Vaughan’s vocabulary

Don Vaughan Provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

In the interpersonal communication class we give gravitas to numerous concepts including the Ladder of Abstraction, a progression of words starting with the most abstract below the bottom rung and progressing to the most concrete on top. LOA can be useful in interpersonal communication to remind us to use concrete words because they communicate clearer.

On a sheet of paper draw a ladder that has five steps and the top base. Below the lowest rung write an abstract word. On the lowest rung write a word that is less abstract than the word at the bottom. Continue until you have the most concrete word or name for what you have written at the bottom. For example: fine arts, music, classical, Romantic, piano, Chopin, Nocturne for Piano No. 2 in E Flat Major. E-mail me your LOA to share with my students.

1. abstract (ab-STACKT)

A. a sonorous word

B. existing in thought or as an idea but not having physical or concrete existence

C. connoting temerity

D. all inclusive

As a verb abstract means to consider something theoretically or separately from something else or to extract or remove something. As a noun abstract means a summary of an essay, book, or speech. As an adjective, abstract means the definition for what I have for B.


2.  rung (RUNG)

A. a level in a hierarchy

B. a crosspiece serving as a step on a ladder

C. a stout stick, rod, or bar, especially one of rounded section forming a piece in something framed or constructed

D. All of the above


3. Which one is more abstract?

A. living being

B. Homo sapiens

C. female

D. male

E. mammal

F. primate


4. Of the following which is the more concrete?

A. gravitas

B. rewriting

C. writing

D. thinking

E. discussing


No. 2 is D. No. 3 is A. I like the noun gravitas (GRAH-vuh-tahs), a high degree of seriousness in the treatment of a subject. Gravitas is the more concrete of the five.

Last week’s mystery word is sweets.

This week’s mystery word to solve is the opposite of gravitas. Its first syllable is the word for the opposite of out. Its second syllable has the sound of a common first name.