KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson Four

KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson Four

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Passages Lesson 4 Reading Passage

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The year 1963 was a momentous one in American history.  In November, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  Vice-President Lyndon Johnson took over, and the war in Vietnam began to escalate.  Earlier that year, in August, a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement had taken place—the March on Washington, D.C.  It was on that day that Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in which he talked about a future time when black Americans would be free, and people of all races and colors would live together in peace and harmony.  But just a few days later, in Birmingham, Alabama, the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan bombed an African-American church, killing four young girls.  The last half of the The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 centers around this incident.  In this passage, Kenny describes what it was like to be in Birmingham on that morning.  By the way, when the bomb exploded, everyone in Kenny’s family was sure that Kenny’s sister Joey was in that church.

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



HORRIBLE is an adjective used to describe something that makes us feel shocked and frightened.  Synonyms include shocking, harrowing, and unspeakable.

Everything on the news is so HORRIBLE these days that I can barely stand to read the paper or turn on the TV.

Maddie woke up in the middle of the night to a HORRIBLE nightmare and crawled in bed with her parents.

Jack has been depressed and withdrawn ever since his two best friends died in a HORRIBLE car accident involving a drunk driver nearly two years ago. 

HORRIBLE can also be used to describe everyday situations or conditions that are very bad or unpleasant.  Synonyms include terrible, dreadful, and awful.

The daily commute into Tokyo on the Odakyu Line is at its worst in the summer when you have to endure the HORRIBLE heat and humidity as well as the crowds.

I was really looking forward to our class trip to the Globe Theatre in London, but I woke up in the morning with a HORRIBLE cold and had to miss it.

When Mr. Hammond called him into his office after lunch, Jay had a HORRIBLE feeling that he was about to be laid off. 

Although Gwen claims to follow recipe instructions precisely, everything she cooks somehow ends up tasting bland and HORRIBLE.

A bit more colloquially, when talking about someone’s behavior, HORRIBLE means unfriendly, obnoxious, or unkind.  Synonyms include nasty, disagreeable, hateful, and insufferable.

What a HORRIBLE thing to say!  Take it back or I’ll never forgive you.

“That Harry is a HORRIBLE child!” Kendra whispered to the other mothers in the playground. “I would never let my Bryan play with him.”

HORRIBLY is the adverb form of HORRIBLE, for all the usages above.  Synonyms include terribly, dreadfully, awfully, and unpleasantly.

What you don’t know about Gary is that under that affable, easy-going persona, he is HORRIBLY racist, and sexist to boot. 

Belinda sat at her desk, HORRIBLY aware that her boss Michael was looking over her shoulder and watching her every move.

From the start, the trip went HORRIBLY wrong.  First, my flight was three hours late.  Then my luggage was lost.  And finally, the hotel botched my reservation, and I had no place to stay.

HORRIBLENESS is the noun form.

I will make it my mission to expose to the public the HORRIBLENESS of the torture political prisoners in our federal prisons are subjected to.

HORRIBLE, HORRIBLY, and HORRIBLENESS are all related to the noun HORROR.  HORROR has many uses, but generally, it means a feeling of great fear, shock, or disgust.  In the following four sentences, HORROR is used to mean (1) fear or terror, (2) dismay or shock, (3) awfulness, and (4), when naming a person, rascal or imp.

(1) Thousands of spectators watched in HORROR as the stunt plane began billowing smoke and then crashed to the ground.

(2) To Evan’s HORROR, the burglars had taken his laptop and external hard drive, which held his nearly completed first novel.

(3) An exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., shows a collection of photographs about the HORRORS of war and its aftermath.

(4) In Erika’s eyes, her son Nicholas can do no wrong, but the truth is, he is a little HORROR.

HORROR is also used as an adjective to modify a genre of book or movie designed to frighten us.

I would never watch a HORROR movie at night when I am home alone.

Yet another of King’s bestselling HORROR novels is being made into a feature film.

A HORROR STORY is a fictional narrative about something strange or frightening.

Back when we were kids, we used to camp out all night in our back yard and tell one another HORROR STORIES.

