September 4, 2012

Test your vocabulary

I asked awhile ago if vocabularies continue increasing with age. A reader sends a link to a website, testyourvocab.com, that offers a 120 word vocabulary quiz, ranging from extremely easy to extremely hard. It's not a multiple choice quiz, you just have to be honest with yourself about whether you know at least one definition for each word. Then it offers an estimate of the size of your vocabulary out of what the authors consider to be the 45,000 words that comprise the full, non-technical English vocabulary. I got an estimate of 40,100, which sounds reasonable: I know a lot of words, but I lack the precision of mind to rack (wrack?) up the really big numbers.

From looking at the ages of the self-selected sample of vocabulary test lovers who took the test (average verbal SAT score 700), they found that people from 15 to 29 add about a word a day to their vocabularies, with slower increases perhaps into your 60s. The age slopes are about the same for each SAT score. They need to adjust for the 1995 recentering of verbal SAT scores, but, still, they've got pretty good evidence that vocabulary size improving with age is a real effect, not caused by self-selection in their sample.

They also print English vocabulary sizes for non-native speakers of English by country. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, are Danes, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Belgium. (My one trip to Belgium in 1994, I noticed that a fair number of people spoke English beautifully, with nice near-English accents -- I mean, aesthetically speaking, they spoke better English than I did). Germany is well down the list. I presume it's a big country and people don't feel as much need to learn a foreign language as in small countries where they need English to speak to people from other countries. At the bottom of list is Iran. All this is self-selected, but sounds plausible.

91 comments:

Anonymous said...

Italy higher than Switzerland in English vocabulary?

It seems half the people in Switzerland speak good English.

I didn't notice that in Italy.

Every time I bought a train ticket the person spoke English well. They didn't in Italy.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps SAT-V, controlling for vocab size, is an even better proxy for IQ? Since vocab is mainly crystallized intelligence, and vocab contributes positively, both directly and indirectly, to a good SAT-V performance, a high score despite relatively limited vocabulary is a sign of high fluid intelligence.

At least that's the story I'm sticking to =) ... 710 verbal / 800 math / 23K estimated vocabulary in late 20s.

Anonymous said...

720 verbal before SAT renorming; 39,200 vocab score. I'm in my mid-40s.

Mitch said...

They didn't adjust the SAT scores--which they really could have done, since they collected age. So the average of 700 is incorrect. It's higher than that.

I've taken it two or three times; the difficult words that show up on the first group seem to have a big impact. One time, I didn't know two of the words and got 40,500. Another time, I did know all the words on that first page, and my score was 41,300. Has anyone tried the theoretical max, by selecting all the words?

Luke Lea said...

I got 39,900 which is not bad considering I only got a 615 on my verbal SAT. I didn't read back then.

Anonymous said...

GRE* verbal of 730. Vocab score of 41,400.

*Frankly, I don't remember my SAT score; what is the SAT verbal equivalent of a 730 GRE verbal?

Syon

Mac said...

"It seems half the people in Switzerland speak good English. "

In his book Who Are We? while warning of the perils of a bilingual society, Samuel Huntington noted that Switzerland's 4 language populations were so averse to learning or at least having to use the other's language that if two Swiss of different ethnicities were conversing, they would often just communicate in English rather than one switching to German or the other switching to French, etc.
Anybody here who can verify Huntington's statement?

Ex Submarine Officer said...

37,900 words.

Which correlates w/my 750 verbal SAT (pre norming).

I think it is interesting the question about how much fiction do you read.

I don't read much anymore, haven't for years, but I think that is where one acquires/exercises a lot of uptown words. I think were I reading more fiction in recent years, or even decades, my score would be higher.

But in recent years/decades, I've been working on some foreign languages, and speaking them around the house, and I"m not sure that can start depressing your English vocab - there were definitely more than a couple of the words on the list that I thought, geez, I used to know that, like tenebrous, but I kept it honest.

Mitch said...

It is statistically unlikely, is it not, that so many people on this site would have vocabularies in excess of 35,000, much less 40,000?

Obviously, I'm suggesting as at least possible that all the commenters are not, er, being truthful. And of course, also obviously, anyone could suggest the same about me (except my GRE score is a matter of public record and Steve Sailer knows my name, unless he's forgotten).

Another of course: Sailer commenters might be stratospherically more vocabularied than a population with an average verbal SAT score of 700.

Or perhaps the average 700 SAT verbal scorer is nearly illiterate in comparison of the commenters here?

