Reviewing the 2005 Bee
Bill Long 1/8/07
Words without Number
The words from the 2005 Kids Bee are online, and they deserve a lot of attention for anyone desiring to improve his/her vocabularly and understanding of words. I want to spend time working through many of them, and I probably will also take some side routes along the way. The goal is to have us become increasingly comfortable with whatever word might come our way.
Twenty-five words comprised the written round, and 273 spellers emerged from that round to Round 2. Seventy-nine spellers were knocked out of Round 2, leaving 194 for Round 3. Thus, after the first three rounds we had 492 unique words introduced. The number gets smaller and smaller with each successive round, of course. I decided to make a smaller list of the words that either were new to me or were those I wanted to learn about more deeply. I am therefore not trying to review all the words. But many of them interest me. For example, of the first 64 words, I decided I needed to learn 26 of them more thoroughly.
Beginning with the 26
The eight words from the written round of 25 that enticed me were qwerty, lido, sylph, pyrophyte, thelytokous, chaetophorous, Kneippism, and scherenschnitte. We can dispatch of qwerty quickly, for it is the word to describe the typewriter keyboard (the top row of letters from left to right). Lido actually is the Italian word for beach, and is a fashionable beach resort. A pyrophyte (Not attested in the OED; not a whole lot of Google results for it) is a wooden plant of unusual resistance to fire because of its thick bark. Let's look at the other five words. I love the sound of sylph, a term coined by Paracelsus in the mid-17th century to describe "one of a race of beings or spirits supposed to inhabit the air." Those touched by Greek mythology mediated through medieval alchemy were quick to populate the air with gnomes, lemurs, nymphs, sylphs and others. Indeed, one of the suggested etymologies of this term is from a combination of sylvestris (forest) and nymph (semi-divine maiden inhabiting woods, mountains, and streams). Dickens, in the 19th century, could use the term to describe the light and airy movements of a girl.
The world of thelytokous is not a huge one. It simply means "producing only female offspring" ('thele' is another Greek word for female). Well, it is a little more complex than this. Huxley was the first to draw English-language readers to this word. "The terms arrhenotokous and thelytokous have been proposed by Leuckart and Von Siebold to denote those parthenogenetic females which produce male and female young respectively." Thus, the earliest definition of thelytokous included a connection to parthenogenesis. And then, succinctly, "Thelyotokous parthenogenesis is common in sawflies." I bet you didn't know that. Note also that there wasn't an agreed-upon spelling of the term, though the OED and Unabridged follow Huxley. Oh, by the way, arhennotokous refers to a mother who only bears males.
While we are on obscure Greek words, let's pause on chaetophorous (KEED a...) . You should know at first that it is synonymous with chaetigerous, another thing I am sure you are glad to know. But, if you knew that chaeta in Greek is either hair or bristles, you would realize that chaetophorus simply means "bearing bristles." I like the Unabridged because it gave me a clue to other words. Chaetigerous also means bearing bristles or "setae." The singular, seta, means a bristle or stiff hair. Then the Century chimes in with a few other synonyms. It doesn't define chaetophorous as chaetigerous (The latter word doesn't appear in the Century), but it defines it as chaetiferous (mixing Greek and Latin in the same word. "Fero" in Latin is the same as "phero" in Greek, though the reason why the word is "ophorous" or "iferous" is not entirely crystalline to me). Two other synonyms listed by the Century are setiferous and setigerous. Something setaceous is also furnished or covered with bristles. Thus we have more terms than we really need, all of which are fairly obscure. However, if you really study the way these words are formed, you have insight into the formation of tons of other terms from botany and other scientific fields. Good luck!
The Triumph of German (Finally!)
I have often remarked that the Bees are more Francophilic than Germanophilic. But here we have two German words, Kneippism and scherenschnitte, to round out my first essay and the written test. Every time you have a word with a proper name behind it, like Hennebique several words below (relating to concrete reinforced with steel or iron, named after Francois Hennebique, who died in 1927), you know there is a story which you should want to learn. Sebastian Kneipp (1821-97) was a Catholic priest who was more famous for his secular than spiritual use of water. Here are a few words about him:
"During his years of study, through today, an entire town in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps has devoted itself to Kneipp‘s philosophy. In the spa-village of Bad Wörishofen, almost every hotel and guest-house offers treatments of the well-known 'Kneipp-Cure' where physicians practice Kneipp Wellness. The four core elements of Kneipp wellness are plants, water, exercise, and nutrition. Popular bath and body products are still manufactured and available at better department stores and beauty suppliers. Many spas offer a 'Golden Spoons' treatment which is based on Father Kneipp's recommended kur of alternating cold and hot stimulation, both in water, and using golden spoons."
Cool, huh? Though I don't really know what they do with the spoons.
Finally, scherenschnitte means exactly what it says. Well, maybe you would like me to tell you what it says. It is "cuttings made by scissors," or, in the words of this nicely-designed web site, "It is the art of cutting an image into paper, generally cutting away the background and leaving the shape of the paper to form the desired images." You can frame the cuttings, throw them on your friends, or give them as gifts. There is even a Guild of American Papercutters, no doubt with a website and annual conferences.
That is a good start. Let's now move on to 18 more words out of the next 39 in the competition.