But a HORROR STORY can also be a real-life news report about something shocking, frightening, or disgusting.

After reading in yesterday’s Times the HORROR STORIES about how some surgeons perform unnecessary operations just to make money, I’m not sure if any doctor can be trusted.

For your information, one of the most famous lines in all of English literature comes in Joseph Conrad’s classic African novel Heart of Darkness, when a character says “The horror! The horror!” just before he dies.  Conrad, by the way, was Polish and didn’t even start to learn English until he was in his twenties, yet he became one of England’s greatest authors.

The verb HORRIFY means to frighten, shock, disgust, or shame.

HORRIFIED by the news that an escaped prisoner might be in the area, the neighbors got together and formed a round-the-clock security watch.

The Conjuring, a movie about a pair of ghost hunters who investigate a haunted Rhode Island house, will HORRIFY even the most hard-core HORROR film enthusiasts.

We were HORRIFIED when the teacher suddenly used a racial slur to talk about one of our foreign classmates.

HORRIFIED is the adjective form of HORRIFY.  Synonyms include frightened, disgusted, and shocked.

The HORRIFIED audience watched as one of the aerialists performing in the Cirque du Soleille in Las Vegas plummeted 27 meters into a pit below the stage. 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo showed the HORRIFIED look on the spectators’ faces as the bomb exploded and they ran for cover.

Another adjective form, HORRIFYING, describes something that shocks, disgusts, or frightens.

To a small child, a thunder and lightning storm can be truly HORRIFYING.

HORRIFIC is another adjective related to HORROR that means (1) extremely bad or frightening or (2) very unpleasant.

(1) During the Vietnam War, Jameson witnessed some things that were so HORRIFIC that he refuses to talk about them.

(2) When my rear tire blew out on the highway on the way to work this morning, it was just the beginning of a truly HORRIFIC day.

HORRID and HORRENDOUS are other adjectives related to HORROR that can mean very unpleasant, serious, shocking, or unacceptable.  Look at the following examples:

Where is that HORRID smell coming from?

The bridesmaids’ dresses were a HORRID mustard-yellow, unflattering and not at all appropriate for an autumn wedding.

Chris sustained HORRENDOUS injuries in a cycling accident last weekend and will be laid up in hospital for at least a month.

The rumor is that the Harrises have been having HORRENDOUS financial problems and that the bank repossessed their house last month.

HORROR STRUCK (HORROR STRICKEN) is an adverbial phrase meaning suddenly feeling shocked, frightened, or disgusted.

Jenna stared HORROR STRUCK at the sight of the destruction the tsunami had left in its path.

I was so HORROR STRICKEN when I heard the burglar alarm go off that I slipped under my bed and hid there until the security company arrived.

Used as an adjective before a noun, HORROR-STRUCK takes a hyphen.

The campers all had HORROR-STRUCK looks on their faces when the bear approached their campsite.



CLUE is a noun that has several uses.  Most commonly, it is a piece of evidence or information that helps police solve a crime.

CCTV footage should provide police with some vital CLUES about the identity of Madeline’s abductor.

CLUE can also mean a piece of evidence that helps us find the answer to some sort of mystery or problem.

An Iron Age settlement recently unearthed in Devon could offer archeologists CLUES about the daily lives of the people who lived in the area more than 3,000 years ago.

The CLUE to what causes some types of learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children may be found in their diet, experts now say.

Finally, a CLUE is also a piece of information that helps you find the answer to a quiz-like question or solve a crossword puzzle.

The cryptic CLUE for 7 down in today’s crossword puzzle is: “Words before a ‘high note.’”  Do you have any idea what it might be?

“Guess who I ran in to at the post office today?” Nina asked her husband. “I don’t know.  Give me a CLUE,” he answered sardonically.

The idiom to NOT HAVE A CLUE means to have no idea.   It can also be used (not very kindly) to mean very stupid.

Vince asked me to meet him at his office, but I DON’T HAVE A CLUE where it is. 

Don’t bother asking Doug to fix the garbage disposal—he DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE about home repairs.

When it comes to popular music, I DON’T HAVE A CLUE.

