KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson 18 Part TWO

KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson 18 Part TWO

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Passages Lesson 18 READING PASSAGE

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What happens when a group of British schoolboys survive a plane crash onto an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere and have to learn to govern themselves—with no adults to help them?  What happens when individual rights and freedoms are pitted against the common good?  Nobel-Prize-winning author William Golding explores these questions in his dystopian novel, Lord of the Flies, from which today’s reading passage and our six featured vocabulary items are taken.  First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was not an immediate success, selling fewer than 3,000 copies in the United States and then quickly dropping out of print.  But by the early 1960’s, the novel had become required reading in many schools and colleges and had been adapted as a film and stage play, and is now regarded as a modern classic.  Over the years, many writers have borrowed plot elements from Lord of the Flies.  One is English author Alex Garland, who rose to fame with his 1996 bestselling “backpacker” novel, The Beach, which was later made into a controversial movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  In today’s reading, one of the schoolboys, Ralph, emerges as a natural leader. He blows on a conch shell to summon the other crash survivors to a meeting. Piggy, Ralph’s chubby new sidekick, is with him.

In Passages, Lesson 18, Part 1, we focused on six essential words from the same reading passage.  Today, we will look at several more words of various parts of speech, important adjectives, nouns, and verbs that you will be able to put to effective use in your own writing and everyday speech.

To listen to a recording of the passage, please tune in to the KA Voicecast website.



The bat was the child’s shadow, shrunk by the VERTICAL sun to a patch between the hurrying feet.

VERTICAL is an adjective used to describe things that stick or are positioned straight up or down at a right angle from a level or horizontal surface.  Synonyms include upright, perpendicular, erect, and straight up and down.

“Remember,” the clerk in the men’s department told me somewhat rudely, “bold, VERTICAL stripes can make you look taller and slimmer.”

Green Spirit, a company based in Michigan, is building indoor VERTICAL farming operations that grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits that can be harvested all year around. 

Workers in Hunan Province are constructing a one-meter wide pathway made of wooden planks along a VERTICAL cliff face that is more than a thousand feet high. 

More metaphorically, VERTICAL means having a structure in which there are top, middle, and bottom levels or ranks.

In an organization, VERTICAL communication is the flow of information both downward and upward through the chain of command. 

In horizontal markets, vendors offer a broad range of goods and services to a broad range of customers, but in a VERTICAL market, vendors offer specific goods and services to specific trades or industries. 

In her 1970 book Japanese Society, Nakane Chie described Japan as operating by “a VERTICAL principle,” with relations between individuals based on a strict “senior-junior” hierarchy.

VERTICALLY is the adverb form of VERTICAL for both uses above.

Officials say that a Boeing airliner plunged almost VERTICALLY when it crashed at an airport in Kazan, killing all 50 passengers on board.

A 355-foot-long open-ocean research vessel named FLIP can be operated both horizontally and VERTICALLY and is used to take acoustic measurements of the sea. 

Traditionally, Indian society has been organized VERTICALLY through a rigid caste system.

VERTICAL can also be used as a noun that refers to a VERTICAL line or position.  It is most commonly referred to as THE VERTICAL.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side, leans about four degrees off THE VERTICAL.  




His face was dark with the violent pleasure of making this STUPENDOUS noise, and his heart was making the stretched shirt shake.

STUPENDOUS is an adjective that describes something that is extremely impressive, especially when that something is greater or better than expected.  Synonyms include amazing, astounding, astonishing, extraordinary, staggering, remarkable, and phenomenal.  Some informal synonyms include mind-boggling, awesome, and fantastic.

Last night, the American comic icon Dick Van Dyke received The Life Achievement Award at the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony for his STUPENDOUS career in TV and film.   

According to leading world economists, “Abenomics,” the radical economic policies advocated by Japan’s current prime minister, will have STUPENDOUS long-term global implications.

 Astronomers have predicted a STUPENDOUS meteor shower display in May of this year, as the earth passes through a dense stream of dust in space.

In recent years, money spent on research and development at pharmaceutical companies has increased at a STUPENDOUS rate. 

STUPENDOUSLY is the adverb form of STUPENDOUS and is used both formally and literally and informally and figuratively.

Even actions as seemingly simple or basic as seeing or hearing require STUPENDOUSLY complex information processing in the brain. 

The team’s STUPENDOUSLY bad performance in last weekend’s game cost them the chance at the Super Bowl. 

In Japan, everyday essentials such as clothing and food are reasonably priced, but little luxuries such as going out for a meal at a nice restaurant can be STUPENDOUSLY expensive. 

The word STUPENDOUS, by the way, is derived from the Latin root stupende, which means to be shocked or stunned and gives us such related words as STUPID (“not intelligent or knowledgeable”), STUPOR (“a state of reduced consciousness”), and STUPEFY (“to amaze or astonish”).



