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Wonderful Words: Poltroon

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One of the best parts of running the WordMasters Challenge is that I am constantly learning new words myself.  Several months ago, the Analogy of the Day (follow us on Twitter now to start receiving the AOTD!) read as follows:

FANATIC : ZEALOT :: QUISLING : ___________


Hmmm….Fanatic…check.  Zealot…check.  Quisling…quisling?  Poltroon??  So I did what any true WordMaster would do and I looked up the definitions.  A quisling is a traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country.  The word was coined during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II when Major Vidkun Quisling, serving as Minister-President, backed Germany’s Final Solution.  After the war, Quisling was found guilty of murder and high treason, and was executed by firing squad in 1945.  The word quisling became synonymous with traitor. Okay, so now you’ll never forget what a quisling  is, right?

But I wasn’t done researching.  I also learned that a poltroon is an utter coward.  The term dates back to the 16th century, and is likely derived from Old French poultron or Old Italian poltrone meaning lazy or good-for-nothing.  Okay, not quite as memorable as the quisling story, I admit.  However, one dictionary website suggested linking poltroon with poultry, and remembering that a coward is just a big chicken.

So this summer, I have been reading Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, which is chock full of historical references to European politics during World War I.  I came across the following passage, which contains actual excerpts from a speech delivered by David Lloyd George to the British House of Commons in 1916 upon becoming Prime Minister:

“Any man or set of men who wantonly, or without sufficient cause, prolonged a terrible conflict like this would have on his soul a crime that oceans could not cleanse.”

         That was a biblical touch, Ethel thought, a Baptist-chapel reference to sins being washed away.

But then, like a preacher, he made the contrary statement. “Any man or set of men who, out of a sense of weariness or despair, abandoned the struggle without the high purpose for which we had entered into it being nearly fulfilled, would have been guilty of the costliest act of poltroonery ever perpetrated by any statesman.”

Poltroonery!  I experienced the thrill our students enjoy when they encounter a WordMasters word in literature or the media.  Now I’m just waiting for the perfect opportunity to work quisling or poltroon into conversation….

Have you come across any WordMasters words in your summer reading?



Meet #3 and Year-End Results Posted

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Whew! It is a whirlwind here at WordMasters at the end of the school year. It seems that the diversity of school calendars continues to grow, and we were surprised by the number of teams who ended school LAST week. We apologize if we were not able to communicate Meet #3 and Year-End results to you before your awards ceremony or last day of school. Look for a revised 2013-14 calendar that moves Meets #2 and #3 earlier so that we can provide cumulative results by mid-May. This should also give teams more flexibility in scheduling around state testing.

In reviewing the comments submitted by Team Leaders from all twelve WordMasters Challenge™ divisions, it is clear that some schools want MORE robust score reporting. For example, some teachers want a full list of school rankings (beyond the top 10-12 that we typically post); others asked that we provide a percentile ranking for each team score. We will consider these suggestions, but also need to take into account that many teams participate in the WordMasters Challenge™ solely as an enrichment program or internal competition and therefore are not consistent about reporting scores. In fact, this year we had hundreds of teams report scores for only one or two meets. We hope that our move to online score reporting makes it easier for you to submit test results, and again encourage all teams to report after each meet so we have a true representation of each test’s relative difficulty.

As we continue to develop our technological systems, it’s always possible that we overlooked a student that qualified for Highest Honors. Please let us know if we forgot one of your students and we will correct the website posting.

Press releases for schools with “Outstanding Teams” and students earning perfect scores in Meet #3 and/or Highest Honors will be issued next week. As always, we issue these releases in draft form as Word documents so that you may make any necessary changes on your own. Please send us copies of or links to your newsletters or local press celebrating your WordMasters Challenge™ champions!

Thank you for participating in the 2012-13 WordMasters Challenge™! Don’t forget to sign up for the 2013-14 Challenge by September 30th.



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