Thursday, January 31, 2008


\kə-ˈmit-mənt\ noun
1 a: an act of committing to a charge or trust: as (1): a consignment to a penal or mental institution (2): an act of referring a matter to a legislative committee b: mittimus2 a: an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; especially : an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b: something pledged c: the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled
(with thanks to:

Wry observation: when we hear the word "commitment" our thoughts often jump to matters of the heart, while the dictionary's definition points us toward jail or an asylum. Coincidence?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


per-ni-cious pər NISH-əs adjective
Tending to cause death or serious injury; deadly. Causing great harm; destructive; ruinous.
Origin: Latin perniciousus, from per (completely) + nex (death, violence).


trav-əld adjective Having traveled widely; experienced in travel.

This is one of those words that always makes me think twice: one "l" or two? My dictionary allows two for the verb form, but stipulates one for the adjective. Just to mess me up.

Monday, January 28, 2008


cancrine (KANG-krin) adjective

1. Reading the same backwards as forwards, palindromic. For example,
"A man, a plan, a canal: Panama." (letter cancrine)
"So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so!" (word cancrine)

2. Crab-like.

[From Latin cancr- (stem of cancer) cancer + -ine.]

J.S. Bach's Crab Canon is an example of cancrine music:
(With thanks to A Word A Day @ Check out their anagram server link on the right of this page.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Pharaoh is, to my mind, the perfect spelling bee word. Everyone knows what a pharaoh is, right? But are you sure you know how to spell it?
During one of the rounds of the 2006 Bee, the word "pharaoh" instantly eliminated all but one team, to the good-natured chagrin of the competitors.
As we compile this year's list, we will be looking for more words like pharaoh.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Having or characterized by pleasant flavor
Try the cherry juice pop; I am sure you will find it sufficiently geusioleptic for your palate.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The winning Bee word for 2006: dysrhythmia

dysrhythmia dis RITH mee uh noun
An abnormality in an otherwise normal rhythmic pattern, as of brain waves being recorded by an electroencephalograph.
The ticking clock’s dysrhythmia alerted us to the broken escapement.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winning Bee word for 2007: odontalgia

odontalgia (oh-don-tal-ja) noun
A toothache.
This word won in sudden death overtime. We were in a panic because the spellers in the Championship Round were so good, they'd almost used up our list of words. One of the Bee committee members went to the dictionary and selected some extra words, hand-writing the words, meanings and pronunciations on a sheet of lined notebook paper. Sure enough, we had to use that list before the end of the final round. I don't know who was more nervous, the spellers or the Bee workers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A bit about how the Bee works

Spellers compete in teams of 3, in rounds of 4--6 teams. Teams are seated together at small café tables. Each team has a whiteboard and some markers.

Spelling words are projected onto the wall behind the teams (no peeking!).

The announcer reads the word and may use the word in a sentence. Team members confer about the spelling, and the member with the neatest handwriting writes the word on the whiteboard.

If a team has purchased a "Mulligan" and chooses NOT to spell a word, they hand in their cardboard "M".

After a period of time (or sooner, if all teams have finished), the teams raise their whiteboards simultaneously for checking. Teams who spelled the word correctly or opted out with a Mulligan will advance to the next word; eliminated spelling teams will remain seated at the café tables until the round is concluded.

Winners from each round advance to the final Championship Round. Mulligans may not be used in the Championship Round.

The Spelling Champions receive a standing ovation, Enormous Bragging Rights, and their names (team and individual) are recorded on a Bee plaque in the lower foyer of the Library.