Champion Spelling Words: 2011 National Spelling Bee

This past week the Scripps National Spelling Bee featured 275 spellers from age 8 to 15, spelling words most of us cannot even begin to imagine.

The winner was Sukanya Roy of Scranton, PA who correctly spelled cymotrichous.

The final nine words in the competition are listed below, with their meanings and correct spellings. (Even the spell-checker on my blogging software didn’t know most of these words.):

  • cymotrichous: adj. Having wavy hair.
  • periscii: Those who live within a polar circle, whose shadows, during some summer days, will move entirely round, falling toward every point of the compass.
  • sorites:
    • A logical argument in which multiple arguments (syllogisms) are arranged so that the intermediate conclusions are omitted, being implicitly understood, and only the final conclusion is stated.
    • This is typically structured so that the predicate of each argument  forms the subject of the next until the subject of the first is joined with the predicate of the last. More on sorites here.
  • hooroosh: An uproar or great fuss.
  • orgeat: a liquor or syrup extracted from barley and sweet almonds, used as a flavoring for beverages and foods, or sometimes medicinally for its mild soothing properties.
  • naumkeag:  A circular, pleated, abrasive sanding pad used in scouring operations in the shoe and other industries. The Naumkeag were a Native American tribe that lived in present day Massachusetts.
  • galoubet: A French word for a type of flute. The flute is wooden, about a foot long , played by the left hand only, and always accompanied the tambourine.
  • Jugendstil: artistic style that arose in Germany about the mid-1890s and continued through the first decade of the 20th century, deriving its name from the Munich magazine Die Jugend (“Youth”), which featured Art Nouveau designs.
  • panguingue: A  card game played only in the western United States, where it is popular as a gambling game in many clubs. It developed from conquian, the ancestor of rummy games.


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The Grammarian’s Funeral

The Grammarian’s Funeral (1708) by Benjamin Thompson

Eight Parts of Speech this Day wear Mourning Gowns
Declin’d Verbs, Pronouns, Participles, Nouns.And not declined, Adverbs and Conjunctions,
In Lillies Porch they stand to do their functions.
With Preposition; but the most affection
Was still observed in the Interjection.
The Substantive seeming the limbed best,
Would set an hand to bear him to his Rest.
The Adjective with very grief did say,
Hold me by strength, or I shall faint away.
The Clouds of Tears did over-cast their faces,
Yea all were in most lamentable Cases.
The five Declensions did the Work decline,
And Told the Pronoun Tu, The work is thine:
But in this case those have no call to go
That want the Vocative, and can’t say O!
The Pronouns said that if the Nouns were there,
There was no need of them, they might them spare:
But for the sake of Emphasis they would,
In their Discretion do what ere they could.
Great honour was confer’d on Conjugations,
They were to follow next to the Relations.
Amo did love him best, and Doceo might
Alledge he was his Glory and Delight.
But Lego said by me he got his skill,
And therefore next the Herse I follow will.
Audio said little, hearing them so hot,
Yet knew by him much Learning he had got.
O Verbs the Active were, Or Passive sure,
Sum to be Neuter could not well endure.
But this was common to them all to Moan
Their load of grief they could not soon Depone.
A doleful Day for Verbs, they look so moody,
They drove Spectators to a Mournful Study.
The Verbs irregular, ’twas thought by some, Continue reading

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Bay Psalm Book

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in the New World, in 1640. Its working of the Psalms into English metrical form, while not exactly praised by poets and critics today, shows something interesting about poetics  in English, and the great potential for English poetics in terms of syntax. I also find that these renderings very refreshing in their simplicity when compared with the King James versions which are so much more formal.  Below is Psalm 23, first as written in the Bay Psalm Book (1640), and then from the King James version (1611).

Psalm 23

The Lord to mee a shepheard is, want therefore shall not I.

Hee in the foldsof tender-grasse, dth cause mee downe to lie:

To waters calm me gently leads

Restore my soule doth hee:

he doth in paths of righteousness:

for his names sake leade mee.

Yea though in valley of deaths shade I walk, none ill I’le feare:

because thou art with mee, thy rod, and staffe my comfort are.

For mee a table thou hast spread,

in presence of my foes:

thou dost annoynt my head with oyle, my cup it over-flowes.

Goodnes & mercy surely shall all my dayes follow mee:

and in the Lods house I shall dwell

so long as dayes shall bee.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he ledeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shdow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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Remembering War Dead: Best Memorial Poems

While Americans observe Memorial Day today, a holiday commemorating U.S. men and women who died while in military service, I thought I would share eight of my favorite poems on the subject of war and loss. The Links on the poem titles will open a new window with the text of the poem.

8. “Soldier, What Did You See?” by Don Blanding, a soldier who served in both World War I and World War II

7. “War is Kind,” by Stephen Crane, a chilling study of the price of the Civil War

6. “Wait for Me,” by Konstantin Simonov, World War II

5. “Memorial Day for the War Dead,” by Yehuda Amichai, a German Jew

4. “Patterns,” by Amy Lowell, one of the best poems about war from the point of view of a civilian

3. “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae, one of the most famous poems to come out of World War I

2. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” by Walt Whitman

1.  “The Charge of the Lilght Brigade,” Lord, Alfred Tennyson

Further discussion on this theme, as well as a list of many more war remembrance poems can be found in this article from

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The Effort to Improve Our Grammar

grammarnaziI have always felt a bit uncomfortable around people who like to point out the mistakes of others, lampooning and harpooning and acting altogether superior. The internet is full of people offering advice, criticism, even  ridicule. Here are some of the most useful (or entertaining) sites about English grammar:

Here’s a site offering: 10 Reasons To Use Correct Spelling And Grammar

Amanda Ernst discusses: Spelling, Grammar And U: Texting Pet Peeves as posted on Huffington Post, touching off on one of the biggest changes going on in our langugage today.

Stephen Sawyer ponders how grmmar rules get made and wonders who is actualyl in charge of the English language:

Brian Clark warns us about Five Grammatical Errors that
Make You Look Dumb

A site that celebrates those who are overlydefensive about grammar: aptly named

Capital Communioty College in Hartford,CT has an amazing comprehensive and usable guide to grammar:

“Grammar Girl” offers practical tips on her website:

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