Final of course to consider--while I'm a math teacher, I'm much stronger at verbal, so maybe this isn't as statistically unlikely as it seems.

Anonymous said...

off topic -- look at this: http://statsquatch.blogspot.com/2012/09/mald-function.html

holy crap! that's a 6.5 on the HBD seismic scale.

it might be possible to impute the overall linear regression from the data they present and get an estimate of the between group heritability of SES.

AKarlin said...

33,700. 24 y/o. 720 on the SAT-V.

Peter A said...

Maybe the Turkish immigrants are bringing the numbers down in Germany? East Germans are probably depressing the numbers as well - the older generation does not know English. My impression is that anyone in Germany who should speak English (businessmen, scientists, anyone in the tourist industry) speaks English pretty well. German has been infected by so many English words I sometimes wonder if German will even survive into the 22nd century.

Anonymous said...

800v SAT and 800v GRE, got a 38k

Anonymous said...

40,800 words, Verbal SAT 750 but Verbal GRE 800 (took those tests in 1978/1982)

Matt said...

I think that a test like this lends itself to inflation in the grey areas. The temptation to click on words that one recognizes, and has some sense of, but cannot define exactly, is immense. The sort of people who comment on IQ-centric blogs probably do a bit more of this than the average person would. I decided to err on the side of extreme scrupulousness and got a 33,2.

Prof. Woland said...

The Dutch are a lot more open to foreigners and foreign languages than the Germans. I once dated a chick who's family lived about a half mile from the Dutch border. The Dutch would have signs in English everywhere as well as German. There were even some signs in Dutch. The Germans had none of that. As soon as you crossed the border, you could have been anywhere in Germany. The wierd thing about Europeans is that they do not move around much. They either emmigrate or stay in whatever little stadt they were born in. In general, Europeans are very good at detecting minor variations in accents and they can often quickly pin down where the auslander is from.

Anonymous said...

people need to post their ages with their scores

Volksverhetzer said...

"Every time I bought a train ticket the person spoke English well. They didn't in Italy."

Only the highly educated in Italy read enough English to bother with the test, while the Swiss sales person might give it a go?

I do agree that some of the reason Scandinavia and the low Countries score so well, has to do with anglo saxons, Vikings, Danes etc, but I suspect low German from the 1300-1700 century is the underreported influence in English.

Except Icelandic, the Scandinavian languages was very influenced by low German during this period, and at the same time English also changed a lot.

An additional explanation as to why Germany and France score so low, is that the north most of these nations, have been forced to learn High German and French, rather than keeping their old dialect, that was more similar to English.

There used to be a dialect continuum in the Germanic nations, in that everybody could speak and understand those who lived near to them.

This is still the case in Scandinavia, but has broken down on the Danish-German border, and are breaking down on the Dutch-German border. The Dutch and the Flemings can understand each other again. As for the German speakers in France, they have mostly lost their language a long time ago.

By the way, I scored 23.300.

Aaron B. said...

35,800, 43 years old, no SAT, 32 ACT back when it went to 35.

I'd like to see a test like this with multiple choice answers. There were quite a few words that I recognized and thought I'd probably know if I read them in context or could pick the meaning from a group, but just seeing it cold in a list, I couldn't define it for sure. So just how strictly you applied "know one definition" could make a pretty big swing in your score.

For what it's worth, I don't think my vocabulary is expanding much these days. I doubt I run across many new words that I never encountered in my younger days when I had a lot more time to read. At best, I might see a word in a different context that gives me a better understanding of it or makes it sink into memory better. I doubt it's anywhere near one a day, though; maybe one a month.

Volksverhetzer said...

"The Germans had none of that. As soon as you crossed the border, you could have been anywhere in Germany."

That is anything but accidental, as the High Germans have worked hard to get the Low Germans in Germany to loose their local identity and have them think of themselves as Germans. It is the same with the Germans in France.

"The wierd thing about Europeans is that they do not move around much. They either emmigrate or stay in whatever little stadt they were born in."

It is completely natural to want to stay near your parents and family once you get children.IIRC, the average grandparent in Norway babysits grandchildren 10 hours per week.

To take the opportunity away for grandparents and grandchildren to spend time together is borderline evil unless something else is gained, but to create a society where you are expected to move long away from your parents, is outright evil.

Aaron B. said...

