Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Shibboleth: Test your vocabulary (and your honesty)

Shibboleth is simply a word that you will mispronounce unless you know how a particular tribe, cohort or gang pronounces it. It serves as a password to an exclusive community. Naturally, like all human culture, it has a dark side. Pronounce the word wrong while trying to worm your way into such a secluded community, and you may be banished, or attacked for your impudence.

Here at Psychological Comments we try to be more cognitively demanding. Your pronunciation of words is of marginal interest. Your reaction times, on the other hand, have some predictive value, so we tend to pore over those to test the quality of our readers. HBDchick is in pole position on this measure, and you are encouraged to test your own.

However, why not test yourself on something very closely related to intelligence, and something profoundly human: your vocabulary? Sure, you will be doing an intelligence test, but why not? The link is below

http://testyourvocab.com/

A bold reader, Elijah Armstrong is in pole position on this one with 32,800 words.

Best of all, this test requires the testee to be honest. You can make the number up by pretending to know the  words offered up to you, but in that case you would be missing the point, and failing to understand yourself.

No such problem would ever afflict readers of this blog.

A very good morning to you all.

21 comments:

  1. Excellent. My congratulations. Pole position, though Elijah gets an age allowance for being 15. Calculations will follow in a later post.

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  2. Oh I'd have known more at fifteen. Well, at twenty-five, maybe? Actually, presumably one's vocab score goes up until one is so old that one can't quite call stuff to mind anymore?

    To eliminate arbitrariness my criterion was not (i) on the balance of probabilities, nor (ii) beyond reasonable doubt, but (iii) absolute certainty.

    I'm not inclined to take the speed test because of the arbitrariness of its depending on my mouse or trackpad.

    P.S. when the site asked my month and year of birth I didn't volunteer the truth but made myself out to be somewhat older than I am. Who knows who may take what from a website?

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    1. Ha! It turns out that Obama knows everything about me anyway!

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  3. I got 36,000. Here's a hitch- what if you think you know the meaning of a word, but you don't? I always thought "shibboleth" meant an object of superstition- I think it is often used incorrectly to mean that by people who should know better. And I realized I don't know what "portmanteau" means even though I have seen it before a number of times- I think it used to be more popular.

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  4. Have a look at the explanations they give about their work in FAQ. They have to balance a fun test which lots of people will take with the more sober "lets see what you really know" test which would take half an hour, and few people would bother with. They also give estimated error bounds which are high at plus or minus 10%. It is speedy, but rough. I have checked a few of my more rare words, and I think I got one wrong and mistakenly said I didn't know for another "hypnopompic" which is virtually identical with the much more familiar "hypnogogic". My score came out at 37,700.

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  5. Nice, James. Thanks. :) I extrapolated a percentile score (age-normed) from my results. The SD for 15-year-olds is 7,555; it would be interesting to calculate the SD for other age groups and extrapolate age-normed percentiles from there. I might not be on the top anymore! :)

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  6. 37,400. (note that i am NOT fifteen! (~_^) )

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    1. Come now, you can be anything you want to be, even fifteen!
      Thanks for posting. I am trying to put something together on Vocabulary, but in the meantime it is a pleasure to be welcoming readers who are above "the incoherence boundary" which some snooty researcher has set at 20,000 words. In truth, used with great care, 3000 words suffice. "To be or not to be" was in Orwell' view the most profound phrase in the English language, a mere six words, of which only one has as many as three letters

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  7. I think "It ain't necessarily so" is pretty profound but is blemished by the polysyllable. "Nothing is written" (in Lawrence of Arabia) is also pretty good.


    There's a fine exchange in Zulu:

    Pte. Thomas Cole: Why is it us? Why us?
    Colour Sergeant Bourne: Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.

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  8. 39,100

    but unlike dearieme, I went for beyond reasonable doubt.

    Elijah's vocab is wonderful for 15. He must read a lot.

    Laban

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  9. Did you see the kerfuffle over the history A-level question which included the words "despotic tyranny" ? I would have ticked those two words in the test, but I couldn't necessarily picked out the difference between a despot and a tyrant.

    http://ukcommentators.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/best-educated-generation-in-history.html

    Laban

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  10. Thanks for alerting me to this. Oddly, from a psychometric point of view, the students have a point. If you are simply measuring historical knowledge, the question should be as simple as possible. "a dictatorship" would have been easier to understand. It also complicates the picture by talking about Hitler's "role" rather than his decisions. "Was Hitler a dictator?" would have been a better question. Anyone without a good knowledge of work of Joachim Fest, or who did not use the words "despot" or "tyranny" in their answer could then be safely failed without any fuss.

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  11. I came up with 41,900. Since I didn't want to unduly post said result if it might be inaccurate, I went and redid the test, not checking words that I have knowledge of, but could not recall a clear definition. On the other hand, on the second round, I realized that "pule", previously unrecognized, was simple the basic form of the more commonly heard "puling" - and bingo - I had a definition.

    By not checking a couple of other words, but checking "pule", I got an estimated vocab of 42,100. Given the rarity of finding words I have not previously encountered, and looked up, at some point in my life, I am not entirely surprised.

    Congratulations to the young Armstrong on his excellent score. Keep on readin', dude. As a youth, then as a young man, I was a voracious reader. I remember coming across "cachinnation" for the first time, and thinking to myself how pretentious it was of the author - since it only obfuscated the story line - a simple "cackle" would have served as well, imo.

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    1. Thanks, Corvus. I knew about two words on that test from a single piece of fiction that I wrote - it was an homage to pulp writers like Clark Ashton Smith, who used unduly obscure words quite a bit - so I used the thesaurus quite heavily in writing the story.

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  12. 43,000. Forgot what a cenacle was, also vibrissae, which really is the cat's whiskers.

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    1. Thank you for your participation, and congratulations on your achievement. Was a legal career a help or a hindrance?
      Fiesole Moonrise from the Roman theatre, I presume?

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  13. Everyone needs to build their vocabulary at some time in their life, whether you are an ESL student who simply needs to gain vocabulary and use it for everyday life or if you are a native speaker who has got a new job or even is starting to study in a new area. Vocabulary development is useful for everyone. But to build vocabulary isn’t just about sitting and memorizing lots of lists, it is about finding creative ways to understand and use the words correctly.
    https://vocabmonk.com helps one to build their vocabulary with its interesting gamified strategies. Give a try..!!

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  14. all this proves is I've read too many damn books in english, and would be happier knowing more basic vocab in other languages. what is an opismath anyway?

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