where the “sickening” parallels come in. While mawkish may hold some hidden comedic potential (why no one has yet to suggest a show about a mawkish hawk is anyone’s guess), the term is usually used to describe obnoxiously cute couples in public, video compilations of singing kittens wearing Christmas sweaters, or anything else that could make a teenage girl say “it’s so cute, I can’t even.”
4) Bellicosity (n.): the natural disposition to fight
Though most readers may be familiar with bellicose, meaning “inclined to fight,” the noun version, bellicosity, is a little less well-known. Anyone with a familiarity of Harry Potter, however, may not find this word so difficult if they pick up on the connection between Bellatrix and her aggressive behavior. Ten points to JK Rowling!
5) Dilettante (n.): a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge
You know that person in your friend group who claims to be JK Rowling’s biggest fan, even though she’s only half-heartedly read one of the books and seen some of the movies? Or that person that calls himself a Whedonite after watching one Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode? That’s a dilettante, which is simply a more academic way of saying “poser.”
6) Prevaricator (n.): a person who lies repeatedly
If “pathological liar” is too scientific for you, feel free to replace it with the term “prevaricator” meaning “a person who tells lies.” Famous prevaricators include Pinocchio, Jim Carrey, Bill Clinton, and your crazy neighbor who’s always extinguishing his flaming trousers.
7) Propinquity (n.): nearness in time or place
While propinquity looks like an amateur mash-up of antiquity and propensity that some bored language buff decided to mix together after one too many drinks, the word actually derives from the Latin term propinquus, meaning near. The etymology is not nearly as entertaining as the image of a tipsy linguist, but it’ll do I suppose.
8) Vicissitude (n.): a change occurring in the course of something
Not only does vicissitude top the list of “words that make me sound like I’m stuttering,” but it also happens to be one of the most popular SAT terms. With the vocab section on its way out, vicissitude can join the ranks of Mississippi in the “excessive Is and Ss” category of the English language.
9) Flotilla (n.): a fleet of ships
I don’t trust words that sound like they could be names for exotic animals or diner milkshakes, but flotilla is the exception. The term, meaning a small fleet of ships or boats, brings to mind a mixture of chinchilla and root beer float images, two ideas which I can most definitely get behind. Flotilla may not be the most obscure word on this list (in fact, I think I’ve heard it used once before outside of an SAT context, so it’s one step ahead of the others), but it’s the nicest sounding word by far.
10) Slipshod (adj.): careless; untidy
Slipshod, on the other hand, sounds like the name of a slip-and-slide prototype that never made it to the shelves. The adjective, meaning “marked by carelessness,” has a coarse, gross sound to it.
11) Salubrious (adj.): healthy
If you can get through allergy season without mispronouncing salubrious as “thal-you-bree-iss” due to an excess of snot and congestion, then congratulations. You are salubrious yourself.
12) Jurisprudence (n.): the science of philosophy of law
After some thought, I still can’t find a reason you would ever actually use this word in regular conversation, unless you were studying to be a lawyer (and even then, I’m not so sure).
Those are some of the obscure vocab words that the SATs are known for, but they’re not the only ones. What words, if any, did you retain from those endless hours of rote memorization? What other odd words will we say goodbye to in 2016 when everyone’s favorite education monopoly switches things up?
Featured image via CloudFront.net.