Can You Use That In A Sentence? Wacky Words Of The 2015 Scripps Spelling Bee

It’s no secret: I love the Scripps National Spelling Bee. A few years ago I live blogged the event, and last year spellebrity Amber Born even stopped by to tell us what the bee is really like – if you are at all a bee enthusiast, it is a must-read! This year I couldn’t confer superlatives because – gasp! – I missed it. If you read the post a few days ago about cutting cable, that’s no surprise. But as we celebrate dual winners Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, we can still look back on the 2015 words that were.

bouillabaisse

Meaning: a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille

Can you use it in a sentence? At the 4th of July picnic, Rhonda – and her entire extended family – learned that bouillabaisse is a dish best stored out of the hot sun.

cerastes

Meaning: a North African viper that has a spike over each eye.

Can you use it in a sentence? George’s cerastes costume did not strike fear on Halloween night, because everyone thought he was some sort of weird unicorn.

hacek

Meaning: a diacritic mark (ˇ) placed over a letter to indicate modification of the sound in Slavic and other languages.

Can you use it in a sentence? In a bid to distinguish baby Isabella from the other girls with the same name, her parents placed an unnecessary hacek over the a.

cytopoiesis

Meaning: production of cells

Can you use it in a sentence? Nina’s mother called the teen’s acne “excessive cytopoiesis of oil cells,” because Nina’s mother is the worst.

 crannog

Meaning: an artificial, fortified island

Can you use it in a sentence? I think the island on Lost was a crannog, but I’m not sure because I stopped watching after the third season.

 bacchius

Meaning: a foot of three syllables consisting of one short syllable followed by two long ones, or one unstressed syllable followed by two stressed ones.

Can you use it in a sentence? “Rumor has it that Drake’s next mixtape contains a rap in which every verse begins and ends with a bacchius.” — This is actually Jacques Bailly’s sentence.

cocozelle

Meaning: a dark green variety of zucchini

Can you use it in a sentence? The cocozelle is an especially bland food, considering it sounds like it is named after an especially sassy French lady.

samadhi

Meaning: meditative concentration

Can you use it in a sentence?: In math class, I would frequently feign a state of samadhi so that the teacher would think I was paying attention and wouldn’t call on me.

Albumblatt

meaning: a short composition for the piano

Can you use it in a sentence? Mozart hinted to his followers that a new albumblatt was dropping next summer.

billiken

Meaning: a squat smiling comic figure used as a mascot

Can you use it in a sentence? I avoid standing next to tall friends in photos, lest I look like a billiken.

Hippocrene

Meaning: poetic inspiration

Can you use it in a sentence? The hippocrene – ATTACKED – my braaaaain – and speech …… and now… I saaaay everything like a slam…. poem.[Raise arms above head dramatically]

backfisch

Meaning: immature adolescent girl

Can you use it in a sentence? Move, backfisch, get out the way – your Zayn memorial is blocking the entire hallway.

poikilitic

Meaning: relating to the texture of an igneous rock in which small crystals of one mineral occur within crystals of another.

Can you use it in a sentence? These Billy Crystal Russian nesting dolls are especially poikilitic.

gnathostome

Meaning: jawed vertibrates

Can you use it in a sentence: Marge, who has a very weak jawline, lamented that she “barely even looks like a gnasthostome.”

población

Meaning: the center of a municipality or city in the Philippines

Can you use it in a sentence? When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go to the población.

commissurotomy

Meaning: an open-heart surgery that repairs a mitral valve that is narrowed from mitral valve stenosis.

Can you use it in a sentence: Broken-hearted Phil said that he felt like he had undergone a commissurotomy, but it was just a nasty breakup and he should probably deal with that.

réclame

Meaning: public attention or acclaim not necessarily based on or proportionate to real value or achievement

Can you use it in a sentence: Did you hear that they’re thinking of putting a portrait of the Kardashian family in the dictionary next to the word réclame?

Tartarean

Meaning: the regions below Hades where the Titans were confined; an infernal region; hell.

Can you use it in a sentence? After Whitney proclaimed that middle school was “positively tartarean,” she found that her classmates made it a lot more tartarean.

oflag

Meaning: a German prison camp for officers

Can you use it in a sentence? Fresh out of the oflag, Albert asked Whitney to remind him again what was so tartarean about middle school.

Bayadere

Meaning: a Hindu dancing girl, in particular one at a southern Indian temple.

Can you use it in a sentence: Bridget had dreams of becoming a bayadere, but her parents pushed her into Irish dance instead.

iridocyclitis

Meaning: inflamation of the iris and the ciliary body

Can you use it in a sentence? The pickup line “Do I have iridocyclitis? Because it almost hurts to look at you” was a big hit at the ophthalmologist convention.

Canossa

Meaning:  place or occasion of submission, humiliation or penance

Can you use it in a sentence? Brad told Whitney that public middle school might be tartarean, but Catholic middle school was a virtual canossa.

tortillon

Meaning: cylindrical drawing tool, tapered at the ends and usually made of rolled paper, used by artists to smudge or blend marks made with charcoal, Conté crayon, pencil or other drawing utensils.