I took it again, marking every word that I was sure I'd seen before and thought I would know if I read it in a sentence, and my score jumped up to 39,100. Pretty big swing, as I figured.

Mr X said...

28,700. But I'm not a native. No SAT, but GRE Verbal was in the 94% percentile. A lot of words I knew vaguely the meaning but couldn't be sure. Others I had no freaking idea. Interesting...

Hacienda said...

36K. Disappointing relative to verbal SAT. But I'm out of country for large stretches. Both physically and psychologically.

So what happens at about 45 when the vocabulary size levels off until the final exit?

Does the mind lose memory or the ability to learn new words? Is it like a leaking cup continually being filled or is the cup simply full?

I'd like to think that people just lose interest in verbal thinking and move on to better things.

ogunsiron said...

28900 words here.
I'm a non-native english speaker and I took my SATs a long time ago.
I could sense that I was relatively weak when it came to the purely anglo-saxon words.
I should read some Tolkien!

ogunsiron said...

About Switzerland :
"...that if two Swiss of different ethnicities were conversing, they would often just communicate in English rather than one switching to German or the other switching to French, etc ..."

From my experiences, the German Swiss are much, much more likely to know french than vice-versa, even though the french are the junior partner in Switzerland. French speaking Swiss feel nothing but conptempt for the swiss deutsch dialect and they don't much like regular german either.

Ray Sawhill said...

FWIW, during a recent trip to Berlin (my first) I was surprised by how few people there spoke good English. I was expecting a city where English was everyone's second language. The reality was very different. (Loved Berlin, btw -- very cool city.)

Anonymous said...

Some perfectly cromulent words!

Age 33, score of 31200, post-normed SAT score 700+ (which puts me about 3000 words above the 700 SAT verbal average for my age). I kept it honest, too. There were quite a few words that I would probably get from context and were familiar but I could not put my finger on. I read a lot of fiction in my youth, now read almost exclusively non-fiction (blogs, books, forums).

I don't make any effort to improve my vocabulary other than read an occasional word I don't know the meaning of. But I tend not to encounter new words in what I read on a daily basis, so my vocabulary works for me. If I study a new discipline, I learn the vocab that goes along with that.

It seems like vocab would be a very easy area to bump up your IQ or SAT score in, without having much real world effect past a certain point. If other writers in fields you are interested in aren't using $20 words, there aren't concepts going over your head. And unless you are playing scrabble, using words that most people don't understand won't help you in life.

IMHO, raising your vocab is raising your vocab, not raising your IQ. Someone with a high IQ will tend to be a bookworm and so will absorb a good vocab from that. If they become comparative literature majors or have a hobby that involves reading literature with $20 words, they will have a large vocabulary. However someone equally intelligent might exercise their intelligence learning a new programming or foreign language, which may not increase their score in a vocabulary test like this, for example.

It seems like in this age of google, those with high fluid intelligence are especially enabled. Google acts as a superior store of easily accessible knowledge, and the high fluid IQ person can just learn what they wish, when they wish (dumping their cache after the job is done).

Anonymous said...

I agree that reading makes a big difference. (I'm the anon from 8:56.) My SAT verbal score was good but not stratospheric, but I know I've added a lot of vocab in the almost three decades since I took the test. I'm a life-long, voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction, with eclectic interests in both. And I do often check meanings of words I don't know. I'm 46 now, and I think I'm still adding words pretty steadily.

TH said...

28,000. I'm not a native English-speaker.

Dutch reader said...

23,600, 50 y/o, Dutch, academic background. According to the website, anything above 10,000 should be considered very good for a non-native speaker. It does seem that the readership of the blog scores well above the general population. Even the scores on that website are probably inflated due to self-selection.

Here is another table which more or less confirms my own impressions:

http://www.ef.nl/epi/ef-epi-ranking/

Anonymous said...

30,300. I'm 23.

What interests me more, for obvious reasons, is what you can reasonably expect from people of differing ages. If increases in vocabulary with age are real, then I'd really like to see how people of the same age compare to each other, and whether or not it relates to IQ.

Anonymous said...

"At the top of the list, not surprisingly, are Danes, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Belgium."

In Scandinavia, American and English tv programs/movies are subtitled (on television and in the movie theaters), while in Germany tv shows are dubbed into German (not sure about the movies). This probably helps.

Anonymous said...

