June 01, 2006

Tutoyer, koine, tmesis, Ursprache

Sure, most Language Log readers know those words (or should), but what about seventh and eighth graders? Those linguistic terms were among the words spelled by the two finalists in the closing rounds of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee. In fact, Ursprache was the winning word, spelled correctly by Katharine Close of Spring Lakes, NJ. (Perhaps her championship word portends a career in historical linguistics?) Congratulations to Katharine, the first winner of the spelling bee to hail from New Jersey — and the first to win on live prime-time TV. Katharine beat out Finola Hackett of Tofield, Alberta, who was stumped by another Germanism, Weltschmerz.

[On the American Dialect Society mailing list, Larry Horn commented:

I was waiting for the young girl who had been given "tmesis" to spell to ask the Associate Pronouncer (yes, that's an actual officer) "Do you mean as in fanfuckintastic?" But she forbore. ]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at June 1, 2006 10:15 PM