I didn't take the SAT when I was at Holy Trinity High School many Blood moons ago. The Holy Cross brothers thought the ACT was a better measurement of intellectual chops, and who was a naif, such as I, to raise an objection. SAT? ACT? After WWII, acronyms ruled the world.
One thing I knew about both was that each put a premium on vocabulary. I realized early in secondary school that in order to read the assigned novels in English class, I had to expand mine. Take Melville . I remember reading Moby Dick for extra credit my junior year. I had gotten a part-time job at a law office across the street from City Hall. Saturdays , after I finished my meager duties, I had its library all to myself. Some of those mornings I pored over that whale of a tale. My dictionary by my side, slowly, methodically, I would expand my command of the English language. So I thought.
Mr. Melville, of course, helped with passages like this one from the end of Chapter 26:
"If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave around them tragic graces; if even the most mournful, perchance the most abased, among them all, shall at times life himself to the exalted mounts; if I shall touch that workman's arm with some ethereal light; if I shall spread a rainbow over his disastrous set of sun; than against all mortal critics bear me out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict Bunyan, the pale poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commoners; bear me out in it, O God!"
You could imagine the words I had to look up! Of course, in some cases---if the book were mine---I underlined, circled, or highlighted the verbal critters for a later investigation. My own dictionary, a Webster Collegiate, eventually was dog-earred into decrepitude.
I dredged up these old memories about words after I heard that the SAT brain trust has decided to eliminate 'obscure' words from its vocabulary agenda. Words like 'lachrymose' and 'propinquity'. Of course, it figures in a Twitter world of just so many characters. In such a literary universe these locutions are pretty heavy baggage.
Wherever in the afterlife the masters of language congregate, Melville is surely weeping. I myself feel a bit lachrymose. That is, I sense the propinquity of tears.