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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Live Blog: Scripps National Spelling Bee

Good evening and welcome to our liveblog of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Or, as I like to call it, Nerd Superbowl. Speaking of the superbowl, this is the one time every year that many of us will be voluntarily tuning into ESPN, so everyone, give yourselves a few minutes to track down the channel. Keep refreshing the blog to catch our updates, and follow our live tweets on Twitter — @cookiessangria

  • Like homeschooled 5th graders and NPR fans everywhere, I’ve been waiting all year for this. Literally, this time — I read American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and The Culture Of Word Nerds right after last year’s bee, and was pretty bummed I’d have to wait 12 months to see it play out.
  • Remember the big bee news of 2012? The youngest speller ever, 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison competed. She got dinged out on “ingluvies.” Cute kid, but can’t spell ingluvies? What are you, a kindergartner?

    I honestly have tattoos older than her.

Ugh, who am I kidding. Even though she has a name from 1973 (a good thing, as Lori is 10,000 times better than Madycynne or McKaeighlah), this kid wasn’t even born until I was a few years into college. Lori isn’t here this year, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. I sincerely hope that she’s being seven right now and constructing a blanket fort or making a village out of tissue boxes.

  • This year, the hot story is that the competitors have to take a vocab test. FINALLY. If there’s one problem with spelling bee kids, it’s that they’re dumb and lazy and don’t know enough about words. Thank God we’re finally weeding out those bozos!
  • The Bee begins with a kind of confusing Matilda The Musical tie-in. I can only guess that we’re trying to reach out to all distinct nerd groups, from word to theater to eventually science. I can only guess they’ll bring in Doctor Who eventually.
  • Really embarrassed to remember some of these kids. Favs: Vanya, whose sister won a few years back and is ADORABLE, and Arvind, who has more charm than any child since Jonathan Lipnicki told us all how much the human head weighs.
  • Dr. Jacques Bailly is seriously just the Tim Gunn of the National Spelling Bee. What a dream.
  • Do kids with misspelled names get ashamed during the bee? Or are they drawn to it to correct their parents’ mistakes? I’m looking at you, Christal Schermeister.
  • Guys, if I’m mean about Christal Schermeister, it’s just because she’s clearly going to grow up to be far more intelligent and attractive than me.
  • First ding out! Bummer. I try not to get too attached to anyone during the early rounds. I’m sure many Panem citizens used the same tactic during the Hunger Games.
  • A little more spelling bee background: the kids arrived in D.C. last weekend, and I guess they just go hog-wild in a hotel this week. I mean, as wild as kids who spend all day studying the dictionary can go. It’s like rumspringa for a very particular kind of Amish person.

  • Vanya Shivashankar knows French very well. I mean, of course she does. Best kid ever. BTW, her sister Kavya is here and she’s so grown up! Off to Colombia already.
  • Amber Born: “Is the sentence funny?” Amber wants to be a comedy writer. Amber, girl after my own heart. Please come by and write for us sometimes! As long as you promise not to judge our spelling which is, admittedly, not always awesome. The announcers say she’s a dark horse. Move over, Arvind, I have a new favorite.
  • Sriram is from kind of near me! This matters to none of you. I’ll stop. He gets singerie, which is from French. Apparently when I was taking college French I told Traci that it was the language that they speak in hell. I don’t remember saying that, but it seems like something I would do. Such weird pronunciations! Full disclosure: French was my grandma’s first language, so I’m not just being a jerk. I’m being a jerk to my own beloved family members.
  • Arvind’s drama teacher sees him in a red smoking jacket. I’m sorry, is he a precocious 8th grader or Hugh Hefner? I’m confused.
  • Here is a fantastic spelling bee video (not from today). This kid is my new comedy hero. He was totally punking her:

