• sophomore •
sahf-ê-mor • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A second-year student in a U.S. four-year college or a four-year high school curriculum. 2. Someone in the second year of any activity that lasts more than two years.
Notes: Although in the US the middle vowel O is usually ignored in this Good Word, it is still there to be pronounced. Don't forget it. But the interesting twist is found in this word's adjective, sophomoric, meaning "like a sophomore" but also "puerile, exhibiting immature behavior or thought". Since freshmen have even less exposure to education, we might expect this meaning to be attached to some word freshmanly (a possible word, by the way, but meaning only "freshmanlike"). The meaning of sophomoric seems a reflection of the wisdom in the old adage, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
In Play: The two adjectives based on Greek sophos "wise" in this sentence might seem unrelated: "My Elvira is a sophisticated sophomore and not the sophomoric freshman your Egbert is." But then how often have we seen words take weirder routes? It would be sophomoric to think such wild deviations from the original impossible.
Word History: The stems underlying today's good word support the suggestion that the meaning of sophomoric fits the adage mentioned above. It is an oxymoronic compound containing Greek sophos "wise" and moron, the neuter (neither masculine nor feminine) of moros "stupid". Obviously, we also use moron straight out of the Grecian box and sophos is also prominent in the name of those who love wisdom, philosophers. One of them once said, "The more I know, the more I realize how little I know." (Today's word came from Steward the French Geek, a very sophisticated graduate of the University of Maine, who shares his love of words in the Alpha Agora.)