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This section serves to expand your regular vocabulary. What separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls, if you want to equalize things) is v o c a b u l a r y. We cannot stress this point enough. People who have a larger vocabulary have been shown to make more money and get promoted more often.

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Term Definition

(pronounced AB-ruh-gayt )

If you abrogate something, then you either treat it as if it doesn’t exist or you abolish or annul it. Yes, it’s a strong verb, so use it carefully!

Example: The architectural firm’s decade-old rule that had abrogated the wearing of blue jeans or Bermuda shorts on Fridays in the summer was recently removed from the employee handbook.


(pronounced a-SIR-bik)

A great way to remember what this word means: think acid. Yes, this descriptor means sharp and bitter in tone, temper, or mood. And I think we all know someone like this. (Just don’t let that someone be you.)

Example: During studio peer review, Kelly’s bitterness permeated the room; after his negative evaluation, he just couldn’t hold back his the acerbic remarks that were flooding his brain.


(pronounce ak-wee-ESS)

Though this word looks like it might have some kind of relationship to water - i.e., aqua- it doesn’t. So get that out of your head. (Sorry we even mentioned it.) Anyway, when you acquiesce, it means that you comply with and accept an idea or situation passively, without a struggle or objection. Takin’ it eaaaasy.

Example: To hold on to his job (that he desperately needs), Gordon always acquiesces when his workaholic boss demands he stay late at the office, even on Friday nights.


(pronounced AS-theet or ehs-THEET)

Also spelled esthete, this term refers to a person who is devoted to and cultivates a heightened appreciation of beauty as it relates to the arts, which could include fine art, decorative art, architecture and design, fashion, music, literature, film and cuisine. Possessing an aesthetic sense is appealing, while acting hoity-toity and highfalutin is simply annoying.

Example: Having an aesthete for an interior design client was quite a challenge to Pam, though she enjoyed the challenge, especially when it came to incorporating his extensive collection of antique musical instruments into the project.


(pronounced a-fehk-TAY-shehn)

If someone you know often has an affectation, try not to slap him or her, though it will take a great deal of will power. (Eye-rolling might be a safer alternative.) An affectation is the act of exhibiting pretentious behavior that is not at all natural to a person’s personality and normal demeanor; when someone is a “fake” or artificial in conduct, speech, and/or emotional expression. In other words: putting on a “show” for the people around you. Leave affectations to The Master Thespian. Acting! Thank you!

Example: While taking minutes at the meeting, Yvonne resisted the temptation to record the derogatory whispers in response to Jon’s relentless, cringe-worthy affectation, which he mistakenly felt earned him respect instead of jeers.


(pronounced eh-FISH-ee-uh-nah-doh)

The pursuit of knowledge and pleasure sets us apart from the other creatures on this earth, and those of us humans who thoroughly enjoy, passionately become educated about, ardently appreciate and devote our time to a particular activity or interest are called aficionados.

Example: Beth’s client proudly proclaimed himself a vintage car aficionado, so when planning his new residence, she took just as great care to detail and finish out his expanded garage as she did when designing the rest of his home.

afoul of

(pronounced eh-FOWL-uv)

Here’s a very concise way to say that one (hopefully not you) has gotten himself into conflict, collision or entanglement with something or someone. The phrase is most commonly used with the verb “run.”

Example: Without realizing it, the design team had run afoul of the latest patient privacy laws in their layout for the clinic prototype they developed for and presented to the company’s board of directors and facility management team.


(pronounced eh-MAL-gehm)

Though this word is used to describe an alloy of mercury, for our purposes here, we’re using its other definition: a combination of diverse elements.

Example: After formulating a concept for her client’s new global corporate headquarters, Jan presented the trading company with an amalgam of Japanese, Chinese and Thai motifs as to acknowledge their rich Asian history.


(pronounced AM-bee-ehnt or AM-bee-uhnt)

An adjective that describes a sensory element – whether it be light, sound, smell or touch (commonly in the form of temperature) – in regard to one’s environment. This characteristic envelops those who experience it. Enough with the mumbo-jumbo already – let’s use it in some sentences.

Example: So that visitors would have adequate ambient light in which to study, the lighting designer planned for evenly spaced fluorescent lighting throughout the library. Since the ambient noise in the stacks would be extremely low, she was sensitive to the possibility of lamp buzz related to the fluorescent fixtures. However, since fluorescent lighting gives off little heat compared to incandescent sources, the designer knew the lamps would contribute little to the ambient temperature of the library.


(pronounced uh-MOR-fehs)

Remember this word by picturing an amoeba. You know – an ever-changing protozoan that you’ve seen either on the Discovery Channel, under a microscope in high school science class, or in creepy science fiction flicks. Yes, the word amorphous is an adjective meaning without a clearly defined form or shape – i.e., without structure. The term isn’t limited to microscopic organisms, though. It can be applied to other, more intangible things, describing them as unclassifiable / unknown or lacking unity and organization.

Example: When she returned to work after only three sick days, Jackie was horrified to review the amorphous mess of a proposal that her project team submitted in response to the potential new client’s RFP.


(pronounced AM-per-sand)

We have discovered that many interior design related student organizations are coming together on their respective campuses under the umbrella of one name. One of the common ones we have heard is “Ampersand”. Therefore, we thought it fitting to include this entry, which we have taken directly from World Wide Words, our favorite word-obsessed website: “This name for the character ‘&’ is surprisingly recent, not being known before the nineteenth century, though the character itself was in use long before printing was invented. It started life as a Roman scribe's abbreviation of the Latin ‘et’, meaning ‘and’, and became common in the early medieval period. It was later taken over as an abbreviation for the English word ‘and’.” To read more, go directly to Issue 637 of World Wide Words.

Example: PLiNTH & CHiNTZ, along with several other design-oriented enterprises, uses an ampersand as part of its name and logo


(pronounced a-nihk-DOH-tehl)

As you might imagine, this term means of, relating to, or consisting of anecdotes and the depiction of a scene suggesting a story, but it also is used to describe something that is based on or contains reports of intuitive, yet unproven, observation. The example uses the former definition.

Example: Within her weekly project reports Olivia often included excessive anecdotal detail, causing them to be twice as long as necessary and confusing the rest of the project team.


(pronounced eh-PLAHM)

This term means poise, skillfulness, and confidence shown when challenged with a taxing situation.

Example: The fact that Yolanda conducted herself with seamless aplomb at the extraordinarily tense client interview made her supervisor realize how much she had grown and how deserving she was of a promotion.


(pronounced AH-pray)

A French term meaning “after.” It is usually combined with another word to form a noun. The most frequently combination is with the word “ski”: après-ski (to mean social activities at hotels / restaurants in ski resort towns in the evenings).

Example: After a long trade show activities and continuing education seminars, many of conference attendees were ready to wind down with the après-dinner entertainment.


(pronounced a-preh-POH)

This flexible little French word can function as adverb, adjective, and/or preposition. Let’s take the definitions in order, shall we? As an adverb it means with regard to the present topic or at an appropriate time. As an adjective it means relevant and applicable. As a preposition it means concerning and with regard to, and you’d use it with the word “of”, as in “apropos of…” We’ll use the adjective version in our example sentence.

Example: In light of the hellish project that she had just lived through, Violet felt that her words of warning on the firm’s existing contractual agreement were quite apropos.

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