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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Gameshow Contestant

Some days I feel like a gameshow contestant. Namely, the old show called The $20,000 Pyramid.

Students ask me questions like, “Can you tell me what a chair rail is?”

“This is a strip of wood that’s nailed across a wall about four feet above the floor. It separates the top half of the wall from the bottom half, so you can paint in different colors or wallpaper the top half.”

Another student asks, “What’s a sill?”

“This is a narrow shelf below a window.”

I find myself trying to use simple words that themselves need no definition when defining for the word under question. Yesterday some students came across the word “hessian” as it applies to some form of home decoration. They looked at me for help.

“I have no idea what that is,” I admitted. “Look it up in your dictionary.”

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