They were twins, and the eye was shocked and INCREDULOUS at such cheery duplication.

INCREDULOUS is an adjective that means not willing or unable to believe something.  Synonyms include disbelieving, skeptical, distrustful, suspicious, unconvinced, dubious, and doubtful.

At first, Dr. Brennan was INCREDULOUS of the evidence presented, but further investigation proved that the victim had indeed died an accidental death and had not been murdered. 

There were INCREDULOUS looks on the audience’s faces when the talk-show guest stood up, shouted an obscenity and made a rude gesture at the host, and stomped off the stage.

INCREDULOUSLY is the adverb form of INCREDULOUS.

People wandered up and down the beach INCREDULOUSLY surveying the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami. 

Dr. Watson listened INCREDULOUSLY as Sherlock Holmes explained how the crime had been committed. 

The noun INCREDULITY is related to INCREDULOUS and refers to a person’s being unwilling or unable to believe something. Synonyms include disbelief, skepticism, distrust, suspicion, dubiousness, and doubtfulness.

My sister’s habit of asking total strangers, usually handsome young men, for a cigarette both embarrasses me and fills me with INCREDULITY.  How can she do it?

Mr. White did his best to feign INCREDULITY when the police arrived at his house to arrest him for the manufacture of methamphetamines.

INCREDIBLE is a related adjective that means impossible or very difficult to believe.  The closest synonyms are unbelievable, not convincing, and implausible.

Astronomers both professional and amateur around the globe are bracing themselves for what promises to be the most INCREDIBLE view yet of a black hole swallowing a gas cloud. 

As an alternative to using explosives, a company in Japan has come up with an INCREDIBLE new way of demolishing high-rise buildings in densely built-up areas. 

I’m usually willing to suspend disbelief, but the spy thriller’s story line was so INCREDIBLE as to be laughable, and I gave up reading after only a few pages.

I find it INCREDIBLE that so many Americans, even those who have gone to college, are so ignorant of world geography.

The adjective INCREDIBLE can, by the way, also be used informally to mean amazingly good or extremely impressive.  Synonyms include phenomenal, spectacular, astonishing, and awe-inspiring.  Some informal synonyms include mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, and out of this world.

I highly recommend the beef bourguignon at Brasserie Blanc.  It is absolutely INCREDIBLE! 

“X-Factor” winner Sam Bailey gave another INCREDIBLE performance at last night’s awards ceremony.

At almost sixty, the former supermodel looked INCREDIBLE in her body-hugging gown by Yamamoto Yohji.

INCREDIBLY is the adverb form for both the above uses of INCREDIBLE.

Artist Roberto Bernardi spends up to a month painstakingly creating his INCREDIBLY lifelike hyperrealism masterpieces of everyday items. 

A British survivor of a plane crash in which 101 people, including four other Britons, died has described herself as “INCREDIBLY lucky.”

I lost my temper and acted INCREDIBLY rudely and selfishly.

Important Usage Note: Believability is at the heart of both INCREDULOUS and INCREDIBLE, but there is an important difference between the two. INCREDULOUS means not inclined to believe or to be skeptical; it describes people’s attitudes or responses to ideas, events, actions, statements, and so on.  INCREDIBLE means unbelievable or not convincing; it describes the ideas, statements, events, or actions themselves.

Bobby had an INCREDULOUS look on his face as he watched the magician do his INCREDIBLE tricks.




Then he got MUDDLED; the twins shook their heads and pointed at each other and the crowd laughed.

In the sentence above, MUDDLED is used as an adjective that means confused or bewildered.  It is used more commonly in British than in American English.

Brandon gets MUDDLED whenever his math teacher starts talking about trigonometric functions. 

I’m afraid I’m a little MUDDLED.  Could you please repeat the question? 

MUDDLING is another adjective form that means causing confusion or difficult to understand.

These visa application forms are so MUDDLING.  There are so many of them, and I’m not even sure if I’ve filled out the correct ones!

MUDDLED and MUDDLING come from the verb MUDDLE, which means to confuse one person or thing for another or to mix things up and make a mess of them.  Synonyms include confuse, bewilder, perplex, puzzle, and mix up.  MUDDLE is also often used as a phrasal verb, MUDDLE UP, meaning to mix up.

“Could you please slow down a bit?” the novice interpreter whispered to the speaker.  “You’re MUDDLING me.”

Who left the window open?  The wind has MUDDLED all my paperwork!

Jake and Thomas are so similar that it’s no wonder Miss Withers MUDDLES them UP.  I sometimes can’t tell them apart either, and I’m their mother!

