The Seattle Spelling Bee IX (3/3)
Bill Long 3/7/08
Final Essay--At the Re-bar
After finishing Round 3 of the spelling words, there were only seven spellers who hadn't missed 3 out of the 6 (or fewer) words given to him or her. Six of the seven had missed two, and I hadn't missed any. I was therefore declared the "winner," while the other six had to slug it out for second and third place. I am glad I didn't have to do it. Josh and Ben were their typical jovial and humorous selves as we entered into the "spell-off" rounds. Here are the last 14 words: gryllus, almacantar, dedimus, polyptoton, chastushka, auxodrome, tongawalla, goniometry, outrecuidance, spintherism, pichiciago, aurore, Perizzite, reboation.
Let's begin by handling some of the easier words. As I mentioned in an earlier essay on this bee, if you know your Bible, the word Perizzite is simple--it is the name of a people the Israelites were to thrust out of the land of Palestine. I recall a book on preaching I read decades ago (when I read such things) which gave advice to young preachers to speak of relevant, contemporary things to the congregation. After all, it intoned, 'people don't come to Church breathlessly to hear about the fate of the Jebusites.' Or something like that. You could replace the word Perizzite there and have the same meaning. We don't know anything about these people, but, then again, we don't use isepiptesis anymore and that word is in the bee.
I wrote on spintherism almost a year ago. It is the study of those little sparkling things or scintillations that appear in your field of vision once you close your eyes. I also wrote about outrecuidance--but only two weeks ago. Here are my words, which still hold true:
"I hadn't heard the word outrecuidance previously, but I knew from the moment my eye fell on it that it would be a favorite of mine. Derived from two French words meaning "beyond" or "excessively" and "think, plume oneself," it means "excessive self-esteem; overweening self-confidence; arrogance, presumption; conceit." Perfect. From 1819 (Scott seemed to like the term): "It is full time...that the outrecuidance of these peasants should be restrained." From the London Times of 1919: "At first he thought that the original clause was inserted by the majority of the House of Commons out of pure arrogance and outrecuidance and a determination to stamp upon Church feeling."
I also wrote on polyptoton (accent on the penult) on several occasions, devoting an entire essay to it late in 2004. It is a "many-cased" word. Though I haven't written on goniometry, I knew that the Greek word "gonios" meant "angle," and therefore goniometry had to be the science of measuring angles. Dedimus caused a speller to slip, but if you realize that it is just the first person plural past tense of the verb "to give" in Latin, you have it. It is a common law writ empowering one who is not a judge to do some act in place of a judge. There are several Latin words, like retraxit, allocatur, indicavit, which I will have to write on some day--so that they, which are relatively easy, may be made more clear. Reboation, which secured third place for a woman, is derived from the Latin reboare and means, get this, "a rebellowing echo." From 1659: "I imagine that I should hear the reboation of an universal ground." I think I will use rebellow in my conversation today--maybe when I check in at the gym. Then we have chastushka. Even though it is a mouthful to pronounce, is pretty straightforward if you take a moment to let the syllables wash over you. Russian is one of the many languages I, to my shame, don't know, but it is:
"a type of traditional Russian poetry, is a single quatrain in trochaic tetrameter with an abab, abcb or (less frequently) aabb rhyme scheme. Usually humorous, satirical, or ironic in nature, chastushkas are often put to music as well, usually with balalaika or accordion accompaniment. The rigid, short structure (and, to a lesser degree, the type of humor used) parallels limericks in British culture. The name originates from the Russian word ?????´??, to speak fast."
Cool. Finally, we have aurore. The word is another "color" word and suggests a "yellow or pink tint given a white sauce by the addition of egg yolks, tomato puree, or lobster coral." I think it is also known as bechamel sauce, but I am no cook... Now on to the five words that are more difficult.
Gryllus, Pichiciago, Tongawalla, Auxodrome Almocantar
We conclude with these. Let's begin with the weirdest of them all: pichiciago. It is weird not because this little armadillo is weird (pichi is a Mapuche word for "small"), but because the second word, which means "blind" is ciego and not ciago in Spanish. Indeed, the OED only has it listed as pichiciego, which is no doubt correct. Google results yield far more for the "ciego" than "ciago" ending. Nevertheless, the word was "correct" if it was pichiciago. Here is a picture. He sure looks blind. I can just see a coming nightmare. I am in a spelling bee--I get this word. I, who sometimes know too much, ask which dictionary it is from. The pronouncer has no idea; he just pronounces. I guess. I guess wrong. I get thrown into the outer darkness. Someone wins with the word "book." That is sort of a recurring nightmare. See how exciting my life is? Well, let's give that word a rest.
Tongawalla is hard because it isn't part of our regular speech. It is a driver of a light two-wheeled horse drawn vehicle common in India. Ever since I got gharry wrong at the 2007 National Senior Spelling Bee, I am leery of things Indian, but I now know this one.
An auxodrome, which doesn't appear in the OED, is a "plotted curve indicating the relative development of a child at any given age." The Internet only has about 450 results--which is very few. One medical dictionary has it as "A course of growth as plotted on a Wetzel grid." This website on the Wetzel grid even tells you about the auxodrome. The word can easily be taken apart--auxesis is the Greek word for "growth" (I think there are rhetorical terms that have that root), and dromos is a "course." Therefore it is the "course of growth." What is the difference between this and those lines that dad used to draw over my head when he measured me every year??
Then, almacantar, the same as almucantar, is a telescope mounted on a mercurial float and used for observing the heavenly bodies as they cross a given almucantar (another meaning is the circle traced out parallel to the horizon). I think the word is Arabic; something I hope to know closely soon. Finally, we conclude with gryllus--a genus of crickets, but in ancient glyptic art the plural, grylli, was a comic combination of animals or animal and human forms, used especially in intaglios..
That is it on the Seattle bee. I am grateful to Ben and Josh for taking the effort to give us some good words. I, for one, benefitted tremendously.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long