With the school-year fast approaching, perhaps we should use this time to reflect on the educational value of 80s pop songs. Consider: Men at Work taught us about Australian cuisine (the Vegemite sandwich of “Down Under”); Styx taught us Japanese pleasantries (“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto”); and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” taught us… well, everything.
Moreover, the lyrics to 80s songs provided us with some truly S.A.T.-worthy vocabulary words. For example, I think I speak for an entire generation when I say that I first learned the word “moot” from Rick Springfield’s 1981 hit, “Jessie’s Girl.”
(Curious aside about that: it took me nearly three decades to realize that everyone– me, you, Rick Springfield, Jesse Jackson in a hilarious 1984 Saturday Night Live skit– uses the word “moot” incorrectly. Sort of. See, in “Jessie’s Girl,” when Springfield says, “I want to tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot,” he’s using the word to mean “irrelevant, not worth discussing.” This, of course, is the standard meaning of the word… AND YET, the original definition of “moot” meant exactly the opposite: in fact, the word once referred to a point that should be debated and discussed. So “moot” is a contranym– a word with two meanings that contradict each other. But again, pretty much everyone now uses the “not worth discussing” definition, and so don’t blame Professor Springfield for mis-informing a whole generation.)
Anyway… to get everyone in the Back to School mode (and no, I am not referring to the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield film), below is a vocabulary quiz that contains twenty words taken from 80s pop songs. I’m not saying that these are necessarily the most complicated words, only ones that I am pretty sure I first heard while listening to the radio during the 1980s.
Vocab Quiz from 80s Song Lyrics
0 of 20 questions completed
For each question, I will give a word, its definition, and a sample lyric. You will then select the song that contains that word/ lyric, from the four song titles I have provided. (Note: for the most part, these are English language words, which means that, unfortunately, “Sussudio” and “mama-say mama-sa mama-ko-sa” will not appear on this quiz.)
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Question 1 of 20
adherence (n)– steady attachment, devotion
Lyric: “Without the blind adherence that has conquered some”Correct
Dude, you rock.Incorrect
Where were you in the 80s?
Question 2 of 20
alabaster (n)– a smooth, typically white or translucent stone
Lyric: “I will turn your face to alabaster”Correct
Question 3 of 20
arrears (n)– legal term for money that is owed
Lyrics: “I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years”Correct
Question 4 of 20
cloister (n)– monastery or convent
Lyric: “You’ll find a God in every golden cloister”Correct
Question 5 of 20
contraband (n)– illegally imported or exported goods
Lyric: “It’s the politics of contraband”Correct
Rock the Casbah!Incorrect
Question 6 of 20
deluge (n)– flood
Lyric: “Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup”Correct
Way to bust a quiz move!Incorrect
Grody to the max!
Question 7 of 20
discord (n)– disagreement; lack of harmony between notes (in music)
Lyric: “Straddle the line in discord and rhyme”Correct
Like, totally wrong.
Question 8 of 20
façade (n)– literally, face of a building; also, the outward appearance of something
Lyric: “The grand façade so soon will burn”Correct
Question 9 of 20
hoopla (n)– excessive (often unwarranted) excitement
Lyric: “Knee deep in the hoopla”Correct
Barf me out!
Question 10 of 20
ideology (n)– set of beliefs of a group or political party
Lyric: “We share the same biology, regardless of ideology”Correct
What’s your damage?
Question 11 of 20
inscrutable (adj)– mysterious, impossible to understand
Lyric: “Her methods are inscrutable”Correct
You be Illin’.Incorrect
Question 12 of 20
litigate (v)– to bring a lawsuit, to pursue a legal case
Lyric: “The landlord says your rent is late, he may have to litigate”Correct
I’m so sure.
Question 13 of 20
nullify (v)– to make useless, to invalidate
Lyric: “It nullifies the night from _______”Correct
To the max.Incorrect
Question 14 of 20
palate (n)– roof of one’s mouth; also, one’s sense of taste
Lyric: “Clear your mind and do your best to try and wash the palate clean”*Correct
Are you mental?
Question 15 of 20
perpetrate (v)–carry out or commit
Lyric: “I picked up my car phone to perpetrate like I was talking”Correct
Question 16 of 20
prostrate (adj)– lying face down on the ground, often as a show of reverence
Lyrics: “I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind”Correct
Like, totally, sister.Incorrect
Question 17 of 20
serrate (adj.)– notched on the edge like a saw
Lyric: “The animal we ate. Guilt debate. The edge serrate.”Correct
Bag your face.
Question 18 of 20
torpor (n)– apathy, dullness
Lyric: “Four poster, dull torpor, pulling downward”Correct
What a wastoid.
Question 19 of 20
unencumbered (adj)– not burdened or weighed down; free to move
Lyric: “And I stood arrow straight, unencumbered by the weight”Correct
Don’t wig out, that’s right, man.Incorrect
Question 20 of 20
vitriolic (adj)– mean, nasty, filled with bitter criticism
Lyric: “You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light”Correct
Don’t mean to harsh your melon, but you wrong.
* Regarding “palate”: Many different websites used the word “palette” for this lyric, which is understandable, since the two words “palette” and “palate” are often confused. The difference is this: “palette” is that wooden board a painter uses, while “palate” refers to the roof of the mouth, (and by extension, a person’s tastes). In the end, I went with “palate,” since the expression is to “clean one’s palate,” and I didn’t think the artist was talking about rinsing off her painting board.