It’s not like Janie to MUDDLE UP the dates for the fundraising event.  She’s usually so dependable.  She must be under a lot of pressure at home. 

When I visit my son in his apartment, I can never find anything.  All the kitchen utensils are MUDDLED UP in a drawer, and there never seems to be a clean cup or glass anywhere. 

As a noun, MUDDLE has a few subtly different uses.  First, MUDDLE means a state of mental confusion, as in:

Can you please explain how to turn on the Xbox through the TV again?  I’m in a MUDDLE. 

When talking about a situation, time, or place, MUDDLE means confusion about arrangements or things that are or are supposed to be done wrong.  The closest synonym is mix-up.

There was a MUDDLE over our plane tickets, and we had to be put on a wait-list to get on the flight home.

Gareth was fired over a MUDDLE with the boss’s scheduling.  Apparently, Mr. Seton-Hall showed up three hours late for an important meeting, losing a contract and costing the company millions of pounds.

Finally, a MUDDLE can mean a state of confusion, untidiness, or disorganization.

It’s unfortunate that the government got itself into such a MUDDLE over the national healthcare reforms. 

My make-up desk and bag were in a MUDDLE after my little girl and her friends decided to play dress-up in my bedroom this afternoon. 

There are several useful idioms and phrasal verbs related to MUDDLE that you can use in your own writing to make it more interesting and less stiff and formal sounding.  To MUDDLE ALONG, for example, means to continue doing something, even if you have no clear plans, objective, or directions.

“We can’t keep MUDDLING ALONG paycheck to paycheck like this,” I said to my husband.  “We seriously need to reconsider our budget and make a plan to start saving.”

To MUDDLE THROUGH something means to achieve your goal, even when you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t have any clear plans, knowledge, or direction on how to go about it.

I was asked to plan the annual stockholders’ convention.  I had never done it before and just had to MUDDLE THROUGH and hope for the best. 

MUDDLE-HEADED is an adjective that means confused or having confused ideas.

Our MUDDLE-HEADED waiter got our dinner order completely wrong, so by the time we finally did get the meal we ordered, we were famished. 


5. CUE

Taking their CUE from the innocent Johnny, they sat down on the fallen palm trunks and waited.

In the sentence above, CUE is a noun that refers to an action or event that is a signal to do something. Synonyms include sign, indication, reminder, and prompt.

Children who grow up in Tokyo know that the familiar evening chime and the streetlights coming on are CUES to stop playing outside and head home.

Dr. Alison Sweeney of the University of California has suggested that the absence of the moon in the night sky may act as a CUE to mass synchronized spawning among certain marine species.

A text message from Lauren was our CUE to dim the lights, hide, and shout “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” as soon as Frankie stepped through the door.

In the theatrical world, a CUE is a word or gesture that is a signal for another actor to do something.

It was his theatrical debut, and Grant stood anxiously in the wings waiting for his CUE to enter stage left.

During his recent performance at the Old Vic in London, veteran stage and film actor James Earl Jones forgot some of his lines and had to take CUES from the prompter.

A CUE CARD, by the way, is a large card with script written on it.  It is held up behind a television or film camera so that it can be read by the actors or TV presenters but not by the viewers.  These days, however, most studios use a teleprompter, a digital device used for the same purpose.

The prompter got the CUE CARDS mixed up, but the pompous actor didn’t even realize he was saying the wrong lines at the wrong time.

RIGHT ON CUE is an idiomatic expression that means at exactly the moment you expect something or that is appropriate.

I’d just taken a batch of homemade peanut butter cookies out of the oven when, RIGHT ON CUE, my son came into the kitchen and said, “Can I have a snack?  I’m starving.”

The phrase AS IF ON CUE is used figuratively, and it basically means, “I know it was a coincidence, but it seemed as if it had been planned.”  Look at the following example.

It occurred to me that my friend Helen had not called me for ages. And then, AS IF ON CUE, the phone rang, and sure enough, it was Helen, telling me she had been away on holiday.

We drove into the game reserve and, AS IF ON CUE, a leopard sprang across the road and pounced on a gazelle just meters from where we sat in our car. 

To TAKE A CUE FROM SOMEONE or SOMETHING means to copy or mimic what someone else does as an example of how to behave or do something.

Facebook has TAKEN another CUE FROM Twitter and added a “Trending” feature to its news feeds.  

TAKE A CUE from your sister and stop wasting your time on such trivialities!

CUE is also a verb that means to give someone a signal so that he or she knows it is time to start or say something.

A TV monitor just to the left of the stage CUED the audience to laugh at the appropriate moments.

“Can you CUE me when you’re ready for me to tell your parents that we’re having a baby?” Sandy said to her husband.  “Just raise your eyebrows or scratch your nose or clear your throat.”   

