I've been thinking about language as of late and that's because I've been studying for the verbal portion of the GRE. The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains over 170,000 words currently in use in the English language. Also included are 47,000 obsolete words. It is my belief that the good folks who create the GRE tests take their words from that obsolete part of the language. I introduce 60 of those words into my mind each week, writing them on flashcards, flashing through those cards, writing them in sentences and comparing them to each other, and did you know that noisome has nothing to do with sound but is an adjective meaning offensive to one's sense of smell? So, yeah, don't be fooled when you see LOUD as one of the answer choices when looking for synonyms of noisome.
As exhausting as it is, I'm learning to recognize and love some of the knowledge that is seeping into my brain during my weekly class and daily, almost hourly, studies. Some of that knowledge is very basic but left my brain years ago. For instance, paying attention to trigger words in reading comprehension, those words that shift direction: nonetheless, although, notwithstanding, except, yet, despite, etc. While that's obvious, who really thinks about that consciously? It wasn't up front in my mind and now, well now they jump out at me as if I'd already highlighted them with my nifty yellow highlighter. And in reading comprehension when you have to read five boring paragraphs and answer five questions with four possible answers that are each paraphrased, those trigger words are extremely important because they alert you to an argument that will be in one of the questions.
While I admit to enjoying what I'm learning and I believe that having a killer vocabulary is a worthy goal, the gist of the GRE is that it does not test your knowledge, it tests how well you take the GRE. So in addition to resurrecting math I've not used since high school, and dusting off reading techniques that I haven't considered since college, and learning new words daily, I am also having to study the tricks of this test. For instance, beyond Process of Elimination, my study guide tells me this: Do not believe your eyes. Beneath that warning is the explanation that the test contains figures that are not drawn to scale. BUT THE TEST WILL NOT TELL YOU THAT.
Learning this does not placate my nerves.
So, as I plod through my studies, I'm also trying to assuage my desire to wring these test-writers necks for all their games designed to trick me into false answers. Testing knowledge is one thing. Creating a test that doesn't test your knowledge but your ability to walk through a mine field unscathed? That's completely over the top and if I ever meet someone who says they work for the company who creates the GRE tests, I'm afraid that my initial reaction will be to throw a drink in their face, and to do so in honor of all of those who've walked this very slippery path known as the GRE.