National Spelling Bee IV
Bill Long 5/30/08
Round 7 Words
I am disappointed now because it is 5:10 p.m. PDT, the final rounds of the Bee began in Washington DC at 5:00 p.m. PDT, and we have a three-hour delay until it is broadcast at 8:00 p.m. PDT. To make us wait is like making some people "wait" three hours to see their favorite sports team and try to block out newscasts in the meantime. So, while I am sulking, I decided to write one essay on the Round 7 words. Sixteen competitors were still in the competition; the girl I am rooting for actually made it not just to this round but to the final round of 12. Here are the sixteen words; I will only have time to comment on some of them...
pyrrhotism, canicular, torii, sphendone, trophallactic, bulbul, pruritus, macedoine, hidradenitis, allotriophagy, cryptococcosis, picry, anticum, oceanodromous, galeate, sciuromorph.
There you have it. Let's go through the ones first that are the easiest. For me the easy ones were canicular, trophallactic, bulbul, pruritus, macedoine, allotriophagy, picry, anticum, oceanodromous, galeate, sciuromorph. More difficult was pyrrhotism, though I think I would have gotten it right. I would have been in trouble with torii, sphendone, hidradenitis and cryptococcosis. I am embarrassed that I didn't immediately recognize torii-- it is all around us...
I have already written on canicular and pruritus and bulbul; I need to say no more about them here. So, thirteen words to go.
1. Let's begin then with torii-- it is the ceremonial gateway in front of a Shinto shrine, with two uprights and two crosspieces of which the lower is straight and upper usually curved. Here is a picture. The first appearance of the term in English was in 1727, when it was spelled "torij." But it has been spelled torii for well over 100 years. From 1874: "The torii gradually assumed the character of a general symbol of Shinto." Enough.
2. A macedoine (ma se DWAN) is either a mixture of unrelated things or a mixed fruit or vegetables cut up into small pices. Here is a picture, from Easy Home Cooking Magazine. As I have often said, each word is simple to someone; just as macedoine is easy for food folk, bulbul is easy to bird lovers.
3. Trophallactic is derived from trophallaxis, which is, literally, a "food exchange." In fact it is the mutual exchange of food material by adult insects and larvae. Troph is the Greek word for "food," and allasso/allaxis means "exchange." There you have it.
4. Pyrrhotism is not hard once you realize that it means "red-haired." The Greek word for fire is pyr; "red" is pyrros; we have the word "pyre" in English. But where do you get the "h"? Well, if you knew about Pyrrhus of Epirus and Pyrrhic victories, and the ancient philosopher Pyrrho, and if you realized that tons of words off this root add an "h" in them, then pyrrhotism opens up for you.
5. Galeate has to do with a galea, a helmet. Therefore, galeate means "covered with a helmet, or furnished with something having the shape or position of a helmet." The galeate troops advanced on the enemy.
6. Anticum is spelled just as it sounds, but is a rather useless word. It doesn't appear in the OED, but is in the Century. Even the staid Century says "In architecture, an unnecessary name for the front of a building, as distinguished from posticum, the rear of a building." I think that it covers the same area that the Greek-derived word pronaos covered. Therefore, we don't need it--except in spelling bees!
7. Allotriophagy is derived from allotrios ("belonging to another") and phagos ("eating"). The OED doesn't have the term but the moralistic Century has: "a depraved appetite for eating substances of non-alimentary or noxious character as in many anemic and hysterical persons." I think that it can be felicitously used to describe the diet of some teens...
8. Picry is, in a word, poison ivy. The word isn't in the OED or the Century; I think it probably is a regional term for poison ivy, but I don't have DARE here at the moment (Dictionary of American Regional English; 4 vols. so far) to take it further.
9. The other word that seems pretty straightforward is oceanodromous. Again, it isn't in the OED, but if you take it apart, it simply means "running" (dromos) or "moving" through the "ocean." More technically, this source has it as "migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do." In the Pacific NW we have anadromous fish; "ascending rivers to spawn" (ana is the Greek word for "up"). The only confusing thing here is which vowel is between the "n" and "d."
The Other Four
Four spellers missed words in this round; three of these missed words are, in my judgment, very difficult words: hidradenitis, cryptococcosis, and sphendone. 10. Sciuromorph was also missed, but if you known that the Greek word for squirrel is skiouros, then "squirrel-like" is sciuromorph. As with oceanodromous, the connecting vowel is an "o." Let's now finish with the three "killers."
11. Sphendone is pronounced SFEN do knee, and the speller added a "y" on the end, which is perfectly reasonable. It is a direct transliteration of the Greek word sphendone, which is a "form of head-band or fillet worn by women to confine their hair around and on the top of the head." The hair, through this technique, is in the front. If it was arranged to be thick in the rear, the arrangement would be called opisthosphendone. Now that is a word! There is a cut under opisthosphendone in the Century; the description says that it differs from a kekryphalos in that it doesn't cover the top of the head. The Century has a long note, and cut, on kekryphalos; it is absent from the OED.
12. Hidradenitis is so confusing because when one things of "water" one thinks of "hydro." That is the natural mistake made by speller Sade Dunbar of Kingston, Jamaica. But the root of the word comes from hidroun, which means "to sweat" in Greek. So, hidrosis is "perspiration, especially when profuse or artificially produced." So, the when the word hidradenitis was defined as "a skin disease that affects areas bearing apocrine sweat glands and hair follicles; such as the underarms, etc..," we think of "sweat" --hidro/hidra. Then, you just "sound it out" and hope for the best. Actually the preferred mode here is to know of the condition Hidradenitis suppurativa, and there are thousands of descriptions of it online. Very tough, though.
13. Finally, cryptococcosis is derived from the genus name Cryptococcus. To know this is the only way, in my judgment, to get the "double c" correct in the middle.
That is enough for now. Let's get on to the finals!
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long