On my long drive back to New York this weekend, I was listening to holiday music on the radio for part of the time. One of the songs that I heard, “Home for the Holidays,” includes the line, “Gee, the traffic is terrific.” How does that sound to you out of context? To me, it sounds like driving is probably smooth sailing. Now, let’s add some more context:
From Pennsylvania, folks are travelin’
Down to Dixie’s sunny shore,
From Atlantic to Pacific,
Gee, the traffic is terrific.
What does “terrific” mean in context? In order to get there, what do we know about the traffic? Well, we know that a lot of people are traveling, and that they are going long distances. If there are lots of people on the road, it’s unfortunately pretty unlikely that the roads will be clear of traffic. Instead, the lyrics pick up on an older meaning of “terrific”: that there’s a lot of traffic. “The traffic is terrific” means—in context—that the roads are full of cars because so many people are traveling.
When you’re answering a word in context question on the SAT (or ACT), make sure you read around the word and use what you learn in order to help you figure out the meaning that you need!