Sir Monkeypants and I just discovered FreeRice, a site that claims to donate rice to third world nations with each vocabulary-related multiple-choice question you answer correctly. It sets your vocab at a certain level, based on what kind of words you’ve been able to identify in the past, and we’ve become a little obsessed with upping our score. We’re often able to bring it up to a 40 but if we really screw up, we drop back down to 36 or 37. We’re not even cheating, either.
This site fits in perfectly with the book I just finished reading, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx And Crake. It’s set in the near future, and the main character is obsessed with words that have drifted out of the English language — words that, within the last couple of decades, have become extinct. Every so often, when he’s stressed and trying to comfort himself, he rhymes off a list of such words, usually somewhere between 4 and 8 to a list. And on a typical list in the book, I knew one, maybe two of the words.
The others were so strange, so obscure, that I thought for sure that Atwood had made them up to emphasise the fact that they didn’t seem to belong in the language. But I just spent about ten minutes looking up a handful of them online, and it appears that they are all legit. It’s crazy how many words are out there in the language that I literally have never heard before. I’ve done a lot of reading and I usually do better than average (although not outstanding) at vocab tests, but now I feel really humbled.
Here’s the list that I just looked up — all valid words availble for use if you want to dazzle or confuse your friends:
And there’s dozens more like it in the novel. Fabulous, fabulous book by the way — definitely highly recommended.
Edited to add: All but four of the above words were rejected by Firefox’s spell checker. I guess I’m not the only one who has never heard of them!