Can you use it in a sentence? Angela felt that her kids’ classroom supply lists had grown too demanding when her kindergartner was instructed to bring a box of crayons, colored pencils, and a tortillon.

minhag

Meaning: a Jewish religious custom

Can you use it in a sentence? Rose claimed that her inability to use the stove on the Sabbath was a minhag, but her family suspected that she just hated to cook.

cibarial

Meaning: related to food

Can you use it in a sentence? Like 90% of Wanda’s instagram posts are cibarial and her food always looks gross; should we tell her?

zygoneure

Meaning: a connecting neuron

Can you use it in a sentence? “I’m drawn to you like a zygoneure between neurons” was a less-successful pickup line at the neurologist convention.

acritarch

Meaning: any of a group of fossil one-celled marine planktonic organisms of uncertain and possibly various taxonomic affinities held to represent the earliest known eukaryotes

Can you use it in a sentence? After learning that his friends did not share his enthusiasm for acritarch research, Ross was one sorry polontologist.

bouquetière

Meaning: garnished with vegetables

Can you use it in a sentence? If you eat pizza with bouquetiere presentation it’s totally healthy.

caudillismo

Meaning: the doctrine or practice of a caudillo

Can you use it in a sentence? Under Brittany’s iron fist, the sorority operated under a system of caudillismo and only pre-approved Vera Bradley designs were permitted.

thamakau

Meaning: a Fijian outrigger canoe

Can you use it in a sentence? In the Fijian version of Dawson’s Creek, Dawson drifted to Joey’s house on a thamakau to whine at her like a stupid baby.

scytale

Meaning: a method of cipher writing used especially by the Spartans in which a narrow strip of parchment was wound on a rod and the message written across the adjoining edges

Can you use it in a sentence: Diane spent English class perfecting her scytale and Ella was all  “damn, Diane, can’t you just pass notes like a normal person?”

tantième

Meaning: a percentage or proportional share especially of profits or earnings

Can you use it in a sentence? Fergie argued that she should receive a tantieme of the Scripps Bee profits because she “put spelling on the map” and it is “kind of her thing.”

cypseline

Meaning: of our relating to the swifts

Can you use it in a sentence: Some of the nerdier Taylor Swift fans wanted the group to be called “the cyspeslines” but honestly, that was ridiculous.

urgrund

Meaning: a primal cause or ultimate cosmic principle

Can you use it in a sentence: After much soul-searching, Earl said that he had discovered the controlling urgrund. Maxine replied “Gesundheit.”

filicite

Meaning: a fossil fern

Can you use it in a sentence: After complaining that she hated getting flowers because they always died, Becky received a filicite for her anniversary, but she hated that too because Becky sucks.

myrmotherine

Meaning: feeding on ants

Can you use it in a sentence? After the picnic was invaded by ants, Janet discovered that she had inadvertently become myrmotherine.

sprachgefühl

Meaning: the character of a language

Can you use it in a sentence? The existence of the word “sprachgefuhl” pretty much sums up the German sprachgefuhl.

zimocca

Meaning: a flat sponge from the Mediterranean sea.

Can you use it in a sentence? Norm only shops at Whole Foods now and I have to wash my dishes with this scuzzy zimocca.

nixtamal

Meaning: limed kernels of corn that is ready to be ground into masa.

Can you use it in a sentence: Doug is a few nixtamal short of a tortilla, if you know what I mean.

hippocrepiform

Meaning: shaped like a horseshoe

Can you use it in a sentence? Remember how we all bought hippocrepiform necklaces because Carrie Bradshaw wore them? Most of the spelling bee contestants weren’t even alive for that.

paroemiology

Meaning: the subject of proverbs

Can you use it in a sentence? If Claire reblogs one more hand-lettered inspirational quote I’ll think she’s working on a degree in paroemiology.

scacchite

Meaning: some kind of mineral?

Can you use it in a sentence? No.

pipsissewa

Meaning: a North American plant of the wintergreen family, with whorled evergreen leaves

Can you use it in a sentence? After giving their 11 daughters botanical names from Violet to Daisy to Ivy, the Jones family was thrilled to welcome baby Pipsissewa to the clan.

Bruxellois

Meaning: patois language of Brussels

Can you use it in a sentence? Brenda told her professor that she was speaking Bruxellois, when really, Brenda was just very bad at French.

pyrrhuloxia

Meaning:  songbird of Mexico and the southwestern US.

Can you use it in a sentence? Harper Lee’s editors informed her that her working title, “To Kill A Pyrrhuloxia,” required a little tweaking.

scherenschnitte

Meaning: the art of cutting paper into elaborate designs

Can you use it in a sentence? Do you ever see those DIY websites with all their scherenschnitte and just think “nobody’s got time for that?”

nunatak

Meaning: a hill or mountain surrounded by glacial eyes

Can you use it in a sentence? Climb every nunatak, ford every stream.

