Friday, June 3, 2011

Champoin* (for Champion*)

One of my favorite words at the spelling bee this year was apolaustic. It means "devoted to enjoyment." While preparing to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee must seem like the dictionary definition of grueling to most people, the tiny speller who got apolaustic, and got it right, grinned as if she might in fact have been suffering from that very condition. By contrast, sitting next to her was one who looked like she could have had a bad case of anhedonia—a lovely, superstitious girl with a penny in her shoe, a dictionary under her pillow, and a dour expression on her face. (Dour, by the way, is not primarily pronounced as if it rhymes with sour, but rather like all of these kids are, not just thinkers, but doers. Another great spelling-bee word, anhedonia means the "inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events" and was the working title of the Woody Allen film Annie Hall.) The only competitor at the end of the (very long) day who could fairly be said to be feeling no pain was the champion, Sukanya Roy, who managed to uphold the "Indian-American dynasty at the National Spelling Bee" for one more year. This year's program honored the first two spelling bee winners, Frank Neuhauser and Pauline Bell, according to an article on Salon today. In 1925, Neuhauser won with the word gladiolus and in 1926 Bell won with cerise. Both of them passed away recently and a floral arrangement of cerise gladioli was placed onstage in their memories. Champoin* was found four times in OhioLINK and 17 times in WorldCat.

(Gladiolus, 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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