2005 National Spelling Bee XXV
Bill Long 2/24/07
Rounds 10-13 or So
We are now down to the final two essays on the 2005 Bee. Remaining from the previous essay are: orfevrerie, schecke, etouffee, cholecyst, domra, plumassier, rupicaprine and serang. These can go rather quickly. Then, we dive into gallipot, mucedinaceous, and lochetic.
1. When you take some time with orfevrerie, it opens up nicely to you. The OED provides us a helpful historical note. Though derived from the French ("one who makes or works on gold"), a usage in English was recorded as early as 1327 to refer to the name of the goldsmiths' quarter in London. By 1500 it meant the product of a goldsmith. So we have, in the 19th century: "He offered prizes for the best specimens of orfevrerie in two kinds, religious and secular." We also have the (obsolete) word in English orfever to describe a goldsmith. I would venture to say, however, that if this word (orfevrerie) wasn't on a study list, it would knock any 13 year-old's socks off.
2. Schecke is in no English-language dictionary I have found, but since I know it as a German word, I looked it up there. It means a "piebald or dappled pony." "Piebald," by the way, means motley or mixed. One political commentator in the 1990s wrote about the "piebald administration" of Bill Clinton. Then we have piebaldism, which is a medical condition characterized by "localized hypopigmentation of the scalp.." (i.e., little blotches of white hair in the forelock). So, that is the word--schecke. I don't know when and really if it has come into English, but the 2005 Bee seems to think that is has. Be sure to differentiate it from the German Scheck, which is a check...
3. The best place to go for a definition of etouffee is the Wikipedia article. It is there defined as a "Creole seafood dish typically served over rice, similar to gumbo, very popular in New Orleans and in the Cajun country to the west.." The French verb "etouffer" means to "smother" or "suffocate," so I suppose something is smothered in something when this dish is prepared. International cuisine dishes can trip up anyone, and the spelling of some of them (does moussaka, for example, have one or two "s's"?. I can't believe it. The Unabridged doesn't have moussaka, the OED has it with two "s's" and my Greek restaurant down the street has it with one "s") can drive you crazy. But now we know this one, so you don't have an excuse for going crazy if someone asks you about it in the future.
4. When we turn to cholecyst we are back in the friendly confines of Greek. It is almost like returning to the home court to play the next game. Let's take the word apart. Chole is the Greek word for "gall" or "bile" and kystos is "bladder" or "cyst." We have the word melancholy, which means that the person is dominated by the "black bile"--one of the four "humors" in ancient and medieval medical science. Thus, the cholecyst is the gall bladder. Medicine has all kinds of big words for little things; recall just a few essays ago we ran into phalacrosis, which means baldness. Just remember, if you are getting discouraged, that the number of these terms is finite. We can exercize our mental muscles by understanding the following words beginning with chole: cholecystectomy is the cutting out (ektomia is excision); cholecystenterostomy is an operation of establishing a passage between the gall-bladder and the intestine (enteron in Greek) by incision (tomos). Well, so as not to prolong this, let's move on.
5. A domra is a Russian instrument like the lute (by the way, a lute-maker is known as a luthier). There are tons of great pictures of them online. You can even contact a New York-based folk music ensemble to come out and play the domra for you. Not only will you probably enjoy the evening, but I promise you that you will never again misspell that word as long as you live.
6. A plumassier is one that deals in ornamental plumes or feathers. Someday, if I am really fortunate, I would love to have a business card which said, "Bill Long, Plumassier." That would be a real feather in my cap.
7. Rupicaprine means of or related to a kind of European mountain goat. The speller that missed this, Elicia Chamberlain from Wilton, NH, ended up getting fifth in the competition. Nothing at all to be ashamed of. By checking things out in the Century, you actually can gain lots of understanding of this word. Rupricapra is a genus of antelopes (from rupes, meaning "rock," and capra, a goat), sometimes giving name to a subfamily Rupicaprinae; the chamois." Therefore something rupicaprine has the characteristics of the Rupicapra. If you really knew your words and species well, you could come up with a whole series of things you could call rupicaprine; in fact, you could almost develop your own language and own meaning-system. It would take a lot of work, but I think the world would be in your debt. Oh, if you live in the rocks, you are rupestrine; in lakes lacustrine; in swamps palustrine. We also have the words rupicoline (derived from Latin "colere"--to inhabit) and saxicoline (saxum is another Latin word for "rock").
8. A serang (only attested in the Unabridged) is a Persian loan-word meaning the skipper of a small boat. The online definition of serang talks about it as a "boatswain of a "Lascar or East Indian crew," but it says nothing about what a "Lascar" is. This Wikipedia article describes lascars as a rare term in our speech today but was popular in the 17th-18th centuries to describe a sailor from India employed by European ship captains.
9. A gallipot (pronounced GAL e pot) is a small earthen glazed pot, esp. one used by apothecaries for ointments and medicines. In the 19th century the term could be used in jest to describe one who handles gallipots, i.e., an apothecary. "Turning a stern look on the alarmed Pottingar, broke out,..'Thou walking skeleton! thou asthmatic gallipot!" This website has all kinds of interesting pictures of medical equipment on it, beginning with "Bedpan Perfection" and moving on to a "Gallipot." Enjoy!
10. Something mucedinaceous resembles mold or mildew. Actually the Unabridged defines mucedinaceous as mucedinous, a word in both the Century and OED (neither has mucedinaceous). The Mucedinae is a family of microscopic fungi which produces the mold. The OED says that even mucedinous is rare; how much more a word that it doesn't even have! But someone is interested in promoting mildew, or the Unabridged wouldn't have mucedinaceous. In any case, when I taught insurance law for four years at a law school, I was increasingly interested in "mold" cases--but now that I don't teach insurance law, I will just let it collect...
11. Let's finish this essay with lochetic. No one, except for the Unabridged has this word, which it derives ultimately from the Greek lochos, which means "ambush." Thus, something lochetic is something "lying in wait for prey--esp. used for insects." The dictionary might suggest that this is its definition and that it is used "esp. for insects," but I didn't really find many examples of this usage with insects. Indeed, there are "No results" for the phrase "lochetic insects." Who are we fooling? Nevertheless, I like the word, and will try to sneak it into my conversation sometime this week.