Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

SAT Vocabulary: Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts

Karl Schellscheidt -

eprep test prep video

We all remember that classic scene in the movie Caddyshack when Carl, the Bushwood greenskeeper, plots the demise of the gopher while humming “Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts”. Based on this quote, or any number of the cleaning product commercials on TV, you might think you understand the definition of ‘grime‘. Not so fast! If you’re anything like me, you will be surprised to discover the definition is not so straightforward.

Join me in this prepcast video as I explain why it’s so critical to take the time to look up vocabulary words, not just to score higher on your SAT, but to prepare yourself for success in life.

SAT Vocabulary: Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts (transcript)

Karl Schellscheidt: Hi, I’m Karl Schellscheidt. Welcome to ePrep. I want to tell you a little story about a kid that I tutored a couple weeks ago. When I tutor kids I always sit them down, I try to simulate test conditions, and I give them a test under timed conditions. I put them in a classroom at a school or I put them in an admissions office or a place like that. I don’t worry too much about distractions or noises because there are going to be distractions like that on test day: fire alarms go off, kids are playing basketball in the gym down the hall, the class next to you gets let out two minutes earlier and there’s a raucous in the hallway. So when distractions come up I just let them go, tell kids they need to concentrate through it. We need to create simulated conditions. And simulated conditions are certainly not perfect conditions.

But there is one way I kind of cheat, and what I do is this: when I give kids the critical reading sections to do I always ask them to, in addition to trying to get the right answers, I ask them to circle all of the words that they don’t know as they’re doing the test so we can identify those words and go over them. I try to give them a definition of the word or a way that I remember it. And then I ask them to memorize those words in between sessions.

So what I usually tell kids is this, that if you’re doing question number 2 and you read answer choice A and you know it’s the right answer, on a real test you answer A and you move on in the interest of time. What I ask the students to do is even if you know A is the right answer, go through the other ones and just check them out to see if there are any words in the rest of them that you don’t know the definition of. And if you identify those words, just circle them and then move on.

What I always tell kids is, “What I’m asking you to do is going to take up a little bit of extra time so I’ll give you an extra minute or two on the test and we’ll call it even.” So while I’m a big believer in simulating conditions, that’s the one area that I cheat in sometimes.

And so we go through all the problems and I try to show kids how much easier it is if you do know all the words. What I try to do is if they circled a word like “grime,”– now here’s where I get into the story:

I’m tutoring this kid and one of the words he circled was “grime.” And I said, “What does grime mean?” It’s dirt. Grime is dirt. And how do I know that? I start thinking about how do I know that grime is dirt?

And I think, “I’ve seen it on dishwashing commercials, dishwashing liquid.” It’ll take the grease and grime out of the pots and pans. And where else have I heard it? I’ve heard it in the movie Caddyshack, “Greasy, grimy gopher guts.”

And so I’m thinking to myself, “I think the word grime means dirt,” and that’s the synonym I gave the student.

And then I thought to myself, “You know what? I have a suspicion. I think that the word grime might mean a little bit more than just dirt.” So I took the time and I actually got a dictionary. And I said, “Let’s just look up the word grime and let me give you a real definition because I think I can do a little bit better than dirt.”

So I look it up and here it is. It says, “Grime.” It’s a noun and it says, “Black dirt or soot clinging to or engrained in a surface.” That’s a lot different than dirt to me. I’m going to read it one more time, “Black dirt or soot clinging to or engrained in a surface.”

And when I read that definition, I mean this may sound really corny to you, but I feel so much smarter. I feel like I actually know what that word means and it’s not just dirt. It’s the kind of black dirt and soot that clings to the surface of something. So when you see a dishwashing liquid commercial and they’re talking about “it gets rid of grease and grime,” you’ll know that grime is the stuff that really sticks into the pots and pans, the stuff that you can’t scrub out so easily. So picture at home your mom or dad cooking and somebody burns a pot or something and it’s just burnt. And you let it soak for a while and the black stuff is just not coming out. That soot is just engrained in the surface.

So again, this may sound really corny to you, but I think that if you take the time to look up words, even words that you’ve heard a million times and seen in movies and on TV commercials and stuff like that, you will be so much better off. And I think that if you have a command for words, the kind of command that comes from knowing the actual definition of the words, you’re going to use those words with so much more authority and so much more power and it will really I think in a lot of ways change the course of the rest of your life.

I always tell kids I am a total math and science person. I love math. I love science. But to be honest with you, I can’t think of something that you can do for yourself that will give you a greater chance of succeeding in life than building your vocabulary and making it strong and being committed to actually looking up words and knowing what they really mean. And if you do that, you will be a more powerful person.

So again, it’s kind of corny that I’m doing a video on the word “grime,” but again I’m going to read it one more time in case you forgot. Grime is “the black dirt or soot clinging to or engrained in a surface.” Keep that in mind and you might pick up a point on the SAT.

Karl Schellscheidt

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