There are certain words that are best avoided if there can be any hope of keeping freshmen engaged with the curriculum you had planned to cover. Words related to body parts, bodily functions, or drugs will get attention for what they actually are. The words I seek to bring attention to and caution teachers about, however, simply sound naughty. Their meaning is far different from what the average ninth-grader thinks of when you naively use it with them.
I’m not advocating banning these words; in fact, hearty discussions on word usage and meaning can make English bloom for the students. But even the most patient teacher is only willing to travel down so many rhetorical garden paths when there are expectations regarding curriculum, and so here are the obstacles you may want to avoid:
Body parts and functions:
Heinous sounds too much like anus, penal like penis, and tentacles like testicles. My colleague actually had a kid confuse the last two: in describing the mighty kraken, he said that it would “grab you with its giant testicles.” Oy!
Assiduous has the word ass in it: avoid it if you can. Then again, ass is also in assonance; and while they almost always forget sibilance and consonance, they remember assonance. Maybe we should encourage an assiduous study of words with body parts in them. Armistice is not quite as engaging, but legendary but is always good for a hearty chuckle.
Do you really need titular in your vocab when there’s the nondescript nominal or ceremonial available? Oh really? In front of a class of freshmen, even? Perv.
I once used a vocab book with sophomores where one chapter had both chronic and blunt. C’mon, people. You’re killing me here. Might as well put it on page 420.
And Steinbeck? That incident in Weed in Of Mice and Men? Hey, thank you for waking up the back row.