LOL some people are obv not following instructions to only check words they can define. No guessing or "I think I know it." I know this because i had a 800 on both the SAT and GRE without study (I did study, just for the math parts). I also have post graduate education and have spent 10 hours a day reading most of my life, including a lot of ornate writers who use the sorts of words on this test. I also write for part of my living towards an educated audience.

I was scrupulous with the directions and got 35000.

Anonymous said...

39,700
700 verbal SAT
42 years old

sabril said...

They should have asked peoples' races. I bet if they did, they would make the surprising discovery that blacks actually have better vocabularies than whites. Just like blacks are more likely to engage in acts of heroism than whites.

Simon said...

27,000.

I scored well on the SAT verbal - but can't hold a candle to Mr Sailer.

Silver said...

35 years of age. 31,500 with checking the definitions of words I thought I knew but after reading the definition decided I didn't and thus not counting them. (Eg I had a feeling "mawkish" meant something like "timid" but it turns out it doesn't.) I went back and added the words I knew I'd definitely seen and had even once known but forgotten and my score only went up to 35,000, which felt a bit disappointing.

Tom Wolfe had a bit of fun with people's trouble producing definitions for words they think they know in "I Am Charlotte Simmons." Reading that really spurred to me start looking up definitions and occasionally attempting to provide definitions for words on my own. I wonder what the scores would look like if we all had to provide something close to a dictionary definition for the words we claim to know.

Every time I bought a train ticket the person spoke English well. They didn't in Italy.

At the Frankfurt airport baggage storage counter (where you can store your baggage if you have long hours to wait for your flight and don't want to lug it around with you) the black attendant was speaking what seemed like fluent enough French to the lady in front of me, and then spoke fluent enough English to me. I thought to myself wow, that's pretty cool, three languages and all important ones. (That was in 2004. Nowadays I'd add: and he's black too, bonus cool points.)

In Zurich one of the staff explained a delay and change in route to us in English, French and German. I overheard an elderly Spanish woman asking in Spanish whether the staff member could repeat that in Spanish and I thought to myself "yeah right, as if" but to my amazement the staff member could. Pretty cool.

Vilko said...

56 year old, French native, some college (in France). First time I tested: 40,900 words. I couldn't believe it.

I tested myself a second time, more strictly: for instance, I only have a vague idea of what the word "fuliginous" means. There's a French word, fuligineux, but I never use it either, and I always forget what it means. The new result was: 39,500 words.

Being a native French speaker and having studied Latin helps a lot with understanding rare English words such as uxoricide, actually.

Besides, I'm a language geek: artificial languages are one of my hobbies. My interest in languages and my more specific interest in the American culture may explain my inflated English vocabulary (for a non-native).

DanJ said...

28,600 on the vocab test, I´m a Finn in my early forties. English is my third language. Not college educated but have read a lot.

dearieme said...

Parts of Belgium can receive BBC TV and radio broadcasts. That probably helps.

Silver said...

They also print English vocabulary sizes for non-native speakers of English by country. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, are Danes, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Belgium.

Fess up, you weren't expecting to see Croatia in sixth spot.

I don't have an SAT or ACT or GRE score, but I scored 48 on Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" test, and that's without watching TV or movies. (I like sport though. I knew who Jimmie Johnson was. Matter of fact, I knew who Jimmy Johnson was too, which isn't bad for an Australian.)

Jeff Burton said...

Thank God you've presented us with another opportunity to post our SAT scores. It's been at least two weeks.

Anonymous said...

It's either a very stupid vocabulary test or a very clever test of self-deception.

Anonymous said...

When i read someone like Conrad banging on about 'tenebrous boughs' and 'pellucid shallows'; I think: 'well that's just Conrad being Conrad. I get general idea, now what happens next?'

Gilbert Pinfold.

Anonymous said...

Honest American prole here: 22,600 words, 25 years old. I never took the SAT.

Sometimes I feel like I'm among the dumbest readers here at iSteve, but hey, at least I'm trying.

"If there is hope, it lies in the proles."

Volksverhetzer said...

The really impressive ones to me is the Finns, as they don't even speak an Indo-European language, and still score so high.

That the Finns score so high, is thus proof that English proficiency is to a large part a political choice, even though it is not unexpected that you find the ones speaking the closest related languages to English on top.

That they are small nations, and thus forced to learn German,English or French in order to have access to specialized information or to be able to trade, have probably also helped a lot.

It also seems to me that the top nations in English, are also those that feel the least threatened from the English dominance.

You for instance don't hear Norwegian academics talk about Norwegian going extinct in the future, like the Germans are talking about how German are now going extinct because of all the English loanwords.

