2005 National Spelling Bee IX
Bill Long 1/16/07
"Finishing" Round 2
Round 2 is the longest of the rounds, as 273 spellers participated in it. Nearly 70 contestants were knocked out during it, so things will go much more quickly in the future (promises..).
The 15-20 words that interest me from the later spellers in the round are: phytocoenosis, malmignatte, glochidiate, ecuelle, variscite, tempeh, erythrophobia, algesimeter, buisson, hircocervus, escopeta, epitasis, grivoiserie, acrocyanosis, lauan, trumeau, chenet, armitas.
Most of these aren't very exciting words and were probably chosen more for their little-known quality than for their utility or euphony. Phytocoenosis is a term from ecological science made up of the Greek "phytein," meaning to exist or bring forth, and "koinosis," meaning "mingling" or "sharing" or "making something common." The term was first used comparatively recently (1930) and signifies "a community of plants; all of the plant species fround at a particular site, considered collectively." Thus the phytocoenosis at any particular place is the "complete plant community" at that place. Ah we learn yet another new word from this 1946 quotation: "In analyzing separately the various synusiae the investigator inevitably pays more attention to the inferior layers than he would to if studying the phytocoenosis as a whole. Synusiae is plural of synusia, which also means "society," but is a group of organisms of one or more species which have similar life-forms. While phytocoenosis stresses the entire habitat, synusia looks at discrete species or small groups of species. [The OED tells us that a Synusiast, capital S, was a believer in the commingling of the divine and human natures of Christ (word is "syn," meaning "common," and "ousia" meaning "essence.") But this takes us really far afield.]
2. A malmignatte (i.e., bad leech) is a venomous spider in Mediterranean countries closely related to the American black widow. Pictures of it abound online which, as far as I am concerned, is where these creatures belong.
3. No matter how you look at it, glochidiate is a rare word. Derived from the Greek "glochidion" (barb), which is itself a diminutive of "glochis" (point of an arrow), a leaf or stem or body part that is glochidiate is barbed at the tip. There are several pictures online of "glochidiata"--plants with barbed prickles on the end. I think the word has possibilities to describe a certain kind of person, what we might call "prickly." You get the picture.
4. An ecuelle is a two handed porridge bowl used for soup. One quotation says that it is similar to a Scottish quaich. I found some pictures of both online, but there are more quaiches than ecuelles. I love the quaiches with thistle design. It is good to know your technical terms for cookware, I think.
5. Variscite, the next word, is a stone. The place where it was found is the Vogtland district of Germany (Saxony), which in medieval Latin was known as Variscia. It is a bluish-green gem sometimes confused with turquoise. There is no other way to learn your minerals than by taking time to study them closely.
6. Tempeh, which also can be spelled tempe, is "an Indonesian footstuff made by fermenting soya beans with Rhizopus and deep-frying them in fat." Hope you were taking notes. A quotation from 1977 cools my interest in tempeh: "Sixty-nine persons died and 265 others in East Java were in hospital for food poisoning after eating tempe, a local dish made from soy beans." Well, at least we can spell it.
7. Erythrophobia means exactly what it says: it is either a fear of blushing or hypersensitivity to the color red. As early as 1894, when this term was coined, a medical author suggested that erythrophobia was sometimes observed after cataract operations. Now people can suffer from it for any or no reason.
8. The next word takes us into pain. An algometer, which is the same as an algesimeter (word used in the Bee) is an instrument measuring one's sensitivity to pain. Since "algo" is the Greek word for pain, I wondered if there was a comparable Latin term for the phenomenon. Indeed, there was. A dolorimeter is the same thing as the other two, though the words algo/algesimeter were coined at the end of the 19th century and dolorimeter's first attestation was from 1949. I discovered also that the dolorimeter measures pain in units called dols. It only makes sense, don't you think?
9. Then we have buisson, which is a fruit tree with a very short stem and closely pruned head. I suppose that Henry Matisse will forever make this a household word among artists because of his 1951 drawing entitled Buisson. You can even buy a print of it online for $56.17, and the site says that it retails for $75.00. What a bargain.
10. A hircocervus is a mythological creature, consisting of a creature half goat (that is the hircus part) and half stag (the cervus). Again we can do some nice things with words with help from an unlikely source: a 1398 quotation. "Tragelaphus is icleped Ircocervus also..." "Yclept" means "called." And tragelaphus consists of two Greek words, tragos, meaning he-goat, and elaphos, meaning deer. So now we have another one in our growing list of words which can have both a Latin and Greek construction (such as ichthyophagous and piscivorous). The Unabridged even tells us that a synonym for tragelaphus is strepsiceros (strepsi is Greek for "turn" and keros is a horn). Enough on that. Let's conclude with one more word.
11. An escopeta, not in the OED, is a short firelock musket. The word is derived from the Italian schioppo, which means an "explosion." There are some very nice pictures of them online. Just as learning variscite seems to want to push me to study my minerals closely, so the pictures of an escopeta convince me that I need to know my medieval arms just a little bit better.
This is enough for one night. Add these words to your vocabulary and you will find, little by little, that you will be a most knowledgeable speaker and writer of the language.