CLUE is also a verb. It is most often used in the phrase CLUE IN, which means to inform, notify, or make someone aware of something.

I asked my brother Nigel to CLUE us IN about what else we needed to do to get ready for our grandparents’ 50th anniversary party, but he said he had it all under control.

Please CLUE me IN on what’s been going on in the office during my maternity leave.  I know I have a lot of catching up to do.

The informal adjective CLUELESS means very stupid, uninformed, or not able to understand or do something.  Be careful when you use CLUELESS, however, because it can often come across as offensive, as in the following example:

I’ve never met anyone so CLUELESS as Axel.  He can’t be depended on to do anything right.

The informal phrase CLUED UP is an adjective that means knowing a lot about something.

My brother John is a lot more CLUED UP about recent movies than I am, so ask him. 



The verb INVESTIGATE means to carefully examine the facts of a situation such as a crime to find out the truth.  Synonyms include look into, scrutinize, and probe.

William has been released on bail, but the corruption charge still stands, and the prosecution is continuing to INVESTIGATE his case.

The FBI is INVESTIGATING a possible link between simultaneous acts of terror that occurred in several cities last weekend.

A team of experts is at the scene to INVESTIGATE the cause of the crash that killed all 242 passengers on board the Air Europa flight.   

The newly established agency is an independent organization committed to INVESTIGATING environmental crime. 

INVESTIGATE also means to try to find information about a person’s character or background. Synonyms include make inquiries about, check out, and dig into.

All persons with a connection to the Presidential Inauguration Committee will be INVESTIGATED to ensure the safety of everyone who attends the ceremony in January.    

This is not the first time Richard has been INVESTIGATED by the IRS for tax evasion.

INVESTIGATE can also mean to try to find out facts and information about a subject or problem for research purposes. Synonyms for this usage include analyze, study, examine, and research.

Split the class into six groups and have the students INVESTIGATE the impact global warming is having on each of the inhabited continents.

The thought of being exposed to a deadly virus frightened her, but Dr. Peters was also excited by the opportunity to INVESTIGATE a genuine medical mystery. 

The progressive form INVESTIGATING can also be used as a modifier, as in:

Martha’s experience in solving cybercrimes makes her the obvious choice as chief INVESTIGATING officer in this case.

The President has asked Congress to form an INVESTIGATING committee to look into the causes of the recent Wall Street fiasco.

An INVESTIGATION is an official or formal examination of the facts about a situation or crime.  Synonyms include inquiry, examination, and probe.

Chief Lopez would not speculate about motives or suspects, saying only that the forensic team was conducting a thorough INVESTIGATION.

Three of the company’s highest-ranking managers are now under INVESTIGATION for selling industrial secrets to several rival overseas manufacturers.

An INVESTIGATION also refers to scientific or academic research.

Scientists conducting an INVESTIGATION into the impact of climate change on Scotland’s red deer say the species’ breeding season now comes earlier in the year.

Upon INVESTIGATION, the patient’s distress was found to be caused by a rare tropical virus.

INVESTIGATIVE and INVESTIGATORY are two adjectives that are used interchangeably to describe people or groups that carry out INVESTIGATIONS.  The more commonly used of the two, INVESTIGATIVE, is often used as a modifier in such phrases as INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM and INVESTIGATIVE REPORT.

Peter Byrne is a Northern California-based INVESTIGATIVE journalist who specializes in uncovering government and corporate corruption.

After years as an INVESTIGATIVE reporter, Carl Hiaasen began writing young adult fiction, including Hoot, which received the Newbery Honor Award in 2002.

An INVESTIGATOR is a person who examines a situation such as a crime or accident to find out the truth or cause.  Synonyms include detective, inspector, and researcher.

In Marian Keyes’ latest novel, The Mystery of Mercy Close, Helen Walsh, a private INVESTIGATOR, is hired by her suspicious ex-boyfriend to look for a celebrity missing person.

A significant portion of a crime scene INVESTIGATOR’S time is spent not at the crime scene itself, but in preparing reports, testifying in court, and receiving continuing education. 



CURIOSITY is a noun that means a strong desire to know about something.  Synonyms include interest and inquisitiveness.