As the senior lighting technician, it was Jacob’s responsibility to CUE the lights for Hamlet’s iconic monologue scene.

By the way, a CUE is also a long, wooden stick that is used for hitting the CUE BALL in games such as billiards, pool, and snooker.

I think this CUE is bent.  The balls don’t seem to go where I want them to.



Here, the eye was attracted to a black, bat-like creature that danced on the sand, and only later PERCEIVED the body above it. 

PERCEIVE is a verb that means to become aware or conscious of something, or to realize or understand something.  Similar words and phrases include recognize, come to know, figure out, deduce, and ascertain.

Until his editor pointed them out, Carl was unable to PERCEIVE the continuity flaws and plot holes in his first full-length novel.  

Research reveals that newborn babies cannot PERCEIVE colors other than black and white for the first several months.

PERCEIVE can also mean to interpret or regard someone or something in a particular way.  Synonyms for this usage include consider, appraise, size up, and judge.

While you may believe that you are a hard worker and deserve a promotion, others may not PERCEIVE you in the same way.

The First Lady, who turns fifty today and still looks incredible, is widely PERCEIVED to be the driving force behind many of the President’s executive decisions.

Even though a riding accident put Tim permanently in a wheelchair, he doesn’t PERCEIVE himself as disabled and continues to participate in various paralympic sports. 

PERCEPTION is a related noun that has several uses.  For one, PERCEPTION means the way you notice things, especially with your senses.  Synonyms include awareness, realization, recognition, knowledge, understanding, and grasp.

Scientists say that color PERCEPTION varies from person to person, and that what one person sees as red could very well be perceived as blue by someone else. 

Your PERCEPTION changes, as do your priorities and values, when you become a parent.

PERCEPTION also refers to the ability to understand the true nature of something.  Synonyms for this usage include insight, intuition, astuteness, cleverness, and shrewdness.

For a first-time crime novelist, the young author showed great PERCEPTION into the workings of the minds of both serial killers and the police who try to track them down.

I thoroughly enjoyed your essay.  It displays tremendous PERCEPTION of the music as well as the meaning of T.S. Eliot’s later poems.

Finally, PERCEPTION can also refer to the idea, image, or belief you have of something based on how you see and understand it.  Synonyms include idea, conception, belief, opinion, view, and judgment.

My PERCEPTION of the situation is that if you leave it well enough alone, it will take care of itself.

There is a general PERCEPTION among parents that the school is too driven by test results and does not place enough emphasis on physical education, music, and other fine arts. 

PERCEPTIVE is an adjective that describes people who have the ability to understand or see things quickly and clearly, especially things that are not obvious. Synonyms include insightful, intuitive, observant, clear-sighted, astute, and clever.  Some informal synonyms include on the ball, switched on, and with it.  PERCEPTIVELY is the adverb form of PERCEPTIVE.

Be careful what you say in front of your children.  Children these days are far more PERCEPTIVE than we give them credit for.

As a writer, I aspire to more than just writing clearly.  My goal is to write more gracefully, more wittily, and more PERCEPTIVELY. 

PERCEPTIBLE is another adjective that modifies things that are able to be seen or noticed.  Similar words include noticeable, detectable, visible, observable, and distinguishable. Look at these examples of how PERCEPTIBLE is used in both its adjective and adverb (PERCEPTIBLY) forms.

Joy has become so thin lately that her hipbones are PERCEPTIBLE even through her jeans.

Since Ms. Pope took over, there has been a PERCEPTIBLE change in the atmosphere of the office—a change for the worse, I might add.

The floor in the shed had been dampened by rain and now slopes PERCEPTIBLY towards the center.

Though she did her best to hide it, the interviewee was PERCEPTIBLY offended by the interviewer’s blunt personal question.

And just for the record, IMPERCEPTIBLE is the opposite of PERCEPTIBLE. It means so slight, gradual, or subtle as not to be able to be seen or perceived.   Synonyms include unnoticeable, undetectable, inaudible, indistinct, and hard to make out.  IMPERCEPTIBLY is the adverb form.  Look at the following examples:

Although IMPERCEPTIBLE to the naked eye from Earth, the rings of Saturn can be seen through a powerful telescope.

The impact of noise pollution seems IMPERCEPTIBLE and is not always addressed, but did you know that overexposure to loud noises can cause hypertension, tinnitus, and even birth defects?

Natural changes to the landscape come slowly and IMPERCEPTIBLY over countless millennia.

Sometimes, a fashion fad fades so IMPERCEPTIBLY from public consciousness that you don’t even notice it is gone until you come across it years later in a vintage or charity shop.


Tune in next week for seven more fantastic words from Passages: Lesson 19 Part ONE!