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Meanings of words | Worked example

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- [Instructor] This is a short passage with a single question, so I'm going to read the question first. Which of the following could be substituted for the phrase traffics in in the first sentence with the least change in meaning? I don't even wanna look at these yet. In fact what I would suggest to you as we work through this together, if you're gonna solve this along with me, cover up the choices with your hand. So I've got two approaches for this, but before I get to those two approaches, first let me just read the passage. Art, or at least art that matters, oh oh, traffics in (laughing) a space between the world as it might be and the world as it is. So this is what we wanna key in on is traffics in. Whether we feel better or worse about ourselves in its midst, its here referring to art, whether we feel better or worse about ourselves in its midst depends on the kinds of artists involved, but either way, the best artists make us want to linger in the spaces they concoct if only because afterward the real world comes more clearly into focus. Okay so we've got this, all right whatever traffics in means in this context, it's setting up a distinction between the world as it might be and the world as it is. And the best artists make us want to linger in the spaces they concoct, so the world as it might be, and afterwards the world as it is, the real world. So if I take what I know about the word traffic in its normal definition, the way that the word is normally used, it's like cars or people moving. Right, that's traffic. So I'm going to say that this has a connotation of motion. Art is moving back and forth between the world as it might be and the world as it is. So my first strategy here is to come up with a definition in my own words, my best guess. So moving back and forth or just moves for my first technique is I wanna test my definition against these other options. Right because we're looking for something that can be substituted without changing the sentence or changing the sentence the least. So does clogs up mean the same thing as moving? No. Does exists in mean the same thing as moving? Not exactly. I don't wanna cross this off right now. I might, I'll come back to this later. Because this doesn't exactly match our definition, but we're also not looking to match the exact definition. We're looking to change the sentence the least. So I'm gonna leave choice B alone for now. So C, passes by, which is similar to overtakes. These are both kind of playing on the idea of the more common definition of traffic, not traffics in, but traffic, right like a snarl of traffic on a freeway, bunch of cars and buses all honking, like a big mass of vehicles that isn't moving, that kind of definition of traffic. These both kind of match my in my own words definition. They all sound like moving. So I'm gonna flag these two for later and then try the second technique. Consumes I can knock out right away because consumes sounds nothing like motion. So okay so now we have three options left, and now I wanna do my second technique, which is to plug these choices back into the sentence, replace traffics in and read that first sentence and see if it makes sense in context and see crucially if it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence very much. Art, or at least art that matters, exists in a space between the world as it might be and the world as it is. That sounds pretty good. Art, or at least art that matters, passes by a space between the world as it might be and the world as it is. Well, now that's strange because now we're talking about transcending or moving past a space instead of operating within a space. It's the word in is actually doing a great deal of heavy lifting, and that's where we're getting that back and forth part with traffics. It's not like the author is saying that important art eliminates the space between the world as it might be and the world as it is. But rather that it moves between it or connects us to the world as it might be. So I don't think that either of our literal readings of traffic make a ton of sense here. Overtakes, I don't think makes sense. Art, or at least art that matters, overtakes a space between the world as it might be and the world as it is. And that means that B is our answer. Because C and D, while they mean similar things, and while they even sound a little bit like the definition of traffics in that I came up with, to substitute in these two phrases would completely change the meaning of the sentence. We can see that the way the author was using the phrase traffics in really means something more like operates in, which is frankly just another fancier way of saying exists in or is. So we've got our two-part strategy. The first step is to come up with a definition for the phrase or the word you're trying to understand in your own words. So come up with your own personal definition for how that makes sense in the context of the sentence, what it means to you. And then test against that, eliminate what you can. Whatever you can't eliminate that way, plug that into the context that it came from. For this question in particular, we're looking for something that changes it the least because the context is what's most important here. Some choices may make sense on their own without the context of the sentence. They might even seem like obvious answers, but once you plug them back into the passage, they don't make the same kind of sense anymore.