2005 National Spelling Bee XXI
Bill Long 2/21/07
The words of interest to note in this round were tropholytic, mycetophagous, dengue, moire, nemathelminth, gomphosis, jamrosade, gnotobiotic, morigeration, faveolate, nyctipelagic, hydrargeum and sciosophy. Many of these actually are useful terms, and I will not that as I go along. Remember, as you learn to spell words, the number of Greek/Latin roots and the number of loan words is finite--lest you lose heart.
1. Tropholytic means characterized by the decomposition of organic matter (trophos is Greek for "food" and luo is a verb meaning to "destroy"). This decomposition takes place in the deepest part of the lake. It is opposed to trophogenic. While I was on that word my eye fell on troparion, derived from a different word (the Greek tropos), which is a hymn in rhythmic prose sung or chanted liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
2. Something mycetophagous eats fungi. Or, to give it a big Latin term, it is fungivorous. It is also synonymous with mycophagous. Mykes is the Greek word for mushroom or fungus. Thus, a mycologist studies mushrooms or fungi; mycology is the study of mushrooms, and Mycoderma is a genus of this fungus.
3. Dengue (pronounced den GEE or a variety of other ways) is an acute infectious disease characterized by sudden onset, headache, racking joint pain, and a rash--perhaps the feelings experienced at reading this list. The word origin is probably Swahili, but you could fool me on that one.
4. Moire (mo RAY) is a ripple pattern in fabric. Or, to put it differently, it is an overlapping repetitive pattern. The dictionary gives as a synonym burelage--defined as a fine network or pattern of lines or dots printed on the face or back of a stamp paper as a protection against fraudulent changes. Tons of nice moire patterns are in Google images.
5. A nemathelminth is a worm with a cylindrical unsegmented body covered by an unciliated (no hair) ectoderm. I wonder if this was the species King David had in mind when he wrote, "But I am a worm and no man."
6. Gomphosis is a peg and socket joint where the tooth fits into the bone. One image is online, but you have to consult anatomy textbooks to see this reality in the jaw.
7. Jamrosade is the fruit of the rose apple. I can't take it any further, at least in short compass.
8. Gnotobiotic was a little bit of a tricky term, since it isn't in the main body of the Unabridged, but appears in the Addendum at the beginning. It means relating to or living in or being controlled by an environment in which there are one or few organisms. It is used in contemporary discussion to mean a "germ-free" environment. A synonym is the useful word axenic (from the Greek words meaning "without" and "stranger") which means "sterile," such as in the phrase "axenic conditions."
9. Morigeration is servile obedience. Francis Bacon was the first to use this word with that signification in 1605: "Not that I can taxe or condemne the morigeration or application of learned me to men in fortune." It is derived from the Latin morigerari-to be obedient or to conform.
10. Something faveolate is honeycombed or alveolate. The Latin is faveolus, a diminutive of favus, meaning honeycomb. The Century tells us that favaginous is a synonym. My eyes went down the page in the Century and found the words favillous, derived from the Latin favilla (glowing ashes or embers), meaning "consisting of or pertaining to ashes," and favissa, an underground treasury from Roman antiquity. While on antiquity, we also have the nearby word favonian, meaning "pertaining to the West wind." The West wind was perceived to be propitious; hence favonian is derived from favere meaning "to favor." So wonderful, isn't it?
11. Something nyctipelagic comes to the surface only at night. If it is bathypelagic it lives in deep water. I don't know the difference between something which is abyssal and something bathypelagic, but all these terms are from limnology. Many English words formed off the root nyct ("night") are written either nycti or nycto. You just have to learn which is which.
12. Hydrargyrum is, pure and simple, the element Mercury. I always knew, ever since high school chemistry, that the chemical symbol for lead was Hg, but I never took the time to learn the word. Thank God for spelling bees!
13. Finally, let's conclude this essay with sciosophy. The dictionaries are unhelpful in telling us whether the first syllable of the word is derived from "sci"--i.e., science or "scio/scia," the Greek word for "shadow." I am pretty sure it is the latter, and so "sciosophy" is "shadow knowledge" or, "pretended knowledge of natural or supernatural forces." The Greek word for shade/shadow is skia rather than skio, but there are a host of words beginning in "scio" in English that are derived fromt the Greek word for shadow or shade. For example, sciotheism is the deification of "shades" of departed ancestors; scioptics is the art of exhibiting luminous images in a darkened room; and sciomancy is divination by consulting the shades of the dead. Note that it is a near neighbor of sciolto, which means "with freedom and without strictness" (from the Italian sciogliere--to loosen or untie), a word that was missed in the 2006 Bee, as I recall.
That's enough for one essay. We only have about four to go for this Bee. Hang in there.