The GRE, mice, and Spanish

10 September 2007
10:47 AM


I just started studying to take the GRE later this year. For the last two years my preparation has consisted of sytematically eliminating my English vocabulary and replacing it with Spanish. I can’t count the number of times lately that I’ve had an English word on the tip of my tongue only to find out that it isn’t, in fact, English. So I’m a little preocupado. Anyway, I bought Baron’s GRE book to review. When I opened it, I was relieved to find that I’m way ahead of the game.

How to use a mouse. A mouse is a small electronic device that enables you to send signals to your PC.

I knows me this mouse stuff cold.

Seriously, though, I’m interested to see if being familiar with Spanish (and therefore Latin) roots will help me decrypt unknown words. Power vocab words are often big-word restatements of small words. You know what cheap and stingey mean; parsimonious is basically the same. I have noticed a phenomenon where basic Spanish words correspond to a power English equivalent. For example, the most basic way to say second-to-last in Spanish is penúltimo, which looks like the English penultimate. Self-taught in Spanish is autodidacto, which is the English power word autodidactic.

Spanish has even helped me with my Times crossword puzzles (and believe me, I need help). A six-letter word in a recent puzzle had the clue “Renal : kidney :: amygdaline : xxxxxx.” You might think that amygdaline has to do with the brain, since that’s where the amygdala is, but brain is only five letters. Amigdala is Spanish, however, for tonsil, and that fits. So even if I bomb the GRE, at least I can do my crosswords. Well, más o menos.


I watched a video in school of Xerox testing early mouse prototypes. People who had never seen a mouse before came up with all kinds of crazy ways to interact with it. Having Barron’s mouse diagram would have been very helpful.

It reminded me a lot of that scene in Star Trek IV where Scotty tries to talk to the computer, using the mouse as a microphone. Unfortunately, the only clip of the scene on YouTube is in German.

That reminds me of a post I saw the other day with photos of the original Macintosh user guide. It’s also from 1984 and does a lot of work explaining how to use a mouse, how to click an icon, what a window is, what a scrollbar is, etc.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how novel many now commonplace user interface conventions actually were; harder still if you were born around the time they were introduced.

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