Studylist of the Week: Celebrity Reputations

The public loves a scandal, so gossip and rumors abound about our favorite famous people.  VocabNetwork’s Celebrity Reputations studylist highlights some of the titillating stories about celebs that may — or may not — be true.


Suing Britney Spears for sexual harassment?  Seems crazy!

Britney maintains that her former bodyguard is only looking for money, and his accusations are completely baseless (without foundation in fact).


Michael Phelps’ Olympic celebrity has made him an unwitting target for the tabloid News of the World.

Their latest attempt to sully (place doubt upon) the swimmer’s reputation involves his abilities not in the pool, but in the bedroom.


Could Emma Watson really be the victim of bullying?  Even at Brown University?

Not so, she says.  The ‘Harry Potter’ star says that the accusations against her peers were preposterous (contrary to reason or common sense) and “beyond unfair.”


Did Brad and Angie first get together while Brad was still married to Jennifer Aniston?

Brad has fiercely denied the allegation (accusation made with little or no proof), but the fans will probably always wonder.


Do you follow celebrity stories?  Have any hot gossip to share?  Tell us about a juicy new piece of celebrity news, and we’ll make it into a Vocablet!

Awesome Plants

Plants are amazing!

Great Banyan Tree, Calcutta Botanical Gardens

This is one tree. It is over 210 years old and has a circumference of over 1/2km.  From a distance, it has the semblance of a forest, but what appear to be individual trees are actually aerial (growing above ground) roots — around 2,800 of them!

Many plants are more than meets the eye. The Awesome Plants studylist on includes flora with special tricks up their sleeves — er, stems.


These glowing mushrooms are like a black light poster come to life.  As darkness falls, a soft green glow emanates from the bioluminescent (naturally producing light) fungi.



Popularly known as a pitcher plant or monkey cup, this one is carnivorous (able to trap and digest small animals). Ants, other insects, spiders, scorpions, and centipedes are at the top of its menu.



The Rafflesia is a parasite with a bloom over 3 feet (1 meter) across! For all its beauty, it reeks (smells bad) like rotting meat to attract insects such as flies for pollination.


Plants are all around, forming the base of the food chain and filling our atmosphere with the oxygen we breathe.  Do we notice them?  Here are a couple that would be hard to miss.

A tribe in India figured out a unique method of building bridges — they grew them!  Part of the incredibly strong root system of the Indian Rubber plant is trained to go across and down. This takes 10-15 years. The bridges flourish (are strong and healthy) and actually get stronger as time goes on.  Some are 500 years old!

 These bizarre trees can only be found on the island of Socotra, located just east of the Horn of Africa.  Being so isolated, fully one-third of its plants are endemic (native and confined to the region).  With such unusual flora decorating the landscape, it’s no wonder Socotra has been called the most alien place on Earth.


Ready to study the above vocabulary in the Awesome Plants studylist?

Want to check out vocab words in more snippets about weird and wonderful plants?
The images below are in our Awesome Plants2 studylist.






Come visit  Log In, sign up (the whole site is free during our beta), or click the orange “Try out the site now” button.  To see a lot more vocab words as they appear in plants-related articles/media, go to the red Vocab tab on the page header and select Nature then Plants.

What are the plants like where you live?  Post a comment and we’ll make a Vocablet out of the “story” you submit.

Studylist of the Week: Fashion

Fashion is a fast-paced, forever-changing world of innovation and artistry.  VocabNetwork’s Fashion studylist highlights some of the good, the bad, and the strange creations of this influential industry.


The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was filled with fashion choices bordering on the bizarre.

The biggest faux pas (embarrassing mistake that breaks a social convention) was Princess Beatrice of York’s giant bow-like monstrosity — but it later sold for over $100,000!


Fashionistas draw inspiration from all kinds of art forms, including dance.

The chic (elegantly and stylishly fashionable) topknot look is borrowed from ballerinas, giving its wearer an aura of beauty and grace.



Lady Gaga’s fashion choices could be called big, bold, unusual, and eccentric (not according to what is generally done and slightly strange).

Sometimes her ensembles may cross the line into the bizarre, but one thing is for sure — they’re never boring!



Victoria’s Secret conjures images of tall, thin, gorgeous models strutting down runways in underwear and high heels.

The brand’s (product line or distinctive name identifying a company) most iconic images are their Angels, sporting huge feathered wings to match their lingerie.


Are you a fashion fanatic?  Do you make your own clothes, hit up expensive boutiques, or browse thrift stores for great finds?  How does fashion influence your life?

Studylist of the Week: Google Projects

Nowadays, many people don’t “search” for information online, they “google” something.  The word has become synonymous with searching for all kinds of information, from basic web searches to scholarly research to mapping directions from here to there.

Google’s efforts have connected people and information in new and changing ways.  However, having control over much of the Internet’s information is a big job, and not every project goes smoothly.

VocabNetwork’s Google Projects studylist highlights some of Google’s innovative efforts and technological missteps.


The future is now: Google’s autonomous (able to make decisions free from outside control) cars actually drive themselves!

It sounds like something out of science fiction, but these cars have already driven themselves over 140,000 miles.



