National Spelling Bee II
Bill Long 5/30/08
Interesting Round Two Words
The 21 (out of 288) words of interest to me from this round are: sicklocyte, quadrifid, normothermia, geanticline, creekology, incisiform, metachrosis, tetrapterous, frabjous, fratority, androcracy, tubulifloral, movimento, pegador, thimblerig, zoism, osoberry, facticide, agrostologist, brontide, sabermetrics. I already wrote on thimblerig as my concluding "fun" word in the previous essay. I also mention frabjous in this essay, and need not go into it any further. Interesting to me is the fact at several of these words don't even appear in the OED. That means they probably are either scientific, foreign borrowings or "cutesy" terms that originated in the US, and the stuffy Britishers at the OED haven't yet recognized the word. Two cases in point from the list above are fratority and facticide.
1. Fratority is a word that only could have been invented in America. It comes out of our "Greek" (not "Geek") culture at colleges, where many young men and women join fraternities and sororities. It further comes out of our increasingly "co-ed" life on campus, where not only are dorms "co-ed" floor by floor, or room by room, but even now "bed by bed." So, a fratority is a co-ed living arrangement in the "Greek" system at a college. Once you know this, you see how easy the word is--sort of too easy for the kids, I think.
2. Facticide is simply the "killing of facts." It appears in no dictionary I have found--perhaps it is in the 2002 Supplement of Webster's Third International. In any case it probably was invented sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s by either of two kinds of people: (a) someone who just had a list of "cides" in front of him/her and on a whim decided to "fill out" the list; or (b) some political operative, or disgrunted operative, in America who was mad at his/her boss for spinning the truth once to often and accused the boss of "killing facts" or facticide. Any illumination here? I actually found the word used in a federal legal case in 2001 and, surprise surprise, in a case from the MI Supreme Court in 1965, but I don't have time to go down those rabbit holes...
To the "Normal" Words
3. Speaking of "normal," let's go to normothermia. It simple means "normal body temperature." Though the word goes back to 1898, its usage has primarly been recently. From 1968: "Two patients with severe hypothermia did show marked slowing of the dominant activity, which increased...at times of relative normothermia."
4. Creekology can easily be sounded out. It is also a word, not appearing in the OED, from America. It is a term from oil exploration and refers to a non-scientific way of looking for oil in creek valleys. This web site has a nice description of it and a "neighbor" term, seepology:
"Back in those early days of the oil industry, people tried to figure out where the oil was by looking for seeps in the bedrock (it was called "seepology"). When people figured out that the best oil wells around Titusville, Pa., tended to be located in creek valleys, they drilled in creek beds (it was called "creekology")."
Now that you have gone this far I will give you a bonus term:
"If someone hit a successful oil well, other people went about leasing the adjacent land and drilling their own wells. This came to be called offset drilling (also known in the trade as "closeology")."
It is called "closeology," as this web site explains, because it is the "geology of being 'close' to an existing producer.
Closeology may be in absolutely no dictionary (it isn't in the Third International, which has creekology, but now that you have learned it, you can't forget it!
5. In geanticline we finally come across a word that the OED actually has, even though it redirects us to geanticlinal. The word is made up of two words: ge ("earth") and anticlinal ("a line or axis from which [geological] strata slope down or dip in opposite directions"), and means "of the nature of a general upward flexure of the earth's crust." From and 1870's manual of geology: "Genatliclinals or upward flexures in the curst that become permanent elevations."
6. I am sure I would have gotten sabermetrics right, but the fact that it is such a good word (and I didn't know it) delights me more. It is "the application of statistical analysis to baseball records, esp. in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players." The term comes only from 1982--just at the beginning of the frenetic rush to collect sports cards, that seemed to have a hiatus in the 1970s. A Calgary newspaper wrote in 2003: "The Oakland A's pioneered the use of sabermetrics to recruit players." But, did it arise from the name of Bret Saberhagen, drafted by the KC Royals in the 1982 draft? Nah. It, like "sofar," is an acronym, derived from the letters of Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), with an "e" thrown in to make it a word. There you have it. I love modern words almost as much as I like epirot and boeotian and nimrod and nabalitic.
7. Let's finish this essay with agrostologist. This is a "pure classical Greek"-derived term. The "beemakers" were probably embarrassed after using all the aforementioned words and decided to return to the comfortable womb of Greek. Can't go wrong there. The most basic term in Greek is agros, which means "field." Agrostis is, then, "a kind of grass." Agrostology then, is "that part of botany which treats of the grasses." Thus, an agrostologist studies grasses. He probably sits in on meetings with acarologists and culicidologists. And maybe even more....
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long