Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VocabSlam’s Seven Banned Words of 2012

The “Top Words the Year” lists arrive at the end of the year like Christmas presents for linguaphiles. Oxford Dictionary released its list BEFORE Thanksgiving, but they invented English in England so we’ll let them slide. However, their top word of 2012 is “Gif”. Is this the year 1995, and you're dialing up CompuServe to surf the web with NetScape on your 486 CPU?  The rest of the list reads like it was assembled by 50-somethings who giggle while overhearing their teen kids’ conversations, or at best, Redditors (note: we are Redditors):
1. Eurogeddon 
2. Super PAC 
3. Superstorm 
4. Nomophobia 
5. Higgs boson

Lots of other silly neologisms have been blowing up our Vocab Radar 3000 this year. Since VocabSlam is all about NOT wasting your time on unnecessary words (precisely why we’ve narrowed down the list of most frequently occurring words to the top 300+ SAT words and 400+ GRE words), VocabSlam hereby BANS the following words from your lexicon:

You are banned from using this unless you work in a museum, specifically, as a curator. We’ve heard it used in the indie rock scene and by the startup and corporate communities who are desperate to latch on to a modicum of coolness. It’s a hackneyed
substitute for “assemble,” “pick” or “throw together at the last minute, but if we make it sound pretentious, maybe they won’t know.” For example, “Bradworth and I are going to curate some super awesome-sauce indie bands for our next party in our Williamsburg loft.” Boom, Slammed.

You are banned from using this word unless you work in the cosmos, specifically, as an astronaut. It’s been thrown around lately with great panache as another wanna-be fancy word for “area” or “field,” for example, “Tell me how it is working in the education space” or “She’s a real heavy hitter in the TV-VCR repair space.” If something is in a space, it assumes that something surrounds it. So, education is in a space between what and what? Tell me what those things are, and you can use the word space in a non-Aldrinian way. Boom, Slammed.

We had a long, versatile, and exuberant  run, awesome, but we’re going to have to put you out to pasture before you completely Jump the Shark. Boom, wistfully Slammed :(

You’re not Beowolf, ok? Boom, Slammed.

While we’ve traditionally associated this word with skiing, its alternative bossy use has been used almost exclusively in the hip hop world, a la “Hip Hop mogul P-Puff Daddy Sean John Combs” or “hip hop mogul Russell ‘Gramps’ Simmons.” Is there a way to merge the two usages? Can a hip hop mogul be a mogul mogul? Until then, boom, Slammed.

They really have invaded...our mainstream consciousness that is! Look, the pilot episode of Walking Dead was really, really good. It was cinematic and suspenseful. Everything thereafter? Let’s just say that the acting has been more frightening than the zombies. There’s no character development (yes we realize this is a zombie show) and it’s turned into a game of "who will die next" like a gory drawn-out game of Clue. We’re rooting for Carl to go next, amiright? Boom, Slammed.

The suffixes -geddon or -pocalypse
On a related End Timesey note, we are le tired of this constant wolf-cry.  You can’t call every 3-inch precipitation event “Stormageddon” and there really, really won’t be a zombie apocalypse, ever. People have always had a morbid desire to herald the end of the world. It probably won’t happen in our lifetimes. If it does, it’ll probably be via an asteroid from.... space. Until then, shut up and enjoy life. Boom, Slammed.

Consider yourself Slammed, banned words of 2012. Hope not to see you in 2013!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SAT dates keep on passin me by

Here’s a list of upcoming SAT test and register-by dates.

Test date     Register by
 Dec 1            Nov 16 (late)
 Jan 26           Dec 28
 Mar 9             Feb 8
 May 4            Apr 5
 Jun 1             May 2

Don’t let ‘em keep passin’ you by like what happened in this Pharcyde video.
Just realized that he REALLY liked going to school.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The VocabSlam Manifesto: A Platform for Creativity

Let’s face it: studying sucks, and we’ve all at some point agreed with noted educational philosophers, the Ex Pistols that Schools are Prisons. But do schools kill creativity? Sir Kenneth Robinson says yes. In his prodigiously viewed TED talk, Sir Ken says that we get “educated out of creativity” and that “people afraid to be wrong.” (Our favorite quote is that professors look at their bodies as a form of transportation for their heads.)  What do you think?

What are some creative ways by which you’ve learned or taught?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Have you bonded with your words lately?

We're thrilled to introduce the newest member of the VocabSlam team, Dr. Rachel Ebner, an expert on student learning. She has an M.A. from Columbia Teachers College, an Ed.M. from Harvard, and a doctorate from the City University of New York.

Dr. Ebner brings her research cred to VocabSlam and will explain the research behind what we're doing.

Her first blog is about word consciousness. Enjoy, and be on the lookout for more from Dr. Ebner!

How do you know when you really know a word?  

By Rachel Ebner, Ph.D.

How do you know when you know a word?  I mean really know it. The answer is that to really know a word, you need to be "word conscious." Becoming word conscious involves a lot more than looking up a word in a dictionary.  It involves knowing how to say a word, what it means, and how to use it, in different contexts.

