Someone brought up the infamous Rice spelling test in the comments last night so I went back and had a look at what’s in the files about it. Here’s how it came to be: In 1937 the Rice faculty, horrified and appalled by what they considered the poor command of English exhibited by the undergraduates, decided to institute a spelling requirement for graduation. This took the form of a list of words that each student had to spell correctly in order to be granted a degree. You could try more than once, which was a good thing. The earliest list was absolutely savage–about 530 words, many of them either tricky or technical and some both.
Over time the list changed, gradually getting shorter as many of the scientific terms were dropped, but it remained tricky. I haven’t been able to find any discussion of the reasons why it was dropped, but the last class subject to the requirement was either the one that entered in 1954 or 1955. (I just can’t tell from the records.) I believe that the list I’ve included here is the last one and it was down to 450 words. I didn’t have time to do a word-for-word comparison, but just eyeballing it I think that all of the words on the last list also appear on the first one, which might explain the presence of “dirigible.”
I will freely confess that there are a few words here that give me trouble.
Bonus: Blue Ford tractor pulling trash bin.
Extra Bonus: This little guy was sitting out in the grass between the Jones School and the RMC, just as bold as brass.