If you are looking for a fantastic day out with your family, the London Science Museum offers a multitude of interesting exhibits designed to arouse CURIOSITY in young children.

The package from my father was addressed to my children, but out of CURIOSITY, I opened it before they came home from school. 

Children have a natural CURIOSITY about the world around them, which is why the sooner they learn to read, the sooner they can begin exploring their interests on their own.

CURIOSITY and CURIO, often in their plural forms CURIOSITIES and CURIOS, refer to strange, unnatural, or unusual situations or artifacts.

In the past, fathers who wanted to be stay-at-home dads were regarded as something of a CURIOSITY and were often ridiculed by their macho male peers.

Ye Old CURIOSITY Shoppe on 45th Street is an offbeat gift shop and museum full of oddities and CURIOSITIES ranging from genuine mummies to a vampire killing kit. 

Dr. Gomez travelled the world collecting specimens to fill the enormous CURIO cabinet he kept in his office.

CURIOUS is an adjective with two main uses.  First of all, CURIOUS means having a strong desire to know something.  Synonyms for this usage include inquisitive, interested, and intrigued.

One dolphin seemed especially CURIOUS about us, coming right up to the boat and clicking loudly in a friendly manner, as if it were saying hello. 

When the house at the end of the street sold after being on the market for nearly a year, we were all CURIOUS to know who would be moving into our neighborhood.

In case you are CURIOUS about the pros and cons of using solar energy in your home, there are several good websites that you can go to. 

Hans Augusto and Margaret Rey’s popular series of children’s books, CURIOUS George, features a CURIOUS brown monkey who is brought from his home in Africa by the “Man with the Yellow Hat” to live with him in a big city.

CURIOUS can also describe people who are nosy or prying.

I have a CURIOUS co-worker who is always asking me about my personal life and peeking at whatever’s on my computer screen.

The other main way CURIOUS is used is to mean strange or unusual.  Synonyms include peculiar, eccentric, extraordinary, and unconventional.

Hundreds of people pulled over to the side of the road, got out of their cars, and stood agape, watching the CURIOUS lights darting across the night sky.

The Carnivore Restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa, offers a CURIOUS selection of game meat, including crocodile, rhinoceros, and giraffe.

CURIOUSLY is the adverb form.

CURIOUSLY enough, none of the subjects in the psychology experiment were aware that they had lied until they saw themselves doing so on the video recording.

All my pupils were CURIOUSLY quiet and cooperative today.  Do you think they finally like and respect me?

By the way, one commonly heard related proverb or expression is CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT, which means that being overly inquisitive or CURIOUS about other people’s affairs can get you in trouble.



The word HOLLOW is unusual because it can be used as an adjective, noun, or verb.  Let’s first look at the various ways it is used as an adjective.  Most commonly, HOLLOW describes something that has a gap or cavity inside it.  Synonyms include empty, void, unfilled, and vacant.

One of Jane Goodall’s most important discoveries was that chimpanzees jabbed “tools” such as twigs and branches into HOLLOW tree trunks to extract termites and other insects for food. 

I’m curious to know whether the Terra Cotta Warrior sculptures in China are solid or HOLLOW.

According to a Chinese proverb, unplowed fields make HOLLOW bellies, and unread books make HOLLOW minds.

The fox ran into a HOLLOW log to escape the hunting hounds.

When referring to a person’s eyes or cheeks, HOLLOW means sunk deeply into the face.  Synonyms include sunken, gaunt, and deep-set.

After two back-to-back, eight-hour shifts in the emergency room, Lana had become HOLLOW-eyed from exhaustion and lack of sleep.

When Steven Callahan was finally rescued after spending 76 days adrift on a life raft in the Atlantic Ocean, his cheeks were HOLLOW and he was on the brink of starvation.

A HOLLOW sound is an echoing sound, as though made in or on an empty container. Synonyms for this usage include dull, flat, and muted.

As we walked through the dimly lit underpass beneath the highway, we heard HOLLOW footsteps behind us.

Rumor has it that the old Victorian mansion is haunted and that HOLLOW murmurs creep along with anyone who walks down its long corridors.

