Tuesday, November 20, 2012


After the bee, in a long high-ceilinged room on the third floor of The Standard Hotel, we learned the correct way to pronounce antimony. It's pronounced like alimony, not like anemone. The OED's Jesse Sheidlower, a man of few and myriad words and one of the BMOCs in the room, walked us through the word.

Before the bee began in earnest, at the outset, emcee Ben Greenman told the participants, "Think about the alphabet."

And during the bee, a spelling bee to benefit the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, many words were broadcast for the enjoyment of all and sundry. Some words were quite nice (tierce, timbale), some quite rather easy (litigiousgluttonously, and succotash--a Narragansett word, according to Mr Sheidlower), and a few, such as sculpin, a little out-there.

As is the annual tradition, sacrilegious felled a couple of participants. Mr Sheidlower was nonplussed at this (in the traditional sense of the word).

Colophon proved a stumper, too.

One of the participants -- was it Patricia Marx? -- asked for the definition of uncomplimentary before she spelt it. A wise woman.

Until Mr Sheidlower read the word chordal aloud in a sentence, I imagined it as something difficult, out of the Aztecs. That Roseanne Cash received the word was a sweet coincidence.

from a letter c. 1517

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