Ursprache! (National Spelling Bee)

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Doctor Q, Jun 2, 2006.

  1. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #1
    Ursprache (noun) - a language that is the recorded or hypothetical ancestor of another language or group of languages. Also called a protolanguage. Pronounced UR-shprock-eh.

    It's been a year since a 14-year-old fainted during the U.S. National Spelling Bee finals. This year there was no fainting and the finals were on nationwide television for the first time.

    Disproving the saying "close but no cigar", the winner was 13-year-old Katharine ("Kerry") Close from New Jersey.

    Close won $42,500 in cash, books, savings bonds, and scholarships. That amount is as weird as the words she spelled!

    The final word was ursprache, which I'm sure you all use frequently in everyday conversation. I probably use it a few times a day, e.g., "Did you know that Simula was an ursprache for Java?"

    The runners-up had trouble with the words weltschmerz and icteritious, which I also use every day, e.g., "I'm feeling especially weltschmerz over my icteritious summer tan." I'm sure you use those words too.
     
  2. xsedrinam macrumors 601

    xsedrinam

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    #2
    Here I've been misusing the term all these years as when a slightly inebriated Captain Kirk was first introduced to the Vulcan. "Ursprache?".

    That's really a special group of kids and it's great to see it get national tv coverage.
     
  3. EricNau Moderator emeritus

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    #3
    That was the final word? It sounds exactly like it is spelled. Besides, it's German, not English. :confused:

    (It's German for "Original Language.")
     
  4. eji macrumors 6502

    eji

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    #4
    What's kind of funny is that both Ursprache and Weltschmerz are words straight out of German, not yet assimilated into English so neatly as, say, the French "garage," so what were they doing in an American spelling bee? Doesn't the English language have enough tough words of its own?

    A semi-related anecdote: In the middle of talking to a girl back home about what it was like living in Germany, I sneezed.

    "Gesundheit," she said.

    "See?" I said. "You already know a bit of German."

    She looked at me blankly. "Gesundheit is German?"
     
  5. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #5
    At least Weltschmerz is recognized by the [Apple] American Oxford Dictionary; Ursprache isn't.
     
  6. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

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    #6
    I once had someone ask me for the French word for champagne.
     
  7. EricNau Moderator emeritus

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    #7
    Did you tell them vin mousseux? :p
     
  8. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #8
    the entire idea of the spelling bee contest is to me utterly absurd, especially if teenagers are concerned. I could see 7-8 years old kids doing it, but after ten... sad.
     
  9. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816

    CorvusCamenarum

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    #9
    Worse. I can only imagine the look she got from whichever poor French soul she asked for une bouteille du vagin. :D

    Literacy seems to be a waning ability these days. I know people my age who can't spell, and not just difficult words. Aside from it being just fun for at least some of them, they'll come away from it with a better understanding of our language.
     
  10. floriflee macrumors 68030

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    #10
    Hey, if it involves getting a $40+ scholarship for college then I'm all for letting teens do it.
     
  11. Boggle macrumors 6502

    Boggle

    #11
    I think the poor girl got hosed! She needs better representation. Somebody should have shown her an Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. 42.5K in total? Running in "prime-time" against only 1 other non-repeat program, which was an game-show marathon hosted by Rikki Lake!

    Not to mention, I [edit- spelling error, DOH!] garuntee boarding schools will be scouting this little girl (and all the other finalists) this is the kind of info that impresses parents looking a private schooling for their kids. For the love of a busicut will somebody find this woman an corporate logo?
     
  12. d_and_n5000 macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    I saw the bee live on Thursday, and I thougth it was really interesting. I was hoping Saryn Hooks would win - she waws thought to have spelled a word wrong(my researching skills are shaky), but in the word list, they had spelled it wrong. Therefore, the judges, on their own accord, checked it in the dictionary and she had spelled it right, and was called back up to compete again. She wound up in 3rd. I could have sworn that with the luck of getting reinstated, she would have won - but it was Katherine.

    Rats. At least I didn't bet anything.
     
  13. thedude110 macrumors 68020

    thedude110

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    #13
    I watched and thought it was wonderful.

    It's rare that North American youngsters get significant recognition for anything outside of sports or crime. And to see how hard these kids must have worked -- and how much they were living and dying in their individual spotlights -- it's really pretty wonderful.

    Most compelling was how the kids wanted to win, but at the same time recognized when they had lost. A kind of mutual respect sorely lacking amongst many adults in the workplace, I'd wager.
     
  14. clayj macrumors 604

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    #14
    I'm a former spelling bee champion... as a 4th grader, I won our school's spelling bee (4th and 5th graders) at Sembach Air Force Base in Germany. Grand prize was $200 (pretty good for 1978!) and a trip to the DODSEUR (Department of Defense Schools, Europe) championship at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy.

