The Seattle Spelling Bee VII-3/3/08
Bill Long 3/7/08
At the Re-bar, on Howell Street
We are now nearing the end of the words for Round 3. Speller 12 only had one word (because s/he had already missed two in previous rounds): artotyrite. I happened to know the word because it has theological overtones, but the speller was not so fortunate. Derived from the Greek word for "bread" (artos) and "cheese" (tyros), it is defined in the OED as: "one of sect who celebrated the Eucharist with bread and cheese." Other dictionaries go on to connect it with a heresy called Montanism, but the references are tantalizingly vague. It seemed to me that this was a sort of "Epiphanius" sect--that is, one which would be described by that heresiologist in his 4th century Panarion. Sure enough, when I did a little digging, I found the following:
"In his catalogue of heresies, St. Augustine (drawing on Epiphanius' Panavrion) explains that the Artotyrites received their name from their use of bread (artos) and cheese (turos) in their sacred rites. Epiphanius, however, seems to have been mistaken about the nature of the connection between the Artotyrites and the Montanists. Jerome, who may have had some personal contact with Montanists c.373 in Ancyra (Gal. 2.2) and possibly in Rome (Ep. 41), clearly considered the Artotyrites and the Montanists to be distinct and unrelated sects (Gal. 2.2)."
As you see, this disagreement among Church Fathers will certainly encourage a dissertation or two, if it hasn't already. One of the reasons I left the fields of biblical studies and patrology was that there just wasn't enough information--you always had to speculate based on the thinnest references in partially-preserved texts. At the end of three years you had 20 pieces of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, with no assurance that the next 40 years of research would get you many more. I needed more knowledge than that, more data on which to focus. We don't really know much about the Montanists as a living community; we know next to nothing about the artotyrites. Yet, the word is great for a spelling bee, even if we know nothing about them!
Speller # 13 also only faced one word, a fairly easy one, which he misspelled: camelopard. It looks like a portmanteau word to express what some might have thought was a combination of camel and leopard. It is, in fact, the giraffe, but the word camelopard goes back at least to the 15th/16th centuries in English. The word is also prevalent in heraldry: from 1572 we have the following: "P beareth Or, a Cameleoparde, Sable, Macule d'Argent."
Speller # 14
His three words were klomp, cyrenaic, atrabilious. We have a problem with klomp. Even though the Unabridged has one definition and is clear ("a wooden shoe worn in the Low countries") and the OED has one definition and is clear ("a group, esp. of animals"), the definitions owe nothing to each other. We have the "De Klomp Wooden Shoe and Delftware Factory" in Holland, but this is Holland MI, friends! Actually, the county in which Holland MI is located is one of the two in the country (a county in NW IA is the other) where the majority of Chuch members in the county are Dutch Reformed (Christian Reformed Church). I couldn't find many attestations of the "group of animals" definition, though from 1920 we have: Rather suddenly we came upon a klompje of giraffe" (why not camelopards?). Sometimes a klomp can also be known as a klompie (in a 1963 quoatation) but the OED defines a klompie as a "type of brick." And, sorry to say, Afrikaans is fairly low on my language priority list..
You just had to sound out klomp to get it right. The speller missed cyrenaic, which I have known since college, since I picked it up in an ancient Greek philosophy class. It is named after the school of Aristippus of Cyrene, whose doctrine was one of "practical hedonism." What I learned 35 years ago stays with me--that cyrenaic philosophy encouraged pleasure first and foremost, while epicureanism, which many associate with the philosophy of pleasure, advocated a more balanced approach to it, a sort of pre-Benthamite calculus of pains against pleasures before acting. I don't know if this division still "stands" in scholarship; but we now know the word.
Again, if you know something about Greek and Latin, the term atrabilious is pretty easy. It goes back to the "humors" or "four temperament" school of explaining personality type and mood. A person who is atrabilious is affected by the black bile. Actually the Greek word is melancholia, black bile, but it came into Latin as atra bilis. The obsolete English noun is atrabile. I was also fascinated to discover that atrabile was also known as choler adust. The word adust (lit. "scorched") was a favorite word of medieval physicians, applied to a supposed state of the body and its humors. "Its alleged symptoms [were] dryness of the body, heat, thirst, black or burnt color of the blood and deficiency of serum in it..." (OED adust). A person affected with choler adust is "atrabilious, sallow, gloomy in features or temperament." As the 1542 dietary rhymer could say: "Burnt breade...and hard crustes,--doth ingendre color aduste..."
Two Words for the Next Speller
The next speller (15 or so) misspelled both usquebaugh and desinence. I just wrote on desinence a month ago, where I had this to say:
"Desinence is derived ultimately from the Latin verb meaning "to leave off, desist, finish, or stop," but the word came into English in 1599 to mean a suffix of a word or, more generally, a termination, ending, close. "The ear was thus flattered by a certain musical desinence..." Or, from 1873: "The Saxon added 'son,' as a desinence, as 'Williamson.'"
I recall learning usquebaugh in one of my dictionary journeys because it sounded so cool and looked so interesting. I neither know Gaelic or Scots Gaelic, but the OED assures us that it found its origin there and originally meant "water of life." It now refers to whiskey which, come to think of it, may be a sort of water of life to folk in the northern climes. Here is the web site of the Ardshiel Hotel in England which boasts of its "Usquebaugh Bar and Lounge," which has a "superb choice of over 200 malt whiskeys..." My thesis about words is that every word is simple--to someone. Let's just find the someone or some situation and make it easy for us...
I think I need two more essays to "finish" the bee.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long