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Vaughan’s vocabulary

August 26, 2012


Recently my wife and I were listening to my iPod in our car. When 25 or 6 to 4 appeared on the screen, she said, “What a strange title of a song.” I like the title because of its catchy, rhythmic sound. I explained that pop music fans have wondered what the title was referring to. The song is about a creative artist (or artists) who had been working all night on a song. The composer looked at a clock (or watch) and saw that it was 25 or 6 to 4 (3:35 or 3:34 A.M.). Some music fans have insisted that the title is drug-related, while others thought it held some esoteric meaning. Robert Lamm, who composed the song in 1970, says that it is simply about trying to write a song when the ideas won’t come.    

Is 25 or 6 to 4 an example of belles lettres? Read on.       

1. What is the first word in the lyrics of 25 or 6 to 4?
A. quintessentially  
B. querulous
C. esoterically  
D. waiting
E. sleepless

2. Which one is not a Chicago song?
A. Along Comes Mary
B. Beginnings
C. Free
D. Loneliness is Just a Word
E. Prologue, August 29, 1968

Let’s see how you are doing. The first word in the song is “waiting.” As for No. 2, the Association (a group from Los Angeles) did Along Comes Mary. Chicago had a similar title with Along Comes a Woman. The titles next to D and E are lesser known. Loneliness is Just a Word (my favorite Chicago song) is on the Chicago III album and Prologue is on Chicago Transit Authority.

3. belles lettres (bell-LET-ruh)
A. fine art literature
B. literature excessively refined
C. literature with a purely aesthetic function
D. All of the above

I like the definitions of belles lettres from the Free Dictionary by Farlex: “literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content; light, stylish writings, usually on literary or intellectual subjects.” D is the answer to No. 3. A belletrist is a writer of belles lettres. Lamm’s song is not an example of belles lettres.   

4. esoteric (es-o-TER-ic)
A. impossible to understand
B. requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group
C. limited to a small circle
D. None of the above 

If something is esoteric, it has been designed only for the specially initiated. B and C are correct.

Last week’s mystery word is milieu.

This week’s mystery word to solve is the title of a song on Chicago XIV. The word’s first three letters are a word that appears twice in Genesis 2:7.

Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D. in Mass Communication, is a professor at East Miss. Community College. Contact him at

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