It’s a Pulcritudinous Day in the Neighborhood

Back in the day, when we were approaching high school graduation, we began prepping for the college boards. College back then wasn’t community college; it was a four year liberal arts institution that’s still around, I think. ANYhoo, there were a couple of exams we had to take in order to apply to institutions of higher learning and these were the ACT and the SAT. There was a little debate about whether we needed to take BOTH tests but since some schools wanted one and other schools wanted the other, many of us took both. Both exams are still around.

I didn’t expect to pass the math sections of either exam. I don’t believe I did. That was about the time “pocket” calculators came out and they were incredibly expensive and not allowed in the exams, anyway. I didn’t go to school with any kind of math tool except my strange brain that moves numbers around and recognizes 3 as B and 5 as S and l as 1 etc. and my two hands. My teachers coached me around my fear and frustration, “It will be fine, Martha. You’ll score very high on the verbal sections, and you have all your extra-curricular activity to make you an attractive candidate.”

It’s true. I did a lot of extra-curricular stuff in high school. I don’t even remember all of it at this point, but I got a full ride to a woman’s college in Denver. That was my mother’s dream. I couldn’t really go very far away from home because my dad was so ill and the family so friable.

We were intensely prepped with vocabulary, but anyone with the predilection I had for Victorian fiction was ahead of that game. People back in the 19th century seem to have truly loved words. And then, those with a good education usually studied Latin, Greek and a modern language bringing even MORE words into their world. At that moment in my education I believed that truly educated people had a classical education and I meant to get one. Learning vocabulary for the college boards was a breeze for me. Pugnacious, bellicose, belligerent, quarrelsome. Bring it on.

I suppose I was pretty obnoxious because the best friend of my boyfriend said, “You kiss HER? Isn’t that like kissing a book?”

Fighting words.

14 thoughts on “It’s a Pulcritudinous Day in the Neighborhood

  1. I got 740 math and 790 verbal. I think that was the highest SAT score my high school had ever seen. Aside from getting me scholarships and into a college I couldn’t finish due to various emotional issues, it has never done me a damned bit of good.

  2. This brings back memories. I didn’t do very well on the first try, so my mother insisted I got to SAT prep classes on Saturday mornings for a month or so. I think most of it was vocabulary prep. I was never so bored in my life. I think I did do better on math than the verbal. The second test score was similar to the first. Oh well! I think vocabulary in context with a literary work is a much better slide into memory. 🙂

    • Totally agree. And you learn ALL THOSE WORDS only to find out people think you’re an arrogant asshole if you actually use them. Or you use them and no one understands you.

      Or you use them and your teacher says, “You need to use words people know when you’re communicating in business. Make your work easy for people to read and understand.”

      “But, professor! I had to learn all these for college!”

      “I know, kid, I know. Go ahead and use ‘plethora’ if it makes you happy.”

      “Gee, thanks professor!” (last line pure fiction)

      • Ridiculous when you think about it. For one thing, what’s arrogant about plethora? Seriously. I love that word. But making your work “easy” to understand takes your voice out of it. And that’s not right.
        I figured that last line was pure fiction. 🙂

        • Teaching business communication was different from teaching composition. The point was to be easily understood by anyone who’d read the message. There’s the thing about big words. When people don’t understand what you’re saying you kind of haven’t said anything. Over time I came to see that the whole point of words was to communicate with other people. I think that was a good lesson for a writer.

          • Good point! When I was developing nutrition education materials for my clients/patients I had to keep that in mind. I remember classes/seminars about literacy levels – I think the recommendation was to aim for a 6th grade level. The importance of the communication factor could not be overstated (as I was to learn). Recommending that one eat a plethora of fruits and vegetables would not have gone over well. 🙂

  3. Looks fade but a smart woman is a thing of everlasting beauty. I’ll kiss a dictionary any day over a pretty face! As my grandmother said, “Pretty dishes don’t guarantee a good meal.”

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