According to the incremental theory of word learning, word knowledge progresses from having never heard or seen a particular word to developing a comprehensive understanding of its multiple meanings, uses, and even pronunciations.  This sort of word consciousness requires repeated, interactive, and multi-sensory experiences with words. Those kinds of real-world experiences literally bring words to life. They enable you to move far beyond perceiving an unfamiliar word as just a string of letters and sounds. They get you to really know a word, not just its dictionary definition.  They get you to wrap your mind around a word, emotionally bond with it—in other words, own it.  

A study that I recently conducted with 70 college students supports this point.  I asked study participants to learn the meanings of certain words in relation to the way they were used in an online Wikipedia article.  Results showed that students were able to significantly increase their multidimensional word knowledge by using online tools and resources (e.g., hyperlinks, search engines, online dictionaries, pictorial and auditory sources of information) to interact with the words.

VocabSlam is an online tool that provides an ideal way to increase your word consciousness. This is because seeing and hearing real people use a particular word in sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and always entertaining ways,dramatizes the word so that you can cognitively and emotionally connect with it in meaningful contexts.  That in turn allows you to remember the word, what it means, how it sounds, and the ways that it can be used.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The VocabSlam Manifesto: Core Principles

We started an education company because studying sucks. As our slogan indicates, we’re pretty sure that studying does not, in fact, have to suck.

VocabSlam was founded on two core principles: 1) that we learn best when we learn from each other and 2) that we learn best when affect is tied to cognition; that is, when our emotions, feelings, and creativity are tied to a task at hand.

So we’ve created a platform for people to interact, pulling together familiar elements of and We provide you with the SAT and GRE’s most frequently used words, their certified definition, and let YOU have fun with the words.

But it’s hard to be spontaneously creative. Think of assignments in creative writing class or in art class. It’s really hard when the teacher instructs you to “write anything”  or “paint whatever” but it becomes much clearer when he or she provides you with a prompt, or literally, a frame.  That’s why we give you the word and its definition as a stimulus, and you try to “Slam” other users’ sentences to get the praise of your friends, family, pets, and paramours.

For the education nerds out there, lots of research supports the idea that we learn best from each other, particularly our peers. But if you don’t want to read graduate level scholarly articles, check out "Disrupting Class" a great book that says that the best way to learn is from each other.

So have fun! Make up crazy sentences. Post a video to our YouTube page! The more you do with words, the better.

Urbandictionary: Our Heroes

Yes, the company that helped you learn the meaning of a Donkey Punch and a Dirty Sanchez, is our paradigm. Our template. Our exemplar. Our archetype. (This could go on for a while, we’re an SAT vocab company, remember?) Anyway, we’ve had a long, often salacious love affair with Urbandictionary not only because it’s made us seem smart at dinner parties (well, those basement parties at college with those red plastic cups with abspetos falling into them), but because it believes in people. Power to the people much? Sure.  Urbandictionary, we’ve found, is elegant in its democratic parsimony: it provides a framework for interaction where you make up a word and definition, and the world votes it up or down, and viola, may the best Definition Whore win!

So, we were psyched to see this profile of Mr. Aaron Peckham, Urbandictionary’s founder. A million visitors a day? Keep up the good work, brother Aaron.

The VocabSlam Manifesto: Learning by Doing

We’re pretty sure that old John Dewey was on to something when he professed (and practiced) “Learning by Doing”. We were impressed by Gary Stager who spoke passionately at TEDxNY about the value of giving young people discrete projects on which to work. (It gets pretty breathtaking towards the end). All concepts at the core of VocabSlam.

Back at Dewey’s stomping ground, Teachers College faculty developed instruction where you can teach an entire curriculum around food.

Speaking of stomping around, researchers at Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that students can understand and infer more by physically acting out text—either in real life or virtually—than by reading alone. They like to move it, move it, move it move it, move it move it, MOVE IT!

Have you seen other good examples of Learning by Doing?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to Post a VocabSlam Video Reply

In addition to written sentence examples, VocabSlam welcomes video submissions!  Here's how to do it.

For ANY video on, click the YouTube button, which brings you to the video on YouTube. Once you are there, click "Sign In" below the video (if you are already not signed in). When you are signed in, click the comment box below the video that says "Respond to this video..." Next, click "Create a video response". Then,
  • Choose a video you may already have in the video list box, or to create a new video, click Upload a Video, then Start, then Record from webcam.
  • You may see a box that says "Adobe Flash Player Settings" If so, click the "Allow" button.
  • Start recording, click "Upload" when finished.
  • Fill out label information:
          Title:            VocabSlam (insert the word)
          Description:  Vocabslam (insert the word)
          Tags:            Vocabslam, (insert the word), SAT, GRE
          Category:      Education
  • Click "View on Video Page" to preview. If you're satisfied, return to VocabSlam and click "Upload Video Reply!" for that same word.
  • You will see the title of your video in the video list box. Click the title and then "Use the selected video" button.
Remember to use the word correctly and to only use one vocabulary word per video. Your video will be reviewed by VocabSlam moderators, who will contact you via email within 24 hours. Good luck VocabSlammers!

Note: For more help visit YouTube Help or email us at

If you would like to be featured on our official YouTube channel, send your raw video file to If the file size is too large, contact Dan for further options.