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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Hairy Problem

One of the great advantages of the11+ examination is that parents can say – with a correct and solemn face: `You know you really do have to read to develop your vocabulary.’ What sort of book would your child need to read if the word `Trichology’ appeared as part of the plot? As adults we know that the word is to do with the study of hair.

My Microsoft Word immediately underlined `Trichology’ with a serrated red line – indicating that the word is not in this version of Microsoft’s dictionary. Naturally a number of the old fashioned book dictionaries were able to define and explain the meaning of the word. The word did not, however, appear in a well known children’s dictionary.

This then is the problem. Sometimes when our children are learning they are children and they are expected to use children’s words. At other times they have to cross the thin red line and use words and concepts like much older people. It is perfectly correct for child to be able describe a person as being `bald’. It may not be very good taste to describe someone as being `follically challenged’.

If, however, we had used the word `tresses’ we may have thought of a woman’s hair – but `pelt’ could have brought a man’s head to mind.

To be perfectly honest it is extremely unlikely that a word like `Trichology’ will appear in an 11+ paper. If the word did sneak onto the paper it would only be in a question like: `Which letter appears in the first word but not in the second?’

What a waste of a perfectly valuable word.

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