HOLLOW also means insincere or without real value or meaning.  Synonyms include hypocritical, deceitful, two-faced, meaningless, worthless, empty, and pointless.

People are getting wiser in general, and sooner or later, politicians who make HOLLOW promises just to get votes will be exposed long before they are elected into office.

The dictator’s HOLLOW victory in so-called democratic elections will only do more damage to a country already plagued by corruption and poverty.

HOLLOWLY is the adverb form.

Gareth’s footsteps clanked on the metal tread of the stairs and echoed HOLLOWLY in the empty parking garage.

In geography, a HOLLOW is a small valley or basin.

As we drove into the HOLLOW, clumps of thick fog set in, giving the whole landscape an eerie ambience.

North Tarrytown was given its current name, Sleepy HOLLOW, in 1996, when residents voted to have it changed to honor Washington Irving’s classic story “The Legend of Sleepy HOLLOW.”

A HOLLOW can also refer to a hole or depression in something.  Synonyms include niche, crook, cranny, and recess.

The hedgehog scampered across our backyard and disappeared into a small HOLLOW at the base of a tree.

When a player blows a stream of air across the flute’s sharp edge, the split airstream acts upon the air column in the instrument’s HOLLOW, causing the flute to vibrate and produce sound.

HOLLOWNESS is another noun form that means having a gap or empty space inside something.

Melanie’s sobs echoed in the HOLLOWNESS of the empty auditorium when she learned she had been turned down for the coveted role.

The HOLLOWNESS of the player’s apology for using performance enhancing drugs was even more disturbing than the lies he had told about not using them.

As a verb HOLLOW means to make a hole or depression in something.  It is most commonly used in the phrasal verb to HOLLOW something OUT.  Synonyms include scoop, dig, gouge, and excavate.

You can build your own traditional Native American canoe by HOLLOWING OUT a redwood or cedar log. 

HOLLOW OUT half a large watermelon and fill it with fresh tropical fruit to make a colorful decorative centerpiece for your summer garden party. 

The phrasal verb HOLLOW OUT is often used as an adjective, HOLLOWED-OUT, as in:

The police searched the premises and found the stash of rough-cut diamonds in a HOLLOWED-OUT brick in the fireplace.

The Sunland Baobab, which can comfortably seat up to 15 people, is a trendy South African bar and wine cellar fashioned out of an enormous, HOLLOWED-OUT baobab tree.



EMBRACE is a verb that has several uses.  First, to EMBRACE means to put your arms around someone as a sign of friendship or affection.   Synonyms include hug, cuddle, and hold.

Stephanie and Hiroko EMBRACED at the airport and promised to always keep in touch.

I EMBRACED my eight-year-old son and told him I was proud of him for showing good sportsmanship after losing to his tennis rival, Harry, in the championship final. 

EMBRACE also means to willingly or enthusiastically accept or support an idea, belief, theory, or change.  Synonyms include welcome and adopt.

When she married Samuel, Janelle converted to and EMBRACED the Jewish faith.

The prospect of reducing energy costs and conserving resources has led many countries to EMBRACE the idea of daylight saving time during the summer months.

Finally, the verb EMBRACE also means to include, incorporate, encompass, and involve.

High school “American History” classes should also EMBRACE the histories of our indigenous peoples, and should not only be about the history of the United States of America. 

The Earth Summit EMBRACES a variety of environment-related issues, including alternative energy sources, the growing scarcity of water, and habitat destruction.

As a noun, EMBRACE means the act of holding someone closely in your arms.  Synonyms include hug, cuddle, and squeeze.

Private Aston held his new bride Marianne in a warm EMBRACE and then boarded the plane that was to fly him off to battle in Afghanistan.

There were tears and EMBRACES at Lorenzo’s university graduation party as his family and friends celebrated his achievement. 

EMBRACE also means the act of willingly and enthusiastically accepting or supporting something such as an idea or change.

Japan’s enthusiastic EMBRACE of western cuisine and fast food has dramatically changed the physique of the Japanese people, increasing average heights but also obesity rates.

EMBRACEABLE is the adjective form.   Though rarely used in everyday speech and writing, it means something such as a person, idea, or change that is capable of being EMBRACED.