Enough of the Germans and the French are scared if their population should start to speak English too well, as they think it would make everybody start speaking English rather than German or French, or in a milder version, that only most of the vocabulary would change.

From experience, the opposite seems to be true, as when only the cultural elite speak a language like English, humans will start to use English loanwords as a way to signify high status.

When even the dishwasher knows English, using an English word where a native one exists, becomes rather childish and low class.

What seems to kill a language in the end, and not only change it a bit, is when the government no longer use the local language to do daily business, but use the foreign language of the elite. As long as this fate is avoided, the native language isn't really threatened at all.

Mitch said...

Yes, this recent batch of scores seems much more realistic!

On the GRE: Has anyone who took the computer-based GRE gotten an 800?

The reason I ask: only 2% of the population gets higher than 700 on the verbal section, which has been true for years.

However, the computer-based version escalates in difficulty. By 4 or 5 questions on the math section, your score is above 600. That's 60% of the population elimated. The remaining questions are left to sort out 600 to 800. (This is a simplification of the process, but close enough). 4% of the GRE population gets an 800 on the quant.

In verbal, the same 4 or 5 questions eliminates 90 or more percent of the population. The next two questions get rid of 98% of the population, meaning that those in the top 2% are getting the bulk of the test sorting out differences that are picayune.

Since the GRE has never been terribly important except in broad form (can the applicant read, write, and add), it's quite possible that no one has ever gotten an 800 since the computer version. It's certainly very rare.

I got a 790 the first time I took it, and I remember one word I wasn't sure of. The second time I took it, I aced the vocabulary but was completely distracted because I was worried about my math score (needlessly, I was obsessing about the experimental section) and noticed one or two insanely, ridiculously difficult reading questions. The distinction between the answers was pointless. Unlike the first time I took it, I wasn't worried about verbal, so instead of figuring out the differences, I clicked, irritatedly, on the most likely answer. Second time, I got a 780.

Had I taken a paper version, I'd have gotten an 800. It is simply not possible for the paper-based test to put so many high difficulty words and questions in a test that is crafted for everyone. In fact, on a paper version I almost certainly would have gotten every single question right. I've taken any number of old GREs--real ones--and had exactly that happen.

So I'm curious to know exactly how many people ever got an 800 on the CAT version of the GRE. Regardless, the ETS, until a year ago, offered a really weak test that cost a lot of money. Someone should have called them on it.

Prof. Woland said...

The cousin of my German ex-girlfriend once told me a story about how he once watched a Swiss television program. The lower German accent of the Swiss was so unrecognizable they had to dub the program so the German audience could understand it. He was still laughing out loud years afterwards.

FredR said...

Its annoying that all of you old dudes got high scores. Shouldn't your brains have shrunk by now or something?

Anonymous said...

I remember a Danish* panhandler on the streets of Copenhagen who spoke pitch-perfect English. He refused the small quantity of change I offered him ("Don't embarrass me"), then told me that Denmark was a very safe country and wished me a pleasant stay. Some people would tout this as another example of wonderful Scandinavian "progress", but I thought there was something seriously off about a country where the panhandlers are better educated than most countries' politicians.

From what I heard when I was there, Scandinavian countries mostly emphasized German as a foreign language before World War II. Afterward, they switched to pushing English. I guess you can't fault those Nordics for sensing which way the winds were blowing.

*He was obviously Danish by upbringing and had Danish as his first language, but judging from his looks, I suspect he may have been of Middle Eastern descent.

Anonyia said...

38,000 words at 22. Not bad. I took the ACT instead of the SAT but the conversion charts put my equivalent verbal score at 750. Scored 94th percentile GRE verbal recently; studying for that is probably part of the reason I knew a few of these words :)

Anonymous said...

30,500 for words I could easily define on paper; 35,000 if including fairly familiar words I'd grok in context. Reading Gene Wolfe with a dictionary (is there any other way?) accounts for a fair chunk.

760/760 on the pre-essay SAT, late 20s, nonnative speaker.

FWG said...

Wow, this place is making me feel stupid.

28 years old, male, 760 SAT Verbal

25,100 words.

Anonymous said...

So what happens at about 45 when the vocabulary size levels off until the final exit?

Does the mind lose memory or the ability to learn new words? Is it like a leaking cup continually being filled or is the cup simply full? I'd like to think that people just lose interest in verbal thinking and move on to better things.

