2005 National Spelling Bee XXIII
Bill Long 2/23/07
By the time we get this far in the Bee, we have only about 20 spellers remaining. In order to confine the remaining words of interest to me to three essays, I will briefly cover the following here: athyreosis, pompier, flavedo, heterocoelous, chalicosis, samizdat, pannose, delaine, soogee, hooroosh, ulpan, Lysenkoism, nisse, torrenticole and achroacyte.
1. Athyreosis has all the markings of a new word and is defined in the Unabridged (not in either the Century or OED) as "an abnormal condition caused by the absence or a functional deficit of the thyroid gland." I didn't know that thyroid is derived from the Greek thyreoeides, which means "shield-shaped." The study of anatomy has almost completely occupied the meaning field of the word "thyroid," but there seems no good reason why anything "shield-shape" couldn't be so called.
2. A pompier is the French word for fireman but has been in English usage since 1815. A pompier ladder is a fireman's scaling ladder in the form of a pole with a hooked end and having cross-pieces for rungs. The French word behind it is a "maker of pumps"--i.e., used to put out fires. Today le Corps du Sapeurs-Pompiers is the corps of French firefighters.
3. I think the definitions of flavedo in the Unabridged and Wikipedia differ slightly from each other. It is the "peripheral surface of the pericarp of a citrus fruit." Or, in different words, it is the exocarp, the outer part of the rind. In an orange, for example, it is the slightly ridged surface of the orange. The word shares the same Latin root as flavescent or flavescate, which means to become yellow. The picture of the flavedo of an orange is here.
4. Heterocoelous refers to one of the five types of vertebrae: acoelous, amphicoelous, procoelous, opisthocoelous and heterocoelous. Derived from the Greek for "saddle-shaped," something heterocoelous relates to a vertebrate with shaddle-shaped or articular surfaces, such as in the necks of turtles and birds. We, for the record, have acoelous vertebrae.
5. Derived ultimately from the Greek word for "small stone" or "gravel," chalicosis is a disease ('osis'-ending) of the lungs produced by the inhalation of siliceous (from "silica") particles by stone masons and others working in stone. Pneumonoconiosis is officially called Chalicosis pulmonum.
6. Samizdat was, originally and chiefly in the former USSR, an underground press. Thus, samizdat materials were really unpublished manuscripts. Time Magazine was one of the first English-language publications to use the word in the late 1960s: "Those lines [of Solzhenitsyn] have not been published in the Soviet Union. But they are nonetheless read and passed from hand to hand in samizdat, the readers' answer to Soviet censorship."
7. Something pannose has the texture or appearance of a rough wool or felt. It is derived from the Latin pannus, and a pannus in English is an "abnormal layer of granulation tissue or vascular fibrous tissue covering the cornea or other part of the body." It can also be rendered "rag-like." Make sure you distinguish this word from panettone, which is a delicious Italian cake, typically dome-shaped and eaten especially at Christmas.
8. Delaine is a lightweight dress fabric of wool or wool and cotton. You can find pictures of delaine skirts on the net, and there are also nice pictures of "Delaine-Merino" sheep, obviously those liberated sheep where the females kept their maiden names. The original French is mousseline de laine, literally "woolen muslin."
9. Soogee is a verb of uncertain provenance (possible from Japanese) which means "to wash down." The OED takes us on a nice journey through soojee moojee, a caustic composition sold by yacht fitters for cleaning off old paint, varnish, etc. This caustic composition was also spelled "skewgy-mewgy." The word soogee can be either a noun or a verb: "Steamflies..are stealthily prowling over...the limp bags of caustic soda and soogie." Or, as a verb: "I was sooging [also spelled soogeing] down the walls in his [sc. the captain's] cabin."
10. Hooroosh is confusion; a wild, hurried or excited state. It originated in the early 19th century as a cry of a driver. He would say "hurrish!" or "hurroosh!" as a sort of "giddyup" cry. Then, it gradually morphed into the definition I provided earlier. From 1836 we have: "When they were all free, they began to sky-lark and kick up a hooroosh in all quarters. Herman Melville used the term in Moby Dick: "What a hooroosh aloft there!"
11. An ulpan is an Israeli study center for newcomers where one can learn intensive Hebrew. Or, alternatively, it is the course in Hebrew itself. Here we have the website of "Ulpan Akiva," a non-profit educational center where modern Hebrew is taught against the natural background of the Bible: the Land of Israel.
12. Lysenkoism is a discredited doctrine of Soviet science which aserted the fundamental influence of somatic and environmental factors in the shaping of the person, rather than orthodox genetic theory. It was unfortunate, for the Communist regime, that the most significant proponent of the "new genetics" in the late 19th/early 20th century was Mendel--a Russian priest. T.D. Lysenko (1898-1976) achieved significant influence in the Soviet Union after WWII. You wonder if this word will gradually drop out of our language....
13. A nisse is a spirit in Scandanavian folklore, similar to a goblin, which frequents barns, stables and buildings. You wonder, with the urbanization of life in the 21st century, whether nisses have disappeared or whether they can appear in more modern buildings, maybe even leaping to the top of them in a single bound.
14. A torrenticole (not attested either in the Century or OED) is an organism living in swiftly flowing water--a sort of torrent, I would imagine. Since the Latin "colous" means "inhabiting" (something that is nidicolous lives in a nest), we see how our word is derived. There are very few appearances of this word in a Google search. Poor Stacey-Ann Pearson got this wrong, after getting right words such as dysphemism, mycetophagous, colophon and chalicosis. The word did appear, however, on the 2004 Scripps list among words appearing with "moderate frequency."
15. Let's conclude this essay with achroacyte, which means "a colorless cell." You can see the word "without color" in the root achroa... I couldn't find it on any of the lists for the competition. Just a tough word.