vicious cycle

Meet the new SAT, same as the old SAT, except that the difficult old “SAT words” are headed for the hills. Now, you get to spend your time gleaning clues from context! This marks the first and last time that context will be something you have to consider when determining meaning, at least if you’re planning on doing any political commentary at any point in your life.

From the looks of the sample test, the heart of the SAT — baffling, strangely worded passages that fill you with crippling self-doubt and the sense that everything you knew is a lie — remains the same. With this being said, here is a test that approximates the feel of taking the SAT, especially if you thought you knew going in what words were supposed to mean.

See how you fare!

On The Founding Fathers And The Need For Insulation

My uncle says the country is going down the drain.

But I think that America will continue to be great as long as we are insulated properly.

Among the uses for insulation are: insulating, padding, and not being asbestos. Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, and Ben Franklin were all Founding Fathers. Asbestos used to be used often as insulation. Alexander Hamilton died in a duel. It was all pretty vaporous.

“Freedom from want, freedom from fear,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Insulation did not kill Alexander Hamilton.

What is the speaker of the above passage trying to prove?

a) That the speaker of the above passage is a total moron who doesn’t understand how argumentation works.
b) That his uncle is wrong
c) That America is great
d) Honestly, either of those last two could be right but the passage is so awful it’s impossible to tell

How would you characterize the speaker’s uncle’s attitude toward what is going on in the country?

a) Pessimistic
b) Realistic
c) Nihilistic
d) Idiotic
e) Chiaroscuro
f) Diphthong

What does “vaporous” mean, in this passage?
a) Literally it could mean anything; the passage offers no clues
b) Intense
c) Vapid
d) Hazy

Mary Sue’s Dalliance

Mary Sue stared at Abraham Lincoln in amazement, feeling her heart leap within her in a curmudgeonly way, like a young gazelle greeting the spring.

“Yes,” Mary said. “I am here tonight, and Mary Todd is not.” (1) She dropped a handkerchief, serendipitously, and then picked up very slowly and VERY serendipitously, almost as serendipitously as the lady in that poster for the vintage film “Serendipity” featuring John Cusack and the sexy windblown lady who did not have access to the Internet.

(2) “You look very serendipitous this evening,” Abraham Lincoln stuttered.

“I’ve never felt so serendipitous,” Mary Sue said. “Or, for that matter, so regal.”

“You are regal,” Abraham Lincoln said. “I would roll many barrels of tobacco through your port to the ocean.”

“I take that,” flounced Mary Sue, “in the spirit in which it was offered.”

In this passage, what does the word “curmudgeonly” mean?
a) “like a young gazelle greeting the spring”
b) the opposite of what it usually means
c) really don’t think you can use this word this way
d) D

In sentence (1), what does “serendipitously” mean?
a) Like the sexy windblown lady in the poster
b) sexy; windblown; amalgamated
c) this isn’t cool, SAT
d) don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but I disapprove

In sentence (2), what does “serendipitous” mean?
a) sexy, but said in a very respectful tone like Abe Lincoln would say it
b) honest
c) fashionable
d) fortuitous
e) just kidding, there aren’t this many bubbles!

How do you feel after reading this passage?
a) alarmed
b) confused
c) palpitant
d) Palpatine
e) you may want to pick this answer, but you can’t!

How To Paint A Door A Single Color, Using Paint

There are many ways to paint a door. Some of them are more effective than others.

My father was always a door aficionado. He could spend hours every day staring at knobs, latches, locks and other door paraphernalia.

“Ernie,” my mother would yell. “It is time to come to dinner!”

“I cannot come to dinner yet, dear,” my father would answer, shouting. “I am intent on this door.”

“What do you see in that door, Dad?” I asked.

“You can see all kinds of things in a good door,” my father said. He narrated a story about his experience with doors as a young man, then quoted some Emerson at me. After that I understood his feelings much better.

Together, we painted the door.

What is paraphernalia?

a) stuff you need in order to take drugs properly
b) like regular phernalia but there’s no good explanation from them that uses just science
c) a couple ‘a phernalia! We all know this answer’s wrong but it’s definitely a great pun
d) [weird but technically correct definition of paraphernalia that you're still a little uncomfortable with]

How would you characterize the narrator’s living situation?

a) He lives with his parents
b) What? How is this the question?
c) Intent
d) Standard

Who or what is Emerson?

a) The passage offers no real clues
b) Someone you quote about doors
c) Passable name for a cat
d) A way of understanding feelings

How would you characterize the narrator’s feelings about his parents?

a) I DON’T KNOW!
b) WHAT AM I, THE NARRATOR’S THERAPIST?
c) He likes them but wonders why his father is always staring at knobs
d) Is that seriously the best option because if so we need to have words, test-maker

Are monocles back?

a) Yes
b) No
c) C
d) D

Is correlation the same thing as causation?

a) Meh, probably
b) No
c) No, and that’s the only thing you need to say to prove someone else’s argument wrong, even if it looks like he might have established an actual link
d) Does one of them increase when the other one increases? If so, yes!

Do you ever actually need to use algebra?

a) No.
b) Nope.
c) “In real life, there is no such thing as algebra.” —Fran Lebowitz

How do you feel about the word “moist”?

a) Terrible
b) Abominable
c) Tender
d) Cromulent
e) Scrofulous

GOOD LUCK OUT THERE IN THE WORLD!

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.