At the age of 45, most people are more interested in career, money, power, family, society, and even hobbies, than in learning new words or other instances of pure intellectual curiosity. For "normal" people, intellectual curiosity peaks at age 6, declines in puberty, makes a comeback and peaks again at 21. Then it dies off usually for good; though some people rediscover it in retirement.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

I was very honest and I got consistent scores, well below what my SATs would have predicted. I blame it on the booze, TV, and all those shitty Scifi/fantasy authors. I'm mildly tempted to google vocabulary improvement web-sites.

Speaking of consistent scores, it is interesting to see what words recur (certainly noticed many of the ones that I don't know)

Also, I wonder if they throw in made up words to try to catch people cheating.

Ali said...

35,300 and I'm 32.

Bobcat said...

35,500 words, 660 SAT verbal (took the SAT in 1993; I think that was before it was normed), 36 years old.

jody said...

rack would be the correct verb here. in the context of this particular sentence, rack indicates stacking up or accumulating. wrack would imply damaging or hurting.

"I racked up big gains on that AAPL buy."

"I got wracked up when I crashed my bike."

Anonymous said...

25yrs. 800 GRE. 44300 words
(I sent this to Steve)

Anonymous said...

I did this twice. The first time checking any words I was pretty sure I knew; the second checking only words that I absolutely knew. I looked up the meanings of all questionable words afterwards in Wiktionary. There were 16 words I was unsure of. Of these I was pretty confident I knew 4 and I was right about 3 of these. My scores were 44,500 and 39,900. A friend who is a lot smarter than I am got a score of 31,900. He's more of a math guy so that may explain things. I've also noticed that tests like these do not seem to be very good at ranking people in the extreme tails.

I'm 65 now. I can't remember my SATs at all But I got an 857 in the verbal GRE (I remember the precise score because my friends and I all thought it was a misprint. It was certainly somewhat of a "black swan".) and a high 700s in the math GRE. My scores on the GRE math achievement and the GRE sociology achievement put me at the 95th percentile in each. At least at test taking I'm no intellectual slouch.

pat said...

English is not a normal language. It is in a sense a double language. In 1066 the French speakers defeated the natives who spoke a germanic language. Most Western European languages have about 30,000 words. This size vocabulary seems to be the about the maximum size that a 100 average IQ population can handle.

So proper English useage seems to be in decline. English seems to be shrinking as it has for the last thousand years.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

80,000 words. Nah, just kidding.

33,200; 44 years old; 600 verbal sat (in 1984 or 1985, can't remember which).

By the way, all these people that report two scores - one for words you absolutely could define and one counting words you think you could define if given multiple choice or in context - irritate me: the instructions were quite clear to count words you absolutely could define.

Anonymous said...

29 680-700 verbal, 26300 words.

I remember seeing that wordum was only moderately well correlated with IQ. And my assumption would be that reading is the primary determinant there, with smarter individuals on average reading more than dumber individuals.

charming gallicism said...

34,900
55 y/o
680

Anonymous said...

780 Verbal GRE (when I was 30 or so, it was the top 2 %) ... today 34,900 words at 53. Regression is not fun.

Anonymous said...

Mitch said,

"Obviously, I'm suggesting as at least possible that all the commenters are not, er, being truthful. And of course, also obviously, anyone could suggest the same about me (except my GRE score is a matter of public record and Steve Sailer knows my name, unless he's forgotten).

Another of course: Sailer commenters might be stratospherically more vocabularied than a population with an average verbal SAT score of 700."

I would go with the latter theory.

My LSAT and GRE scores are almost off the charts placing me in fairly rarefied company.

There are a lot of smart people who read Steve and post here.

I have been visiting for about 3 years off and on and have been overall impressed with many (not all) of the commenters including those who often post anonymously.

I think smart people, in particular, are probably curious by nature.

I have found low intelligent people are usually not curious. because investigating and thinking about things requires too much effort (and their results from these activities are not proportionate to their efforts).

It is natural for highly intelligent people to be curious about HBD and other taboo topics that Steve usually handles with humor, aplomb, and insight.

Kylie said...

57 y/o
790 verbal SAT
38,2000 score on test

Pitiful.

Aaron B. said...

A mildly off-topic question that I'm sure several commenters here can answer: is there a free/cheap but reasonably accurate IQ test that you can give at home, especially to kids?

Anonymous said...