Dressed up in his snowsuit, stocking cap, and mittens, my little boy looked so EMBRACEABLE that I couldn’t help giving him a big hug.

None of the suggestions or ideas you’ve given me so far has been at all EMBRACEABLE.  Please, give me something plausible and feasible that I can actually use!



Before we look at the adverb FORMERLY, let’s first look at the adjective FORMER. FORMER describes something that existed in a previous time.  Synonyms include earlier, bygone, past, and long ago.

The Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted was restored to its FORMER glory in 2004 and has been named “Britain’s most beautiful cinema” by the BBC.

Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan are just three of fifteen independent states of the FORMER Soviet Union.

FORMER also describes people who have had a particular position or status in the past. Synonyms for this usage include ex-, previous, preceding, and prior.

Most of the managers in the major leagues are FORMER players.

Since leaving office, FORMER Vice President Al Gore has published a number of books about the impact of global warming and other environmental issues.

A FORMER world heavyweight boxing champion recently bought a house in our town, so we often run into him at the local supermarket or gas station.

The phrase THE FORMER is used to refer to the first of two things or people mentioned or discussed (often used with “the latter” to refer to the second).

Alex had to decide between taking out a student loan and going to university or working on a fishing boat in Alaska for a year to save up money.  He chose the FORMER.

If I had dual citizenship and had to choose between Japan and America, I think would choose THE FORMER (over the latter).

The director has two new movies out this year, “BloodQuest” and “Wedding March.”  THE FORMER is a horror film and the latter is a romantic comedy.

One common idiom associated with FORMER is BE A SHADOW OF ONE’S FORMER SELF, which means to not have the strength, influence, or appearance that you used to have.  Look at this example:

After nearly six months of undergoing treatment for cancer, Danielle returned to work, cured of the disease but A SHADOW OF HER FORMER SELF.

Sadly, over the past two seasons, the aging one-time superstar has only been A SHADOW OF HIS FORMER SELF and will no doubt announce his retirement at the end of the season.

Now let’s go back to the adverb, FORMERLY.   FORMERLY means in earlier times or in the past.  Synonyms include previously and at one time.

Thailand, FORMERLY known as Siam, is a constitutional monarchy, headed by King Rama IX.

FORMERLY a concert pianist, Dorothea now divides her time between raising her two young children and teaching piano at the local elementary school.

Alison’s newly remodeled home was FORMERLY a traditional village pub and inn.



INITIATE is a verb that means to make something begin.  Synonyms include launch, instigate, and establish.  Some informal synonyms include kick off, trigger, and spark or spark off.

Many experts believe that the current economic climate is not an auspicious time to INITIATE new business ventures.

The government has INITIATED a child-care assistance program to encourage young, unskilled, single mothers to return to school and further their education.

Concerned parents can use the material in this handbook to INITIATE discussion about drug abuse with their children.

Marcus is a good worker, but he cannot really be relied upon to come up with new ideas or to INITITIATE new projects.

INITIATE (often used with “into”) also means to introduce someone to an activity or skill. Synonyms include teach about, instruct in, familiarize with, and indoctrinate.

Matthew’s adventurous grandfather INITIATED him into the joys of mountain and rock climbing when Matthew was only nine years old. 

Child stars that have access to large sums of money at a young age are often INITIATED into alcohol and drugs even before they become teenagers.

Finally, INITIATE also refers to making someone a member of a group, typically with a ritual.  Synonyms include admit, induct, recruit, and enlist.

After a grueling week of performing humiliating dares and brutal tasks, James was finally INITIATED into the Alpha Sigma Pi fraternity house.

As a noun, an INITIATE is a person who has been (recently) INITIATED into an organization or skill.  Synonyms include novice, newcomer, new recruit, and apprentice.

The freshman INITIATES were brought into the sisterhood in a secret ceremony held in the basement of the Kappa Sigma sorority house.

In many indigenous tribes, elders take young male INITIATES away from the community and the concerns of everyday life to teach them the ways of adulthood. 