    While my folks drove us from Germany to Italy, I sat in the back seat memorizing lists of words... which is exactly what these kids do now. Didn't know what they meant, didn't know how to pronounce them all, but each of them got a brief amount of exposure to my young brain. When the competition came, I got more than halfway through it before I misspelled the word "incessant".

    It was still a good trip... got to go to Venice and see some nice old Italian towns. :)

    BTW, does anyone remember Rebecca Sealfon, the winner from 1997 or so? This girl was a complete nervous wreck up on the stage... constantly sniffing her fingers and shrieking a la Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL. I remember thinking that she seemed like a basket case and wouldn't last 5 minutes in the real world...
     
  15. thedude110 macrumors 68020

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    #15
    Ha -- I finished second in my school in fourth grade. Got ousted on "medeival."

    What's funny is that as an English teacher everyone expects me to be a "good speller." But you learn to spell by reading, and it seems like all I ever read are misspellings. Such that my colleagues and I joke that "our students have destroyed our ability to spell."
     
  16. Boggle macrumors 6502

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    #16
    I definately agree. I think these kids acted the way we want all types of competitors to behave. Good for them.
     
  17. EricNau Moderator emeritus

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    #17
    Well that was not very nice. :D :p
     
  18. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #18
    but this is what is feeding my weltschmerz (;)).
    That being able to spell belongs to some sort of "geekdom" and is not, simply, the norm.
    That our society is so competition-oriented that even the normal task of being able to talk, write and read divides people into winners and losers.
    That it has become accepted that a 15 years old who can spell must be some sort of phenomenon.

    That these contestants, who are probably by all means brilliant students, waste hours mechanically memorizing words mostly deriving from some forgotten ursprache, as succedanea for autochthonous ones, and which at most are ever used as a sort of appoggiatura, to embellish the vane demarche of some pococurante diplomat, attempting to substitute his or her utter lack of prospicience with unrelenting logorrhea.
     
  19. clayj macrumors 604

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    #19
    Consider yourself ousted again. It's spelled "medieval". (I before E, you know. ;) )
     
  20. xsedrinam macrumors 601

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    #20
    That almost made me onomatopoeia, laughing. :D (And I think thedude110's an educator, too. :)
     
  21. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #21
    I used to think the words these kids are challenged to spell were too hard, but the fact that the finalists have mastered dozens of them proves me wrong. The Spelling Bee has to use obscure, difficult, and "foreign language" words because the best contestants sail through the easier words.

    Congradulashuns to all the contestents!

    Oops, I forgot to spellcheck that. ;)
     
  22. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #22
    my take was that it was the spelling error that got him ousted then
     
  23. thedude110 macrumors 68020

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    #23
    What? Argh!

    *fights off fourth grade flashbacks of shame*

    :eek:
     
  24. Boggle macrumors 6502

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    #24

    Wow, did you read the superior person's book of words, b/c these aren't found in most thesauri!

    weltschmerz: wold-hurt, or ache, having to do with dissatisfaction with events beyond your control, unhappiness with the status quo. --outstanding word--
    ursprache: is a parental language which is sort of rebuilt from parts of modern languages. -- good choice --
    succedanea: my understanding is that the primary meaning is to be a successor to a post / job / title / property owneship...hence the root. -- but seems really appropriate in this context.
    autochthonous: indiginous, being from the area, (slight non sequitor b/c ursrache has to do w/ time in history and rarely is it established in a specific geographic location, and autochthonous has to do w/ geographic location)
    appoggiatura: is a musical embellishment I would have said garniture b/c it means to seem to add value by appearance but to be of little or no actual worth. then again, i think the musicallity works, again b/c of the context.
    demarche: course of action, steps take, maneuver, civil protest, statement of same to athorities etc. doesn't always have to be a protest, I don't think. --but again really good one --
    prospicience: forsight, --perfect word --
    logorrhea: excessive pointless talking (oh, so incredibly me, it should have my picture in OED) -- also really good choice of word --

    Anyway, I'm not sure agree with your characterizations but I keep getting interrupted by the damn phone and the dogs. But really good demonstration of your points by using specific language to communicate a complicated idea in a concise way. 10 out of 10 for style.
     
  25. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #25
    The judges must have to do a bit of practicing to be able to pronounce all of those words correctly. If they mispronounce one, that would be unfair to the contestant.

    Autochthonous? Yikes, what a word!

    You might think that there are not many words containing the sequence chth, but there are actually dozens. There are even words that begin with chth, such as chthonophagia, a disease characterized by the impulsive consumption of dirt -- also know as reading gossip magazines!
     

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