  • Oh man, I remember Vismaya from last year. She did pretty well and had a distinct air of being probably too cool for this business. Damn, Vismaya. You’re smooth. Delivered “sciomancy” like it was nothing even though she was obviously not sure of it.
  • Grace is pictured diving into one of those pits of foam blocks, which was a childhood dream of mine thanks to all of the gymnastics centers that opened up after the ’96 Olympics. There are also a bunch of trampolines, which reminds me that Amanda Bynes was photographed at a trampoline center at my old city, Buffalo. First of all, I never knew there was a trampoline center there. Second, I am really curious as to what string of events lead her to a Western New York trampo-gym. Buffalo’s right at the border, so maybe that.
  • Bailly and co. tried to recreate those commercials where kids are sitting around being asked questions. I love those commercials, but I can’t say that they’re all that effective, because I can’t remember what they’re for. Was it phones?
  • Grace Remmer is chronicling her various awkward stages that appeared during the bee. Listen. Like most American kids, I can remember my spelling bee downfall painfully well. I was a major bookworm with the vocabulary of a nerdy adult, but I didn’t have an exceptional spelling prowess. See, if they’d had the vocabulary test then, I might have been okay. Anyway, I made it nearly to the end of my elementary school bee, only to be struck down by “counselor.” To be fair, I don’t think we got definitions, and I spelled it councillor, which is a homophone or close to it. Whatever. Anyway, Grace reminds me that it’s not like I’d really want my 11-year-old mug visible on the internet today, anyway. I had the Frizz No Butterfly Clips Can Tame.
  • Christal’s little sister looks majorly concerned. Somebody didn’t study “doryline.” Oh shit. Countdown clock. Bye, Christal. It’s been real. With the sorry spelling genes that your parents passed down, it’s a miracle you made it this far. I mean, Christal?
  • According to the spelling bee kids via Mackelmore, the ceiling is no longer able to hold them.
  • Vanya, stop asking questions, you know this. I was about to wonder whether she got teased with Uncle Vanya references at school, but probably not, right? Because she’s a child?
  • Amber Born reminds me of Traci and I when we first became friends, except actually accomplished at something other than recording The Rosie O’Donnell Show so we didn’t miss it during our afterschool activities.
  • I know envoutement totally LOOKS like a word, but when you pronounce it with a fancy French accent, it sure doesn’t SOUND like one. I reiterate: The Language They Speak In Hell. With all due apologies to my dear, late Grandma. But I think there’s a reason she always spoke English with us, you know?
  • [The reason is my demonstrated inability to speak French properly, probably]
  • This may be the first time I correctly identified a history-based root. Sansculottic, related to the sans-culottes? Yeah, I KILLED AP European. That’s right.
  • Vismaya is from Bountiful, Utah. Was that the town with all of the plural marriages? I read a book on the FLDS but don’t really remember. She’s clearly too cool to take part in that though:There are nine spellers left. NINE. Don’t they know that kids stodgy 20-somethings are watching with strict bedtimes to attend to? Come on, Bailly. Stop playing so nice.
  • Can we talk about redshirting? When I was in eighth grade, maybe half of the kids had turned 14 by the end of the school year. I’d think with all the homeschooling happening, most of these kids would be ahead of grade level for their age. There are a few too many 14-year-olds, is all I’m saying. I’m only regular-smart**, not spelling-bee smart, and teachers even asked my parents if they wanted to skip me ahead a grade. I’m sure some of these old kids are being kept at eighth grade status just to eke out another year of eligibility.

    ** A cold truth to all of you precocious kids out there: eventually, you’ll be average. I may have had a sixth grade reading level in kindergarten, but by law school, I just had a law school reading level. There’s a silver lining, though. That means parents can chill out about trying to teach their babies to read and their 2-year-olds to multiply. Eventually, they’ll probably be exactly as dumb as everyone else.

  • FYI: When there’s an accent mark, the kid doesn’t have to say it. The more you know.
  • Trivia: Vismaya’s mom used to be an actress in India. She got the word right, which is nice, I guess, but I am seriously getting sleepy here. Please start being less excellent, children.
  • Awww. Grace Remmer just got a standing ovation after she dinged out. She’s been here 4 years in a row. Such a likable kid! She’s temporarily taken over for Amber Brown as my favorite of the moment, because SOMEONE had to get eliminated so that this thing ends.
  • ESPN tells me that Nascar will be on in two days. Why do I guess there’s not too much overlap in these 2 audiences?
  • The winner gets $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Brittanica. I’m sorry, do people still use encyclopedias? Other than my dad, who pulls down his 1976 Encyclopedia Americana because he doesn’t remember to use Google? In case you’re wondering, my parents are also the people who still use phone books as phone books.
  • This kids difficulty with the pronunciation of kaburi reminds me of this gem:

BOWERY. BALLERY? Bowery. BALLERY? I don’t know if this girl has a hearing impediment or a speech disorder, but either way, I’m going to hell. I’d blame this debacle on a regional accent, but the girl is from Philadelphia. I lived there. I’d understand the confusion if they asked her to say water (“water.” “WOODER?”) or eagles (“eagles.” “IGGLES?”), but bowery should be fine. Just kidding, love you guys, send me some Tastykakes, go Iggles.

  • The announcers just said one kid was the most consistent speller. But, if you’re still on the stage, isn’t it because you’ve gotten everything right? So all of these kids are equally consistent? Well, it’s not a logic bee.
  • So long, Vanya. Unlike most of these red-shirted 14-year-olds, she has two years of eligibility left. I’d really like to see her win one of these years!
  • Guys, Born gets laughs just for walking on stage. Girl’s going places. The last person I remember getting laughs for a mere entrance was Cosmo Kramer.
  • Goodbye, Vismaya! Fortunately, she will seldom come across the word paryphrodrome to haunt her again. It is so obscure that my spell check can’t even tell me how terribly I just butchered it.
  • Amber Born is out. Want to know a secret, Amber? Comedy writer is a cooler title than spelling bee champion, anyway.
  • They just announced that this can’t go on all night. I think I may have heard all of the angels of heaven singing hymns of joy and praise. 25 more words. I can stay awake for this. Maybe.
  • Sriram’s out. Don’t cry, little buddy. There is no way that ptyalagogue is even a real word.
  • AHH WE’RE DOWN TO ONE SPELLER! I’M NOT USING CAPS BECAUSE I’M HAPPY FOR THE WINNER I just really want to go to bed.
  • Oh my God, Arvind could win! This kid! He gets a German word last. German is his language-nemesis. I get this. Right, French?
  • Guys, I just want to do something so amazing ONE TIME that ticker tape confetti is thrown all over me. One time. Other than attending a ticker-tape parade. Love his look of utter shell-shock.

That’s all, kids! Thanks for reading and thanks even more for ignoring all of my spelling mistakes. I’m a bit of an armchair QB as far as spelling bees go.

And Amber, if you want to write a guest post, we’ll be here waiting.