A Glamorous Education

I’m currently enjoying Sir Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative quite a bit. Robinson is one of the world’s leading experts on creativity and education. If you missed it when I posted it a few months ago, be sure to watch his excellent video, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

One of the many things I’ve learned so far reading this book is an etymological lesson on a modern word with origins I would not have guessed… a lesson I now happily pass on to you!

During the Middle Ages, when very few Western Europeans possessed any sort of education at all, the first schools that began appearing were known as schola grammatica — Grammar Schools. These schools focused primarily on teaching grammar, particularly Latin grammar. As a result, students of grammar (or, as it was rendered in Ye Olde English, gramarye or glomerye) became revered by the uneducated masses because of their fancy speech… it almost seemed magical! It is for this reason that the word “glamour” came to refer to things which are found to be fascinating or alluring.

(If you have trouble seeing how the word evolved in this way, simply try saying the word “grammar” in your best theatrical British accent with a trilled /r/ sound)

So grammar = glamour. Neat, huh?


In one chapter, Robinson includes a few IQ tests courtesy of Mensa. I’m usually pretty good at this sort of test, but this one stumped me. If you think you know the answer (no Googling allowed… not that it would help you!), leave it in the comments.

What letter should come next in the sequence?

M Y V S E H M S J R S N U S N E P ?

10 comments on “A Glamorous Education

  1. Enoch says:

    Very interesting connection between grammar and glamour. I always found there was something alluring about sentence structure.

    I supect you underestimate the power of Google, because I’m afraid I did look up your brain teaser and it did, in fact, help. Mostly I was just impatient; after all, I stared at it for a whole fifteen seconds!

    However, I won’t reveal the answer here, in case you want to give legitimate contestants a shot at answering. I will give this clue, however: the common element that unites these letters has been modified since this puzzle must have been invented, because now, the last letter given and the letter you are supposed to figure out technically haven’t belonged in this string of letters since 2006.

    • John Gardner says:

      I bow to your superior Googling skills, as my admittedly half-hearted search didn’t find the answer. I considered modifying the question to account for contemporary scholarship, but as a child of the 80’s, I contend that the final letters still ought to belong to this string…

  2. Enoch says:

    Reblogged this on oldworldforthenew and commented:
    John Gardner mused on the allure of sentence structure.

  3. Jeanie Schwagerman says:


  4. Every odd numbered letter is a planet, starting closest to the sun. Didn’t get the even numbers though, perhaps they relate to the planets in some way?

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