National Spelling Bee III
Bill Long 5/30/08
Finishing the Words from Round Two
The words remaining for definition here are: sicklocyte, quadrifid, incisiform, metachrosis, tetrapterous, androcracy, tubulifloral, movimento, pegador, zoism, osoberry, and brontide. These 12 words are not very exciting words, but even hard-favored words open up their own worlds.
1. Something incisiform has the shape of an incisor tooth, esp. of that of a rodent. It can also be called "chisel-like." Here is a picture. So, one can have "lower canine incisiform" teeth, for example. The Century gives us a synonym: gliriform. The Latin word glis/gliris means "dormouse," and so something gliriform "has somewhat of the character of a rodent mammal." But, more specifically, it refers to the tooth shapes of these critters. So, we all know more words--
2. While on botanical terms, let's look at tetrapterous. It really is quite straightforward also, and it points to an insect with "four wings." Tetra is the Greek word for "four." The word tetrapteran means the same.
3. Quadrifid is tricky because you sometimes have problems determining if something is quadra (quadrant) or quadri (quadrilateral) or quadre (quadrennial). Like the root nox/noctis (night), you simply have to learn the connecting vowel for each word. It is derived from quad (the Latin word for ("four") and findere ("cleave, split") and means "four-cleft; deeply cut, but not entirely divided, into four parts." If you correlated the word with bifid and trifid, you would have no difficulty with it. Here is a great picture of magnified quadrifid hairs from the interior of the bladder of a Ultricularia vulgaris [common bladderwort]. Why some English words are formed off the Greek and some off the Latin is a long subject, which I will not go into here, principally because I don't know if there is a rhyme or reason to it...
4. Androcracy is easy--rule by men--even though the results may not be easy on the citizens. The opposite is gynecocracy, which sounds quite ironic when you actually pronounce it.
5. Metachrosis simply means a change (Greek word "meta") of color. We have chromatics as the study of color; the Greek word chrosis, which derives from chroma (color) means "coloring." So, now that we know that metachrosis means the ability to change skin color at will, we wonder if sometimes it might ever be applied to people. A traitor might be a metachroic individual... Don't leave these good words to the scientists!!
6. Sicklocyte isn't in the OED but is simply an abnormal red blood cell of crescent shape. Someone with sickle cell anemia has too many crescent-shaped red cells in the blood. Cyte is the Greek word for "cell" (i.e., cytology is the study of cells).
7. Tubulifloral, another word from the biological world, means "belonging to the division Tubuliflorae of Composite plants, having either all the florets, or those of the disk, tubular." Several words are formed off of tubulo--, but I think this, like incisiform, was clearly an "i"-formation. This, however, is almost an non-existent word--only 200 Google hits, which is miniscule.
8. Brontide also isn't in the OED, but if you realize it is derived from the Greek word for "thunder," you should be fine with it. A brontolith ("thunder-stone") is a meteorolite; brontology is the scientific study of thunder. Brontide sounds like it should be a pill you take when your innards are really rumbling, but in fact is is "the low rumbling of distant thunder" or a "sound like distant thunder." I think it is most frequently used by seismologists to describe a rumbling in the earth, but why not extend its use, since it already isn't used much? Then one could say that the collapse of a crane in NYC today, killing two and badly injuring a third, was begun with a brontide din, which only got worse.
9. An osoberry bush/tree is the Indian plum, shown here. Its Linnaean name is Oemleria cerasiformis, from the rose family (Rosaceae). Its name is derived from the Spanish word "oso" (bear) with reference to the fondness for the fruit attributed to bears, esp. grizzly bears, by the Northern CA Indians. Indeed, it is popular among the Hoopa Indians, among whom I labored in the first (and nearly the last) mission trip of my life in 1968....
10. Movimento is in no dictionary I found, except for the Third International, and there is is defined only as "tempo." But the Italian word movimento, which means "movement" or "busyness," is much more suggestive. One can say, in Italian, "essere sempre in movimento" (to be always on the go) or "fare un po'di movimento" (to do some exercise) or "c'e molto movimento in citta" (the town is very busy). Memorize little sentences, and you know a foreign language. But since this isn't an essay on that, we move to the last two words.
11. Pegador also doesn't exist in the OED but is a name of a species of remora (fish; the Echeneis naucrates). I have a nice story about the remora here. Interesting to me is that the Century has the word (derived from the Spanish "stick" or "sticker") and defines it as "the sucking-fish, Echeneis naucrates and other echeneidids." Now that (echeneidid) isn't a bad word for a spelling bee!
12. Zoism tripped up a speller, who spelled it with double "o." The word isn't used much anymore (the Century) informs us that it was only current from about 1840-50, and means/meant "the doctrine that the phenomena of life depend upon a peculiar vital principle." Behind it stands the Greek word zoe, life. Those who studied pre-Socratic philosophers when I first cut my teeth on them in the 1970s would have run into the word hylozoism (the doctrine that all "matter" [hyle] is alive).
Thank you for accompanying me on this journey today. Let's turn now to words from the third and subsequent rounds.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long