 
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Adult Language: When Did I Start Talking Like An Old Lady?

I used to think that old people used old-people words because it was how people talked when they were growing up. But lately, something strange has been happening. I open my mouth to speak, and the vocabulary of an old man tumbles out. I’m starting to think that as you get older your brain gets repopulated with a dictionary of “adult language.” I don’t mean the kind that nets you a PG-13 rating, or the deliberately stodgy words that some people say to be funny, like “kerfuffle” or “gee whilickers.”  They’re just these words that I thought only people who were born prior to 1950 used – until now.

Blouse

I cannot overstate how much I hated “blouse” growing up. It always sounded poofy and ruffly, like the Puffy Shirt from Seinfeld. A few years ago, I decided that it was sort of funny to refer to shirts as “blouses,” like I was the kind of lady who also planned vacations using a travel agent and had some sort of deliberate hairdo. It is slowly trickling into my regular vocab list.

Girlfriend

It’s kind of misleading to call your platonic female friends your “girlfriends.” Whenever a coworker or casual acquaintance mentions going to a movie with her “girlfriend” or her “girlfriend who lives downstate” I try to ask vague yet leading questions to figure out what, exactly, is up so that I don’t say something stupid later. But in some ways, girlfriend is more specific than friend – I always think it implies a fairly close friend, not some rando you get coffee with occasionally – and it sounds more adult than “best friend.” Just like “blouse,” this entered my vocab because it tickled my funnybone, but I think it’s here to stay.

Slacks

They’re slimmer and less schlumpy than “pants.” They aren’t necessarily khakis. They aren’t jeans. They’re slacks. Oh god, I’m the oldest lady in the world.

Pocketbook

I don’t know what it is, but lately my usual term – purse – has started to sound like an old-lady word itself. If you listen to it divorced of context, it even sounds like something they would have named a baby girl in 1905. Bertha. Maude. Gertrude. Purse. Handbag is a likely alternative, but I don’t think anything I own costs enough to qualify as a handbag. I usually just say “bag” – but I think “pocketbook.”

Chit-Chat

I remember a substitute teacher who always used to say “ladies, this isn’t the Chit-Chat Club” when my friends and I were talking. And I always used to think “I wish it were, that sounds like the best club ever!” Now I am an old lady both in that I use the phrase “chit chat” to describe idle talk, and also because I have developed a total aversion to it. Chit chat club? Blegh. No thank you.

Program

I usually call t.v. shows “shows,” because I am 28 years old. I know some people say “stories” from time to time, but that’s when they’re trying to be cute. But program is what my old Italian neighbor, Nancy, used to say. Apparently the old lady in my brain also says “program,” because I found myself saying it entirely by accident a few months ago.

Scram

Every day I catch the bus in a station teeming with high schoolers. They stand in clusters talking way too loud and laughing at things that aren’t funny. And every time I move through a chunk of teenagers trying to catch my bus, I think “why won’t these kids just scram!” “Get out” sounds too basic, and “dissemble” too dainty. What I really want these youths to do is scram.

Smart

Not in terms of intelligent, but as in crisply tailored. I don’t know if it’s so much an old lady term, or that before my mid-20s I wasn’t as interested in owning a “smart blazer.”

Sharp

I swear, I told one of my nephews he looked “really sharp” in his Easter outfit. But he was wearing a smart tie, what else was I supposed to say?

Book Bag or Backpack

Speaking of those crazy kiddos, several months ago I told one of the four-year-olds to get his book bag. Or backpack. I can’t remember which one, because in my mind they’re interchangeable. Apparently for children born in the 2010s, they are NOT. I was swiftly and sternly corrected. It’s already happening. Using normal words from my youth is making me sound like an old lady. He’s just lucky I don’t call his Leapfrog device a “Gameboy.”

Grade School

I thought this was normal, too. Apparently it’s not. Apparently you’re supposed to say “elementary school,” which I thought was the same thing. But whether you say elementary or grade, I think we can agree that the REAL old man phrase is “grammar school,” and I’m not there – yet.

Weenie

A few years ago, my cousin described Pete Cambell from Mad Men as a “weenie.” Pete is the ultimate weenie, and I was so tickled by the word that it entered my everyday vocab. It’s an outmoded term, but totally useful. There are plenty of guys you’d usually call a douche or a bro, but they have that extra simpering quality that makes them weenies.

TV Set

When I was shopping for a new television, I accidentally said “tv set.” Woah. Nobody really says that anymore. It reminds me of how my parents still say “vacuum sweeper.” Yeah, they put a nickname on my birth certificate, yet they go through the trouble of saying “vacuum sweeper.” The older I get, the more I understand.
I could keep going: housedress, lunch pail (this is actually what my dad used to say when I was a kid), luncheon, lollygag (another dad favorite). I used to be young and relatively hip, but those days are over. Now I just put on my blouse and slacks and lollygag in front of the TV set with my girlfriends, speaking in the least cool “adult language” ever.