Education: Words

Inexact vocabularians have reckoned the average intelligent adult's vocabulary at about 15,000 words. Recently, however, Northwestern University's Psychology Professor Robert Holmes Seashore* devised a scientific test to determine the total number of English words a person would recognize. It is a multiple-choice examination using sample lists of "basic" and "derived" words from Funk & Wagnails' unabridged dictionary, which lists 450,000 words in all. Dr. Seashore's test includes common words as well as puzzlers like antisialogogue (an agent preventing the flow of saliva). Last week he reported the surprising discovery that the average...

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