The National Spelling Bee V
Bill Long 5/31/08
"Real-timing" the Final Rounds
ABC television covered the final rounds, with 12 spellers, in prime time on Friday night, May 30 (8-10 p.m. EDT). The main problem was that it was shown in tape delay in the West Coast. I kept myself away from all news sources, and thus I saw the broadcast at 8:00 p.m. PDT as if it were live. I thought ABC did a creditable job of covering the Bee; here are my thoughts, observations and some comments on various words.
Host Tom Bergeron had the word gaminerie presented to him as a sort of 'teaser' for the competition; he didn't have to spell it, but it would have been a great word for the competition. It means "mischievousness."
We began with Round 8. This round normally consists of easier words, so as to give the remaining dozen competitors a sort of "boost" to begin the process.
Samia Nawak, from AR, got "bowdlerize." Since it is a proper name, you basically have to know it in order to get it right--or be able to sound it out real well. It refers to the Dr. T. Bowdler, who in 1818 published an edition of Shakespeare in which, in his words, "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." Thus, he "bowdlerized" the text. A pretty good word, I think, to emphasize the 'expuration' of things. She got it right.
"Shamateurism" was Tia Thomas' word. It is obviously a new word to describe the funding of college athletes illegally; such a person is actually an amateur, but because he/she gets other "benefits," s/he is a "shamateur." I guess that is what is going on here. I think it is rather a "sham" word, but Tia got it right.
Tralatitious is the next word--passed along from hand to hand and mouth to mouth; handed down. The word was used in a previous bee, too, as I recall. Austin Pineda tripped up on it. But it was his first time in the finals, and he acquitted himself well to get this far.
"Aurelian" was the next word--a collector and breeder of moths and butterflies; a lepidopterologist. Justin Song had some difficulty with it, seemingly, but he knocked it out pretty convincingly. I know that Aurelian is the name of a Roman emperor from the 3rd century CE, but I hadn't heard of it in this connection.
Kyle Mou got "cryptarithm," a "brain-teaser," as we say in mathematics. No problem for him; he wasn't even tempted to go to "rhythm," which certainly would have been the direction many would have gone.
Rose Sloan, from Chicago, got "hemeralopia." The word is composed of two Greek words, "day" and "vision," and means "day blindness," though there doesn't see to be any reason why it can't mean day-vision. As far back as the Hellenistic physician Galen it was used in contrast, however, to "nyctalopia." Rose, whose effervescent personality and eager participation captured the hearts of all, easily spelled it correctly.
Basenji was the word for Sameer Mishra from Lafayette, IN. Even though it was a tough word--no Greek or Latin derivation, it is spelled just like it sounds. He knocked it out of the park. It is, by the way, an African breed of smallish hunting dog, native to the inner Congo regions, which rarely barks. So, maybe that was behind Arthur Conan Doyle's story... I guess a basenji's bark isn't worse than its bite. Here is a picture.
"Empyrean" was spelled corrected by Kavya Skivashankar from Olathe, Kansas. She is one of the seemingly innumerable children of Indian descent whose expertise in a number of areas, from spelling to music, to dance, is more than inspiring.
"Tautological" was Sidharth Chand's word. He got it right without much effort.
A "Huguenot" is a French Protestant from the 16th-17th Centuries. Cat Cojocaru, Jeff Kirsch's student, got it right. I am proud of her for it. She is actually from Rochester, MN, but is sponsored by a company in Fargo, ND. She is a very poised speller, and took her time on this word--a word she might not otherwise have heard.
Scott Remer from Cleveland, Ohio was next. "Digerati" was his word, and he, predictably, hit it out of the park.
Jahnavi Iyer got "caduceus," a word known by those who appreciate ancient Greek mythology. It is the wand carried by an ancient Greek or Roman herald, especially by Hermes or Mercury as the messenger of the gods. She got it right.
Now, I think they need to turn up the heat. We still have 11 spellers left.
Samia got "monogoneutic"--having only one brood in a year. She spelled it out in her hand but then knocked it out pretty well. She seemed not to have a problem with it.
Tia Thomas had the word "brankursine." She looked pretty confident of it, and then she spelled it directly. It is known as "bear's breech, Acanthus." Here is a picture.
"Rorschach" was spelled correctly by Justin.
Kyle got "trochiline," relating to the hummingbird. He spelled it out very quickly. I would have made a mistake, by putting an "o" between the "h" and "l." Good for Kyle! The Century defines the Trochilidae as "a family of tenuirostral macrochirous picariona birds peculiar to America; the hummingbird." Thus, if you know the Linnaean name, "trochiline" is no problem.
"Alcarraza" was the word for Rose--a jug or similar object--and she got it right away. She was so delighted that she knew it, and was quite happy with herself when spelling it correctly. Here is an interesting picture of one of them.
Sameer got "numnah"--he misheard it first time and thought Dr. Bailly said "numbnut" or something like that, and then when he hearrd it correctly, he said it was a relief and got it right. It caused everyone to laugh, and everyone loved it. It is a pad placed between the horse and the rider.
Kavya got "epideictic," a term from ancient rhetoric emphasizing rhetorical effect. The OED has: "adapted for display or show-off." From 1874: "He would not work any "epideictic" miracle at their meeting.
Sidharth got "ommateal," which is soft tissue apart from the lens in a simple eye of an invertebrate; an ommateum is also a compound eye. Ommateum is a diminutive of "eye." He got it right, without much apparent effort.
Cat's word was "boulangere," and she got it right. If you check a Google search you find many recipes for "Potatoes a a la Boulangerie," which looks pretty much like scalloped potatoes to me, with some onions. Here is a picture.
Scott got the word "ranunculaceous;"--plants with colorless acrid juice. The Latin word ranunculus means "a little frog or tadpole; also a medicinal plant." It is the diminutive of "rana," a frog. The OED says that the common species with yellow flowers are popularly known by the name of buttercups. Scott got it right.
Jahnavi got the word "Nietzschean." Even if you have studied philosophy, you might get it wrong. She tried three times before hitting it correctly. It must have been frustrating for her not to have "seen" the word for so long.
Actually, this round wasn't too difficult, and no spellers were eliminated.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long