It seemed like a great idea at first: digitize every book ever published and make them freely available online.

Unfortunately, Google’s attempt to free literature was derailed (brought to a sudden stop) by copyright laws and a huge legal settlement.



Google caused some controversy when it picked up more than just images with its Street View cameras.

The cars accidentally collected wi-fi data from hotspots in Canada, contravening (going against) the country’s privacy laws.



Never one to back down from a challenge, Google has taken on a task that literature experts have been struggling with for centuries.

Researchers are working on a computer that can understand and translate (make sense of a language) poetry.


What do you think of Google’s attempts to free all information?  Are they doing good work or are they infringing too far on people’s right to privacy?

Studylist of the Week: The Power of Water

Most often, we humans use water in ways that are beneficial to us.  We take hot showers, visit calm freshwater lakes, build water parks, and surf on the ocean’s waves.

Because water is usually our friend, sometimes we forget the incredible destructive force that it can be.  The Power of Water studylist showcases some of the more spectacular ways that water has shown its strength and wreaked havoc on human lives.


Tsunamis, also called tidal waves, are like huge walls of water that can be over 100 feet high.

They are usually caused by underwater earthquakes, which trigger a series of huge ocean waves that send surges (sudden forceful flows) of water onto land.



Floods and mudslides damaged the country’s infrastructure and left thousands of people homeless in Venezuela in late 2010.

The disasters were caused by torrential (flowing or falling fast and in great quantities) rain that the land couldn’t absorb.



Water cascaded (rushed down in big quantities) from the Morganza floodway in Louisiana after its gate was opened in an effort to lower the Mississippi River.

Allowing the water to flood the area takes pressure off the levees protecting New Orleans and Baton Rouge.



When an 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook the ocean off the coast of Japan, it set off a series of tsunami waves.

The huge waves inundated (filled or covered completely) cities and towns along 1,300 miles of coastline, causing huge amounts of damage.



Have you ever seen the awesome — and sometimes terrible — power of water in action?  Have you experienced a torrential rain or a surge of water in a hurricane?

Vocablets in the News: They’re Slow, They’re Slimy, and They’ll Eat Your House

What’s the story behind the snippet?  Let’s dive deeper and see what’s really going on.

The Word:

Snails?  A menace?  But they seem so harmless!

How could something that doesn’t even have limbs or teeth possibly be a threat?

The Story:

Miami Invaded By Giant, House-Eating Snails (NPR, 17 Sept 2011)

These aren’t the ordinary snails you find in your garden or stuck to the sidewalk after a heavy rain.  These are Giant African Land Snails, which grow to an incredible ten inches long.

The animals are restricted in the United States, but people often smuggle them into the country in their pockets as unusual novelty pets.

The environment here isn’t designed to handle them, so they multiply rapidly, threatening local species of plants and animals and disrupting the ecosystem.

Hey, is that stucco? Looks tasty...

Why It Matters:

The snails aren’t just huge versions of your everyday garden snail, however.  They carry rat-lung worm, which can transmit meningitis to humans.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the snails will also latch onto the stucco on the side of houses and eat through it like huge, slimy termites.

An introduction in 1965 took ten years and a million dollars to clear out the seventeen thousand snails that had invaded the area.

Making It Memorable:

Another type of non-native menace is kudzu, a vine from China and Japan that has been growing at an alarming rate in the southeastern United States.  What are some other examples of non-native species wreaking havoc on local ecosystems?

Want to study all the hidden words linked in this post?  Go to the Snails: blog VitN studylist on VocabNetwork!

Studylist of the Week: What People Will Do

People do crazy things.

We wage war, win Olympic medals, find cures for diseases, jump out of airplanes, and dive beneath the oceans.  We are capable of such strong compassion and love, but we also have the ability to create unthinkable hatred and violence.

The history of humanity is full of stories of the bizarre, misguided, amazing, tragic, shocking, inspiring, and sometimes just plain weird things that human beings are capable of.

The What People Will Do studylist highlights some of these stories.


While tattoos aren’t that uncommon anymore, Lucky Diamond Rich has taken body art to an extreme level.

He has a preponderance (the majority) of his body tattooed, with over 99.9% of his skin covered in ink, even his eyelids and the insides of his ears!



An Afghan girl was mutilated (part of the body destroyed causing injury and spoiling its appearance) by her husband, a Taliban fighter, when she tried to run away.

While she has recently been given a new prosthetic nose, her story brings to light the dangers faced by women in the Middle East.


Eskil Ronningsbakken has put circus tightrope walkers to shame with this incredible feat.

Suspended 1,000 meters over a Norwegian fjord (long narrow coastal inlet with steep sides), balancing on a rope while upside down on a bicycle!


People have been known to eat weird things — brains, hair, even other people.

None of this compares to Michel Lotito, who has the unique ability to consume (eat or drink) up to two pounds of glass and metal per day!


Do you have any unusual talents or abilities?  Have you ever achieved something that other people would think was crazy?

