Words Words Words. Word Challenge Is Back! Thanks Akil and Bell Curves


As we do every year, we are joining again with RIISE to tout the beauty of the spoken, written, and sung language. From this week until President’s day, we’ll highlight the elegance and utility of the English language by presenting an vocabulary word in the wild. We’ll show you a word that has been used in a speech given by a famous orator, in a song by a well-known artist, and in a test question. Hopefully, we’ll inspire you to think of words and their usage in various contexts, and you interact with those words daily.  We hope this will help students realize that the vocab list they’re given in school and the flashcards they study while they prep for the SAT, ISEE, SSAT, or any other of the myriad tests we take from kindergarten to graduate school will matter long after they stop filling in little bubbles.
With further ado, our first word is succumb.

Most recently our 44th president used the word in his inaugural address. Specifically he said:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

As with all new vocabulary, it’s important to not only try to determine meaning from context but to also look that word up in the dictionary and verify that you’ve properly understood its meaning and the manner in which it was intended to be understood in context. Before we define this word let’s look at two other usages of the word:

Any child of the 2000s will remember No Doubt and their hit Just a Girl which included the following lines:

I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to Is making me numb
I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Now even after reading these two text you should hopefully have some sense of the meaning of the word. Let’s apply it to the a SSAT analogy:

Triumph is to succumb as:

(A) surrender is to dominate
(B) sprint is to run
(C) capitulate is to recapitulate
(D) capture is to decapitate
(E) rise is to swoon

If you figured  out the definition of succumb you’re probably guessed that E is the right answer for the question above. That’s the right one because triumph means to win or overcome something and succumb means to lose or give in,  The two words are fundamentally antonyms as are rise and swoon, which means to faint or fall down.  The reason why A) is not the right answer is because while the words are opposite, it doesn’t follow the order that our original pair does.

Vocabulary plays an important role in all standardized tests, from 3rd graders taking ELA exams, or grown-ups studying for the GMAT to go to business school.  Whether you are taking a test, making a platinum album, or leading the country, the words you know and use matter.  The SSAT is used for admissions to boarding schools and has an entire section of analogies, so vocabulary is very important. If you ever need help for an admission test check out our blog, courses, or tutoring options over at www.bellcurves.com.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 11, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Akil. I can’t wait until the next installment. But, alas, I must succumb to time.

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