An INITIATION is the act of making someone a member of a group or organization, often with a special ceremony.  Synonyms include induction, admittance, and ordination.

Inner-city gangs often require new members to commit crimes as part of their INITIATION into the gang.

A few years ago, several photojournalists sneaked in and filmed the famous secret society’s absurd INITIATION rites.

INITIATION can also refer to the act of introducing someone to a particular skill or activity.

Last week’s event in Oahu was David’s first INITIATION into the thrilling world of professional competitive surfing.

INITIATION also means the action of beginning something. Synonyms include beginning, commencement, launch, and inauguration.

The INITIATION of trade talks between the two neighboring countries could ultimately bring peace and prosperity to the region.

INITIATIVE is a noun that has several uses.  First, INITIATIVE means a new or special plan or idea for dealing with a particular problem.  Synonyms include scheme, strategy, proposal, measure, and action.

A new national INITIATIVE encourages parents to spend just a few minutes a day reading aloud to their children.

Many cities around the country have set up and put into practice “zero-waste” recycling INITIATIVES.

INITIATIVE also means a person’s ability to INITIATE something on his or her own.   Synonyms include self-motivation, resourcefulness, and inventiveness.

Though it is no longer the case, in the past, Japanese students were seldom required to display INITIATIVE in the classroom, and were expected to sit quietly and absorb the teacher’s lecture.

Two phrases, TAKE THE INITIATIVE and SEIZE THE INITIATIVE refer to a person’s power or opportunity to act or gain an advantage before someone else.

If you want to get to know your new colleagues better, perhaps you should TAKE THE INITIATIVE and invite them out for a drink.

Though Emily can be relied upon to carry out orders to the letter, she is not one to TAKE THE INITIATIVE.  In other words, she’s a follower not a leader.

The company managed to SEIZE THE INITIATIVE and develop a device that is miles ahead of its competitors’ products.

In the United States, an INITIATIVE is an electoral process through which ordinary citizens can suggest new laws by signing a petition.

The INITIATIVES on the county ballot this time range in subject from the building of a light-rail mass transit system to legalizing marijuana.

INITIAL is another word associated with INITIATE.  INITIAL can be both a noun and an adjective.  As a noun, an INITIAL is the first letter of a person’s first name.  It is often used in its plural form, INITIALS.

“What do the INITIALS K.V. in your name stand for, Ms. Capan?”  “Katarina Vanja.”

As an adjective, INITIAL means happening first or at the beginning.

When Mr. Hardy offered me the management position, my INITIAL reaction was to decline, but I changed my mind when I learned that I would be getting a hefty pay rise.

INITIALLY is the adverb form of INITIAL.   It means at the beginning.

The death toll following the devastating earthquake in Japan in 2011 was INITIALLY reported at around 18,000, but was later revised to just under 16,000. 



The verb DETERMINE has several uses.  Most commonly, DETERMINE means to precisely ascertain or establish something, typically as a result of research or calculation.  Synonyms include find out, discover, learn, and deduce.

Investigators at the crime scene DETERMINED that the victim had died of multiple blows to the head and chest.

The main focus of the study was to DETERMINE what if any effect bilingualism has on delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

DETERMINE also means to cause something to occur in a certain way, or to be the decisive factor in something.   Synonyms include control, decide, regulate, and influence.

Tonight’s Premier League summer transfer deadline will DETERMINE whether rising superstar Gareth Bale will play for Real Madrid or remain with the Tottenham Hotspur. 

Experts predict that it will be the women’s vote that will DETERMINE the outcome of the presidential election.

DETERMINED is a kind of adjective based on the verb DETERMINE that describes a person who is firmly decided or settled on something.  Other words similar in meaning include resolved, resolute, and steadfast.

Although she has faced some personal difficulties this academic year, Grace is DETERMINED to finish her degree and get a job teaching English in Japan.

The housing market may be in a slump, but the Garners are DETERMINED to sell their house for its true market value.  

James had a DETERMINED look on his face, as if nothing could keep him from achieving his goal.

DETERMINEDLY is the adverb form of DETERMINED.

For such a DETERMINEDLY cheerful person, Gabriel has known and suffered a lot of pain and hardships in his life.