The problem for most people is not vocabulary but diction--recall of right words at the right moment.
We know a lot of words, but the right words don't pop into our heads when we need them. THAT is the problem.

Mac said...

32 y/o. High school grad. Never took the SAT.
29,500

TGGP said...

I'm surprised that Japan, which is notorious for its aversion to learning other languages (kind of like Americans!), scored higher than former British colony Hong Kong.

former russian-english dictionary researcher said...

Test is flawed. A word that is not encountered several times in the lifetime of a fluent and relatively non-boring native speaker is not a part of the language. Such a word is, at best, a specimen of far-flung imperial dialect, or a foreign borrowing that some interest group foisted into print a few times, thereby fooling the drudges who write dictionaries. In my opinion, 30 to 35 thousand words is the limit on a genuine non-eccentric human language at any given point in time.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:'I'm 65 now. I can't remember my SATs at all But I got an 857 in the verbal GRE (I remember the precise score because my friends and I all thought it was a misprint. It was certainly somewhat of a "black swan".)"

When did the GRE verbal allow for scoring over 800?

Syon

Anonymous said...

Hey Mitch, I am impelled to write as a regular readers of Sailer's from Australia who scored 36, 200 without cheating.

I don't doubt that many who read and respond have high scores- independent thinkers do tend to be on the RH tail of the bell curve.

To discuss HBD does unfortunately require independent thought. Marina

Anonymous said...

Hey Mitch, I am impelled to write as a regular readers of Sailer's from Australia who scored 36, 200 without cheating.

I don't doubt that many who read and respond have high scores- independent thinkers do tend to be on the RH tail of the bell curve.

To discuss HBD does unfortunately require independent thought. Marina

Anonymous said...

Although one should be strongly suspicious of self-serving explanations, I do think that iSteve readers really are a very smart bunch.

Delving into the ideas here is really a lot like espousing atheism during the Great Age of Faith, in terms of the negative social consequences.

This site weeds out all the people who don't really want to reason, and would rather engage in tribal status-raising. It asks you to examine evidence and reason from it.

If you look at the comment sections of any "high-IQ" media website, i.e. The Economist, Slate, The Atlantic, etc., it's no comparison. The iSteve comments are way sharper. Marginal Revolution is in the same league. These are the only two comments sections that I bother to read.

I have a bunch of friends who did well at the #1 college, #1 med school, #1 law school (per US News), Wall Street, etc. I would put iSteve commenters at their level.

I had an 800 v-SAT (pre-recentering), and scored 39,600 with the correct "scrupulously honest" method. I am a professor and spend all my time reading.

My vocabulary is acquired entirely from reading, not from vocab study. What really impresses me about Updike, WFB, etc., is their use of many words I've never seen anywhere. With most other "highbrow" writers, I can get through the whole book without any unknown words.

So: where is it that "super-vocabs" like WFB and Updike learn their super-words from? Obviously, it's not from reading the books that I read, or the same words would show up there. But they don't. They must read a better class of book.

Honest American Prole, statistics say you probably have a higher household income, more/better children, and a better-looking wife than many of us high-GRE types, so don't be downcast.

elliot gould said...

I don't believe steve scored higher than kylie

Mitch said...

The scores came down to a more reasonable level after I posted my first comment. At the time I posted, every score but one was higher than 39,000. I'm certainly prepared to believe that iSteve commenters are in the 30K+. It just seemed at the time that everyone was going to chime in with 40000+ scores, which seemed a tad unlikely.

Incidentally, I think iSteve posters are as smart as any, but no more intelligent than the ones at the Atlantic, Mother Jones, Slate, Gene Expression, any other online webzine designed to appeal to smart folks. Let's not get too cocky.

Steve Sailer said...

Took it again, got 40,300. Mostly the same words, though. Didn't give myself credit for any I'd looked up while taking the first test. Seems like a pretty good test. It's not that easy to test out in the right hand side of the bell curve.

I wouldn't use a lot of these words, such as "tenebrous," except in, say, a Nabokov parody.

Anonymous said...

I took it again, and got about the same score also, i.e. about 39k. I'm the 720-SAT 46-year-old.

One other note on reading as a vocab builder: I mentioned above that I've always been a high-volume leisure reader, reading both fiction and non-fiction in about equal measure, and on widely-varying topics.

But I neglected to mention that, like anon at 9:31, I also spend my working days reading or editing academic material almost non-stop; I'm an instructional designer working on university course materials. This has helped me acquire technical vocabulary from many fields I ordinarily wouldn't get into, at least not at any great depth.

