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Wonderful Words: And the answer is... Lilliputian

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If you are reading this blog, you clearly have some interest in words, their origins and their usages.  In that case, you should be following WordMasters on Twitter, as we tweet an Analogy of the Day (AOTD) from the WordMasters Challenge archives.  On Monday, we tweet an analogy that originally appeared on a fourth grade Challenge test.  The vocabulary gets progressively more difficult as we finish out the week by tweeting an analogy from an eighth grade Challenge test every Friday.  We also tweet the correct answer the following day.  To sign up for AOTD, follow us (@wordmasterslisa).  If you don’t Twitter, you can catch the AOTD and corresponding answers by visiting us on Facebook (click here).

 

Yesterday’s AOTD was:

gauche : tactful :: titanic : Lilliputian

I think this is a great example of why students need to understand literary references and how they make their way into our vocabulary.  In case you’re mystified by “Lilliputian”, it is a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a prisoner of a race of tiny people, less than 6 inches tall, who are inhabitants of the island country of Lilliput. “Lilliputian” can be used as a noun to name a native of Lilliput, or more commonly, as an adjective meaning trivial or extremely small. 

Even if your students haven’t read Gulliver’s Travels, it is important that they recognize and understand the literary reference of “Lilliputian.”  When asked why they looked this word up on Merriam-Webster’s website (www.m-w.com), respondents answered “Crossword puzzle” and “GRE vocab word.”  (By the way, Gulliver’s Travels is available as a free download through www.planetebook.com and other websites!)


 

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