2005 National Spelling Bee XXII
Bill Long 2/22/07
There are about thirteen or so words which require comment from this round: verticil, keratinophilic, solenoglyph, rucervine, coelostat, badigeon, vorago, cheiloplasty, ergagotyne, chevelure, phalacrosis, salsuginous, and canzonettas. Many of these words are not particularly diffiult, even though their definitions may be unknown. Let's remove the remaining difficulties now.
1. Verticil is a botanical term denoting a number or set of organs or parts arranged in a circle around an axis. An 1882 definition, however, helps us "visualize" what is meant by the term. "An axial structure may produce either several equivalent lateral members at the same level, or only one; in the second case, the members formed in succession are termed solitary, in the first case a Whorl or Verticil." Thus, we have several "equivalent lateral members." Interesting for me is another word, verticillaster, which is a "false whorl" or a verticil that consists of several lateral members. Like a criticaster (inferior critic) or a poetaster (inferior poet), so a verticillaster is a false verticil.
2. Keratinophilic is someting that loves keratin--and that means hair, skin, feathers, horns and other keratizined material.
3. A solenoglyph is a snake of the group Solenoglypha. It refers to a group of venomous snakes that have tubular fangs at the front of the jaw. The word is derived from the Greek meaning "pipe-grooved." Isn't that just groovy? The Century defines it as "having apparently hollow or perforated maxillary teeth specialized and isolated from the rest.."
4. Something rucervine relates to an East Indian deer (genus Rucervus).
5. A coelostat is an instrument with two movable mirrors to reflect sunlight along a particular path so that the celestial bodies may be better observed and photographed. The "coelo" translates the Greek word for heaven, and the "stat" is something that holds the first part of the word "stationary." Here is a picture of one.
6. Badigeon is cement or paste (as of plaster and powdered freestone) used to fill holes or cover defects in wood or stone. It is also a mixture used by builders to give the impression that the common plaster is really stone.
7. Derived from the Latin vorare (to devour), a vorago is an abyss, gulf, or chasm. From the 17th century we have, "The top of Etna must about the same time have sunk down into its old Vorago or hole." More interesting to me are figurative usages, going back to the 19th century: "Adultery and concubinage did you mention! Another vorago, two voragos, Scylla and Charybdis, of national wealth." Instead of mentioning that something is a "black hole," down which all good or valuable things disappear, why not just say it is a vorago? Make sure you differentiate this from virago...
8. Cheiloplasty is plastic surgery to replace lip defects. The Century spelled the word "chiloplasty," but we will need to go with the Unabridged and OED. The University of Michigan has a web site where it tells parents about rhinoplasty (nasal surgery), cheiloplasty (lips), orthognathic (jaw) surgery, otoplasty (ear), pharyngoplasty (operation for cleft lip and palate). As the web site says, children with cleft palate suffer from velopharyngeal incompetence--too much air (velo is wind or air) escapes through the nose during speech, resulting in a nasal sounding speech.
9. The word ergatogyne carries in it two Greek words--the word for "woman" (gyne) and "worker" (ergato). An ergatogyne is a worker-like ant with female characteristics. Well, to be more precise, the word may mean one of two things: "A wingless queen ant resembling a worker" or "a worker or soldier ant that develps female characteristics esp. as a result of the attack of parasitic worms." Wow, isn't this latter definition a bit loaded? As if the hardy male, once attacked, turns into a "woman."
10. A chevelure is defined as a head of hair. Charles Baudelaire wrote the following poem, called "La Chevelure." In English translation the first stanza goes, "O fleecy hair, falling in curls to the shoulders!/ O black locks! O perfume laden with nonchalance!/ Ecstasy! To people the dark alcove tonight/ With memories sleeping in that thick head of hair./ I would like to shake it in the air like a scarf."
11. Phalacrosis is, in a word, baldness or alopecia. The cormorant, which sure looks bald, is called the phalacrocorax. Also, just as there is a fear for almost everything in the world, we now have phalacrophobia--the fear of going bald, even though I haven't seen this word in any dictionary yet.
12. Salsuginous means "saltish" or "somewhat salty." A salsuginous plant is one that grows in salt-impregnated soil. The word seems to be just about obsolete, but that is no reason for the Bee to avoid it.
13. Let's finish tonight with canzonettas, which are "little songs, tunes, cantatas or sonats." The canzonetta is a derivative of the madrigal. The Century only has it listed as a canzonet, with the plural canzonets, but we have to go with the OED and Unabridged on this one.
Slowly but surely we are making good progress through the spelling bee. A light shines at the end of the tunnel...