September 30, 2017

SAT Vocabulary: Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert)

I haven't finished reading this book, but I decided to post a partial vocabulary list for now.

Check out this Amazon review of Stumbling on Happiness:
If you're already somewhat aware that your perceptions, memories, and predictions are a lot less reliable than they feel, and you're ok with that, and you think it's an interesting thing to learn more about, I whole heartedly recommend this book.

If you've got some of that awareness, and it really creeps you out, but you feel it's more important to hear the truth than be comfortably ensconced in misconceptions, I also recommend this book, because while it'll be all sorts of creepy, I think the author does a decent job of also saying "This is not something unnatural or evil, though it is something good to be aware of."

If you are the type that, when confronted with possibilities like [that the world isn't exactly as you think it is, that you may not be remembering everything exactly the way it happened, or that you may even be remembering things exactly the way they didn't happen], you throw the book out the window, shoot the messenger, get highly defensive, and (most importantly) are now sure that you've never done any of these things... well, this book is not for you, because if you really try to read it, it'll trigger a massive freak-out, followed by exactly the kind of memory-refabrications you don't want to know that you engage in.

If you're the kind of person who knows other people that have such freak-outs, and likes to torment them by provoking such reactions, then you may not be the nicest of people, but I highly recommend this book to you as a source of useful provocation material.

SAT Vocabulary Words in Stumbling on Happiness

Ere: before (in time).
"O, that a man might know the end of this day's business ere it come!" (p. 3, quoting Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)

Quipa witty remark.
"First, despite the comic quips inside the parentheses..." (p. 6)

Noira genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity.
Digestunderstand or assimilate (new information or the significance of something) by a period of reflection.
"Any brain that has been raised on a steady diet of film noir and cheap detective novels fully expects the word night to follow the phrase It was a dark and stormy, and thus when it does encounter the word night, it is especially well prepared to digest it." (p. 7)

Grittyshowing courage and resolve.
Squeegee: (informal) a person who cleans the windshield of a car stopped in traffic and then demands payment from the driver.
"When a thirty-ish Manhattanite is asked where she thinks she might retire, she mentions Miami, Phoenix, or some other hotbed of social rest. She may love her gritty urban existence right now, but she can imagine that in a few decades she will value bingo and prompt medical attention more than art museums and squeegee men." (p. 9)

Svelte(of a person) slender and elegant.
"Your belly and buttocks would probably be the major recipients of newly acquired flab, while your tongue and toes would remain relatively svelte and unaffected." (p. 10)

Snappyneat and elegant.
Patterrapid or smooth-flowing continuous talk, such as that used by a comedian or salesman.
"We daydream about slamming the game-winning homer at the company picnic, posing with the lottery commissioner and the door-sized check, or making snappy patter with the attractive teller at the bank - not because we expect or even want these things to happen, but because merely imagining these possibilities is itself a source of joy." (p. 17)

Bivalvean aquatic mollusk that has a compressed body enclosed within a hinged shell, such as oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops.
"Of course, the futures that our brains insist on simulating are not all wine, kisses, and tasty bivalves." (p. 18)

Prophylacticintended to prevent disease.
Prudentacting with or showing care and thought for the future.
"Forecasts can be 'fearcasts' whose purpose is not to predict the future so much as to preclude it, and studies have shown that this strategy is often an effective way to motivate people to engage in prudent, prophylactic behavior. In short, we sometimes imagine dark futures just to scare our own pants off." (p. 19)

Huckstera mercenary person eager to make a profit out of anything.
Mercenary(of a person or their behavior) primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics.
"Americans gladly pay millions - perhaps even billions - of dollars every year to psychics, investment advisors, spiritual leaders, weather forecasters, and other assorted hucksters who claim they can predict the future." (p. 20)

Pummelstrike repeatedly, typically with the fists.
Protractedlasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual.
Expungeerase or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant).
Grudge matcha contest or other competitive situation based on personal antipathy between the participants.
"To be perfectly honest, I won't just be mentioning the surprisingly wrong answer; I'll be pounding and pummeling it until it gives up and goes home. The surprisingly wrong answer is apparently so sensible and so widely believed that only a protracted thrashing has any hope of expunging it from our conventional wisdom. So before the grudge match begins, let me share with you my plan of attack." (p. 24)

Teetotalera person who never drinks alcohol.
Daiquiris: a cocktail containing rum and lime juice.
"Reba is a somewhat shy teetotaler who has recorded an award-winning album of country music. Lori, who is outgoing, wisecracking, and rather fond of strawberry daiquiris, works in a hospital and wants someday to marry and have children." (p. 29)

Rejoindera reply, especially a sharp or witty one.
"But like the claims they dismiss, these rejoinders are also claims..." (p. 30)

Moxieforce of character, determination, or nerve.
"That statement may be admired for its moxie, but it probably doesn't capture the sentiments of the missionary who was drafted to play the role of the entree." (p. 37)

Apoplecticovercome with anger; extremely indignant.
"Sentences such as these make high school English teachers apoplectic..." (p. 38)

Snidederogatory or mocking in an indirect way.
"To the judge's dismay, the jury cannot disregard the prosecutor's snide remarks." (p. 49)

Tanagera small American songbird of the bunting family, the male of which typically has brightly colored plumage."The song of a scarlet tanager punctuates the yeasty scent of new croissants that wafts from the bakery." (p. 59)

Lesiona region in an organ or tissue that has suffered damage through injury or disease, such as a wound, ulcer, abscess, tumor, etc.
Corticalrelating to the outer layer of the cerebrum.
"Our visual experience and our awareness of that experience are generated by different parts of our brains, and as such, certain kinds of brain damage (specifically, lesions to the primary visual cortical receiving area known as VI) can impair one without impairing the other, causing experience and awareness to lose their normally tight grip on each other." (p. 62)

Eclecticderiving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.
"My own definition of science is a bit more eclectic, but one thing about which I, my dad, and most other scientists can agree is that if a thing cannot be measured, then it cannot be studied scientifically." (p. 64)

Gilbert, Daniel. Stumbling on Happiness. Random House, 2006.


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