I’m feeling rather inarticulate today…

This is embarrassing.

Whatever my flaws, and they are legion, I thought I could comfort myself that I had an excellent vocabulary. In English, I mean. I’ve probably forgotten more Spanish words than I remember (after having been fluent as a child).

So, having been humiliated by the Slate current events quiz Friday (which asks questions about stupid stuff that no discerning newshound would follow), I thought I’d give myself an ego boost with I saw this Tweet from a mommy-blogger (I suppose they’d say “mum-blogger”) in England:


I followed the link, and took the test. Basically, you click on the words that you know at least one definition of (and you’re on the honor system, so it was a little fuzzy on a definition, I wouldn’t click on that word), and it infers from that how many words you know.

I ended up with a score of 35,100 words. Which is just barely outside the normal range of 22,000-35,000 for most adult native English speakers. There are 300,000 main entries in the OED, so that means I only know a bit more than a tenth of all words in my own language.

Which is depressing. Because while I would expect to be well below the normal range in, say, sports knowledge, I would expect to blow out vocabulary totally, like, you know?

One bright spot, though — when I looked back at the screenshot I saved from my test, below, I noticed that I had failed to click on “awry.” I must have clicked at it and missed, or something. Which means the whole process went, you know, awry! (Also, if I had clicked that I knew “bibulous,” and someone had challenged me on it, my guess of what it meant would have been right — so maybe I should have had more confidence.) So my test score is invalid! I probably would have scored as well as the mum-blogger if I hadn’t been in such a hurry!


19 thoughts on “I’m feeling rather inarticulate today…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Aha! “Tatterdemalion” meant exactly what I thought it meant (which means you can probably guess it, too)! “Sedulous,” however, meant nothing like what I thought it meant…

  2. Norm Ivey


    Interesting. There were a number of words on the list I recognized, and which I am sure I have seen used in context and understood, but for which I could not provide a definition (legerdemain, for example).

    There’s plenty to question about the validity of this test, but according to the graphs, your score of 35,100 places you well above average for those who took the test, which according to them, is mainly those above the 98th percentile to begin with. So you are above the average of the top 2%. Stop fretting.

  3. John

    Read more Stephen Donaldson novels, that’ll bring your score up. I’m working through “The Last Dark” right now. I credit it for “fuliginous.”

    1. Doug Ross

      @Bryan – apparently you are dyslexic AND a cretinous ignoramus. Brad got 35,100. Don’t feel bad – with that score, you get a free diploma from Clemson.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Further evidence that I’m just extra stupid today…

    Had lunch at this nice place in town that I think is a little pricey, but they also put way too much food on your plate, so I justify the expense by getting a box and saving half for lunch the next day.

    So I called for my box, and when we were getting ready to leave, my companions told me I had left my debit card in the black plastic bill thingy. I realized I hadn’t yet signed the check or left a tip, so everybody sat back down while I did that.

    Halfway back to the office, I realized I’d left my box with the next day’s lunch in it. So we turned around, and I called ahead — but they had thrown it out.

    So… stupider than usual today.

  5. Mab

    Have you considered the conspiratorial theory that it was a rigged test to flatten your tire in the first place? Does your IPA read South Carolina? No smart AND incorruptible people allowed! Shore up your creds — you’re just like Mitt Romney now!


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