DETERMINING is another adjective form.  It means decisive or critical or most important.

For Karl, the DETERMINING factor for his accepting the job was not the high salary but the challenge and sense of accomplishment the work itself offers.

DETERMINATION is a noun that means a feeling of fixed or strong purpose. Synonyms for DETERMINATION include resolution, willpower, perseverance, and purposefulness.

The brothers’ DETERMINATION to live “rough” in Alaska for thirty days was tested by a lashing winter storm soon after their arrival.

The African women in the Food for Work and Food for Training programs are learning to shape their own futures and to look at life with hope and DETERMINATION.

DETERMINATION may also simply mean a decision or state of being.

“I’ll make my final DETERMINATION tomorrow, after I have slept on it,” the judge said.

To set monthly policy payment rates, our new life insurance plan takes an individual’s current health, lifestyle, and genetic DETERMINATION into account.  



SIMULTANEOUS is an adjective that means happening or done at the same time as something else.  Synonyms include concurrent, coinciding, and synchronized.

The new software enables SIMULTANEOUS searching of multiple sites and databases.

Five SIMULTANEOUS car bomb attacks occurred in different sections of Jerusalem last night.

Prior to a visit by India’s top diplomat to Beijing, Chinese and Indian border troops agreed to a SIMULTANEOUS withdrawal from a disputed area.

One commonly heard phrase is SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETING, or SI.  This is when an interpreter translates the message being spoken while the speaker is speaking.  In Consecutive Interpreting (CI), the interpreter speaks after the speaker has finished speaking.

To practice SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETING, try putting on headphones connected to your radio or TV and interpreting as you listen to the news or other discussion program.

And just for the record, in mathematics, SIMULTANEOUS EQUATIONS are equations that have two or more unknown quantities, such as 2y+x=20.  Two unknowns require two equations to be solved at the same time.


The new SKY TV box allows you to watch and record up to three different programs SIMULTANEOUSLY.

In a lucky break, we may be able to sell both of our small investment properties SIMULTANEOUSLY at a very nice profit.

Plans are underway to broadcast the “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary Special SIMULTANEOUSLY around the globe so fans everywhere can watch it together.

SIMULTANEITY and SIMULTANEOUSNESS are two noun forms that mean the act of something happening at the same time.

It is vital that the switches be turned on in perfect SIMULTANEITY.

The SIMULTANEOUSNESS of the shining of the spotlight on the two stars was arranged to ensure that neither felt slighted or less important than the other.

And just for the record, SIMULCAST is both a verb and a noun related to SIMULTANEOUS.   As a verb, SIMULCAST means to broadcast a program or event across more than one medium, such as on TV and radio at the same time.    As a noun, a SIMULCAST is a SIMULCASTED program.   It is a portmanteau word (a word formed by merging two words) for SIMULTANEOUS and broadcast.

Many Japanese anime TV programs are SIMULCASTED or available to stream online with subtitles for viewers outside of Japan.

The first ever concert SIMULCAST was Frank Zappa’s Halloween special, broadcast live from New York City’s Palladium on MTV and on FM radio.



TOPPLE is a good action verb that means to become unsteady and fall down, or to make something or someone do this.  Synonyms include fall, tumble, lose one’s balance, knock over, and push over.

I was laughing so hard at Richard’s jokes that I nearly TOPPLED off my barstool!

Michelle lost her footing as she stepped onto the stones and TOPPLED over backwards into the murky pond.

Malcolm is a genuine hoarder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if all the “stuff” he has stacked up in his house TOPPLED over someday and buried him alive.

It would take a very strong wind to TOPPLE the giant oak trees that border the golf course. 

Heavy snow in North Dakota has TOPPLED utility poles and lines, cut power to thousands of households, and made travel virtually impossible.

TOPPLE also means to make someone lose their position of power or authority.  Synonyms for this usage include overthrow, oust, unseat, bring down, and get rid of.

The American government waged a war to TOPPLE an evil dictator in Iraq, yet it continues to ignore the atrocities committed by dictators in countries such as Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan. 

Tune in next week for new words from Passages, Lesson FIVE!