And with regard to the level of comments here: I sometimes read comments at Slate and The Atlantic, and I'd be embarrassed if I were compared to the former; I find Slate's comments section dull and partisan, barely above the level of Salon's comments. The Atlantic does get some good commenters, but their threads are often so long they're impossible to read. I do think they're at a level comparable to comments here, at least sometimes, although there's more here that demonstrate independent thinking.

Which publication has the most disappointing comments section (although, not really, I guess, if you think about it)? The Chronicle of Higher Ed, of course. Gosh, there are some humorless drones infesting the threads there . . . .

Anonymous said...

"The cousin of my German ex-girlfriend once told me a story about how he once watched a Swiss television program. The lower German accent of the Swiss was so unrecognizable they had to dub the program so the German audience could understand it."

Swiss German is certainly difficult for non-Swiss to understand. Most Swiss Germans can, however, switch to Hochdeutsch (High German) when required.

Kylie said...

"Honest American prole here: 22,600 words, 25 years old. I never took the SAT.

Sometimes I feel like I'm among the dumbest readers here at iSteve, but hey, at least I'm trying."


I feel like that most of the time, except when a hot-button topic causes the lefty trolls to amass here.

Anonymous said...

35,500. Scrupulous about scoring.
53 years old. I took the SAT in 1974 and got 730 verbal.

Mitch said...

Seems like a pretty good test. It's not that easy to test out in the right hand side of the bell curve.

I agree, and it's particularly hard in verbal.

I find Slate's comments section dull and partisan, barely above the level of Salon's comments.

Partisan != stupid, or even less intelligent than skeptic. That's something skeptics always find hard to accept. (I certainly do, anyway).

I don't think an IQ test of readership would reveal any great discrepancies between the readerships of these various magazines.

One of my blog entries got picked up by Word Press for their front page, and I got a substantial (for me) number of comments. COnsider that every blogger on word press has some minimal technology skills, and the desire to express him or herself verbally, so almost everyone commenting was certainly above average IQ. It was still like reading the comments on a USA Today article.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I can't help wondering how someone could rack up 40,000 on this test and yet wrack his brains...

Gilbert P.

Truth said...

"I feel like that most of the time, except when a hot-button topic causes the lefty trolls to amass here."

Yeah those are the worst.

"Steve, I can't help wondering how someone could rack up 40,000 on this test and yet wrack his brains..."

Steve-O, he got you.

Anonymous said...

Took test twice. Results were 34,100 and 34,900.
35 years old. Bilingual (English and German), but grew up in US. SAT-V 720 taken in 1994 (pre-recentering).

In my 20s I worked in Germany and would astound my co-workers because I almost always knew the English equivalent of any German word they could think of. They'd think of a word, then look up the English translation at leo.dict.org. They started calling me "Leo" because my answers virtually always concurred with the on-line dictionary.

I'd be interested to know how I'd do on a German version of this vocabulary test. I find that most of the non-fiction I read (economics, biosocial science, etc.) I read is in English and most of the fiction I read is in German (usually by English authors - for instance, I've read most of Tom Wolfe's novels and essay collections in German, but have never read anything he has written in English).

Pablo said...

Probably Belgium would have a much better score if Wallonia was not counted...

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd see whether my intuition about how common these words are matches the reality, as measured by Google.


Most of the ones I missed have relatively few hits:

caitiff: 42,600
opsimath: 47,500
fuliginous: 58,700
uxoricide: 75,700
funambulist: 105,000
hypnopompic: 106,000
estivation: 118,000
vibrissae: 178,000
williwaw: 242,000

But I also missed pule (7.9m hits)

Then there were ones that seemed really easy, i.e. I've read them many times before, yet they were not so common:

tatterdemalion: 168,000
epigone: 56,200


Conclusion: less correlation than I thought. This would be a good way to come up with vocab lists to study though. Based on your score, ask Google to give you words that occur between 50,000 and 100,000 times on the web (or more, or less, depending on your score), i.e. words at the frontier of your vocabulary. Then move on to less frequent ones.

Anonymous said...

40,800 words. 800 Verbal GRE in 1990. Took the vocab "test" after four shots of Glenmorangie. I read a shitload of stuff.

Anonymous said...

I had a 770 on the Critical Reading on the SAT, but my estimated vocabulary is a paltry 28,000. But keep in mind that I never read much.