A List of Tricky Short Words I
Bill Long 5/4/07
From the Collegiate
While I was in CA over the past week, I had the privilege of sharing dinner and the evening with Hal Prince, who won the 2006 National Senior Spelling Bee. Hal and I had exchanged emails before the competition last year and have struck up an acquaintance/friendship since then. So, four days ago we enjoyed each other's company over dinner before returning to his home for an evening of words. His wife had long gone to bed while Hal and I quizzed each other on various lists we had prepared for each other. I think there are probably few other people who would have enjoyed such an evening, but we clearly did. Hal's "gift" to me was a list of about 100 words of five letters or fewer from the Collegiate. Spellers (and spelling bees) often ignore these words because of the mistaken impression that short means simple. Nothing is further from the truth. Short words (as well as pharmaceutical terms) are often the bane of a speller's existence.
After Hal quizzed me on these words, I decided to supplement his list a bit. I here offer a list of about 125 short words that every good speller should know. You should be aware, however, that many of these terms are obscure Scottish words which, for some reason, are still preserved in the Collegiate. Since they are in the Collegiate, and the Collegiate is still the official dictionary of the Senior Bee, we just have to know 'em. The next few essays will review these words, giving the definition of each (pronunciation where necessary), so that you can emblazon them on your mind forever. Let's begin.
allyl-- a term from the ISV (International Scientific Vocab.)
ar-- yep, that is how you spell the 18th letter of our alphabet.
babul--has nothing to do with Pentecost; an acacia tree.
baht-- Thai coin. Make sure you put the "a" before the "h."
a Hindi word for hemp or mildly intoxicating mix.
bowse-- to haul by means of a tackle.
brose-- a Scottish broth. Thankfully, I have never tasted it.
butut-- the monetary unit of the Gambia. 1/100 of a dalasi.
carr-- chiefly British, as the dictionary says, for a fen. Got me.
chine-- pron. as it looks; the backbone or the spine.
chook-- an Aussie and NZ term for chicken.
cleek-- another Scottish term for a large hook (as for a pot).
creel-- a wicker basket as for carrying newly caught fish.
crore-- unit of value (Hindi) = 100 lakhs, which is also hard.
deet-- a toluamide; colorless, odorless tick repellent.
deme-- unit of government in ancient Attica (Greece).
dene-- an old British term for valley.
dewar-- you have heard of Dewars; dewar is a flask.
duroc-- a breed of large and vigorous American hogs.
eke-- archaic for "also."
ergot-- black or purple sclerotum of a fungus.
erne-- a long-winged sea eagle (Haliaetus albicilla).
ewer-- prob. familiar to you; a pitcher for drawing water.
firn-- defined as "neve," which is compacted glacial snow.
fyke-- a long net kept open by hoops. Here is a pic.
gaum-- a smudge or smear. The OED only has it as a verb.
gaur-- large wild ox of India (Bos gaurus). Picture is here. Also called the mithun; sometimes erroneously the seladang, which is also spelled saladang in the Unabridged, so the word can't be used. Darn.
girn-- another Scottish word, this one means a/to snarl.
glebe-- an old English term for a plot of cultivated land.
gleed-- an archaic term for a glowing coal; relates to "glow."
a gibe or a joke; origin of the term is unknown.
a Scottish word, marked by quickness of perception. Aj.
a sticky clay formed under waterlogged soils.
glia-- supporting tissue mingled with nervous tissue--brain.
glogg-- hot spiced Scandanavian wine and liquor punch.
gloze-- to gloss. Often used with "over."
grebe-- of the family Poticipedidae of swimming/diving birds.
gyre-- giant oceanic surface current.
a fetter or shackle, usually for the leg.
haik-- pronounced "hike" and means a northern Afr. garment.
haulm-- stems or tops of crop plants, esp. after harvest.
joual-- (zhu AL) spoken Canadian French, esp. in Quebec.
jeon-- defined as the chon of S. Korea. A won is 100 chon.
jiao-- (jee AU) monetary unit of China equal to 1/10 yuan.
jow-- another Scottish word (n and v) meaning stroke of bell.
jowar-- a Hindi word for durra or a grain sorghum. Though the Collegiate defines jowar as durra, it lists both durra and dura as appropriate spellings for the latter. Can't use it.
kaon-- unstable meson occurring in charged and neutral form.
kea-- large dull green NZ parrot (Nestor notabilis).
keek-- a Scottish term (noun and verb) meaning peek, look.
kiang-- (no "g" in pronunciation), Asian wild ass (Equus kiang)
kibe-- an ulcerated chilblain esp. on the heel.
knurl-- a small protuberance, excresence or knob.
koa-- Hawaiian timber tree (Acacia koa).
kohl-- Arabian preparation to darken eyelids.
koi-- a carp (Cyprinus carpio) bred especially in Japan.
kolo-- a central European folk dance.
kora-- stringed African musical instrument resembling lute.
kraal-- a village of Southern African natives.
krait-- any of a genus of SE Asian snakes (Bungarus).
krewe-- private organization putting on Mardi Gras parties.
kris-- (krees) Indonesian dagger with serpentine blade.
kyte-- another Scottish term meaning belly.
This is enough for one essay. Let's move from l-z in the next essay.