Studylist of the Week: Natural Remedies

Chicken soup, vitamin C, gargling with salt water, herbal teas, heating pads…

Most of us know at least a few non-pharmaceutical ways to feel better when we’re sick or hurting.  VocabNetwork’s Natural Remedies studylist showcases some of the more unusual ways that nature can treat what ails us.


Human beings have known for millennia about the psychedelic properties of magic mushrooms, using them for ritual and recreation.

Now, research has found that these “shrooms” can alleviate (make more bearable) pain in cancer patients.  Some even say they lose their fear of death after the experience!


Medicine from shark tissue?  Believe it!  Scientists have discovered a compound in sharks called squalamine that works as a potent antiviral.

The efficacy (ability to produce the intended result) of the compound of fighting chronic infections is remarkable, and could prove useful in many hospitals.


Cockroaches are usually thought to spread disease not fend  it off (defend somebody or something from harm).

However, newly-discovered chemicals in the brains of cockroaches have been found to kill E. Coli and even MRSA (a strain of staph infection resistant to antibiotics).



One potential remedy known for its surprising antibacterial properties is Manuka honey from New Zealand.

Ancient cultures saw it as a kind of panacea (hypothetical remedy for all ills and diseases) due to its ability to treat a variety of ailments, from colds and flus to wounds and rashes.


Would you be open to an unusual type of treatment, like magic mushrooms, if you had terminal cancer?  What kinds of natural remedies do you use?

How To: Studylist Manager

You’ve explored VocabNetwork a little bit, you’ve reviewed the studylists that VocabNetwork suggested when you signed up, you’ve checked out the Walkthrough, and you’re starting to get comfortable with VN.

Now you’re thinking you’d like to make your own studylists, or edit existing ones to better suit your needs.

Introducing Studylist Manager!

Your Studylist Manager can be found at the bottom left of any page — the gray tab that says “Studylist Manager.”  This is where you can create, edit, and quickly view the studylists in your collection.

Viewing Studylists

1. Click on the Studylist Manager tab at the bottom of your Dashboard page.

(Click any image to enlarge)

2. If it’s not already selected, click the My Studylists tab in your Studylist Manager.

Making Studylists

1. Click on the Vocab tab to see all the Vocablets on VN.

2. When you find a Vocablet that you would like to have in a studylist, click on the red button over the image that says Add to a Studylist.

3. Click on the arrow at the top right of the Vocablet thumbnail to see the full definition and snippet, or to remove the Vocablet from your Studylist Manager.

4. When you’ve added all the Vocablets you want in your new studylist, select Create a NEW Studylist and click the green Save button.

5. Next, name your studylist, choose one or two Interest Areas for it, and save it as public (meaning all VocabNetwork users can see and use it) or private (so only you can see and use it).

That’s it!  Now you can review your new studylist using FlashCards or quiz yourself with it using the Word Test.

Have more questions about Studylist Manager?  Check out our FAQ, ask us here, or contact us at

Vocablets in the News: Price Gouging on Life-Saving Medicine

What’s the story behind the snippet?  Let’s take a closer look.

The Word:

When I saw this Vocablet, I knew I had to investigate further.  The idea that a hospital might not have the medicines it needs to treat patients or that the unreasonably high cost of medicine might prevent hospitals from being able to properly care for patients is unsettling, to say the least.

The whole story paints a troubling picture of health care in the United States, touching on the issues of relying on for-profit industries in life-and-death situations.

The Story:

Hospital Drug Shortages Prove Costly and Deadly (NPR, 24 Sept 2011)

Hospitals are facing a growing crisis in shortages of important drugs, including those for chemotherapy, pain management, and battling infection.

These shortages force hospitals to buy medicines from secondary vendors, most of which increase the price of these ordinarily inexpensive drugs by an average of 650 percent.  In one extreme case, a drug for high blood pressure that usually costs $25.90 was priced at $1,200.

The main causes of these shortages, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are manufacturing problems, such as contamination.  Some companies have also stopped producing these drugs altogether because of their slim profit margins.

Companies are not required to alert the FDA when they choose to stop manufacturing drugs, which means that the FDA cannot know to start looking for new sources of a drug until a shortage has been reported.

Why It Matters:

The shortages have required hospitals to delay surgeries and cancer treatments, caused patients unnecessary pain, and forced hospitals to give less effective treatments.

If shortages continue, hospitals will no longer be able to absorb the costs, leaving insurers and patients to pick up the tab.

Drug shortages are affecting research, preventing scientists from working on clinical studies and developing new treatments.  These effects are long-term, and could seriously delay the advancement of medicine.

There are risks involved in buying from secondary vendors.  Hospitals can’t know if those drugs were stolen, if they were refrigerated properly, if they were manufactured properly and safely, or even if they are past the expiration date.

Legislation is pending to increase penalties for drug thefts from warehouses and to require companies to altert the FDA when they anticipate a shortage.  However, only three states currently have legislation against price-gouging medicines.

Meanwhile, drug shortages have directly caused at least 15 deaths, but many deaths and harmful side effects go unreported.

Making It Memorable:

What did YOU think when you saw this Vocablet?  Do you have any thoughts or stories about drug shortages or other problems with healthcare in the U.S.?  How is this Vocablet and its story memorable to you?