Who says spelling isn't a sport?   

Updated: June 2, 2007, 4:08 PM ET

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People ask all the time -- Why is a spelling bee on ESPN? Spelling is not a sport.

Well, I beg to differ. For one, there is a lot of athleticism involved in being a champion speller, as the speller must run, jump and juke to escape those who wish to give him a wedgie or wet willy.

But that's not the only reason. If you listen too closely to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, you'll hear that many of the example sentences for the words are given in sports contexts. It lets you get caught up on your sports news while expanding your vocabulary.

Andrew Lay

AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

The pressure of the Scripps National Spelling Bee can bring out a bit of Reche Caldwell in some competitors.

Don't believe me? Check out the words below -- all of which were legitimately used in competition during the last few rounds of this year's Bee. (Hat tip to dictionary.com for the definitions.)

soubise
n. A sauce made with onions or onion puree.
A-Rod sent the exotic dancer away because her breath reeked of soubise.

impuissance
adj. Weakness; lack of power.
Manu didn't care if people thought he was displaying impuissance; he was going to keep flopping anyway.

compunctious
adj. Regretful.
The Giants' general manager couldn't help feeling compunctious about signing Barry Zito.

expurgate
n. To purge or cleanse of moral offensiveness.
The Mets told Lastings Milledge to expurgate his album before releasing it.

paseo
n. A slow, idle, or leisurely walk or stroll.
After hitting a grounder to the third baseman, Andruw Jones set out on a paseo to first.

exophthalmic
adj. Of or relating to the protrusion of the eyeball, caused by disease or injury.
The Patriots' trainer sent Reche Caldwell to a specialist because he was exophthalmic.

carnassial
n. A tooth adapted for tearing apart flesh.
While reading at the prison library, Mike Tyson learned he had evolved carnassial teeth.

grego
n. A short, hooded coat of thick, coarse fabric, originally worn in eastern Mediterranean countries.
While on vacation in Greece, Bill Belichick spent most of his time shopping for gregos.

beccafico
n. A small songbird that is eaten as a delicacy in Italy and France.
Although they were the defending World Series champs, opponents are beginning to view the Cardinals as a kind of beccafico.

strigil
n. An instrument used in ancient Greece and Rome for scraping the skin after a bath.
After someone left a strigil in his locker, Jason Giambi got the hint and realized his teammates wanted him to start bathing.

cenacle
n. A clique or circle, especially of writers.
The cenacle in the press box was known for being able to finish off an entire buffet spread before the seventh-inning stretch.

butyraldehyde
n. A transparent, highly flammable liquid used in making resins.
Police found 10 gallons of butyraldehyde and a lighter in Mark Cuban's car when they stopped him outside of David Stern's house.

stramineous
adj. Straw-colored; yellowish.
Mike Piazza told the stylist to give his tips stramineous frost.

Biwa
n. The largest lake in Japan, on Honshu, near Kyoto.
The Red Sox told Daisuke Matsuzaka that if he doesn't start earning his huge salary, they'll take him back to Japan and throw him in Lake Biwa.

papillon
n. Any of a breed of a small dog related to the spaniel, having a long silky coat, a bushy tail that curves over its back, and large ears shaped like the wings of a butterfly.
Michael Vick was humiliated when his dog lost to a papillon.

rissole
n. A small pastry, often in turnover form, filled with a mixture containing meat of fish and usually fried in deep fat.
David Wells replaced the rosin bag with a rissole.

Ayurveda
n. The ancient Hindu art of medicine and of prolonging life.
Although he was wise in the ways of Ayurveda, the Hindu man visited Bill Romanowski for some extra tips.

desuetude
n. A state of disuse or inactivity.
The Royals' closer was suffering from an extreme case of desuetude.

yeanling
n. The young of a sheep or goat; a lamb or kid.
Tom upset Gisele when he told her he could never love her as much as a yeanling.

Nithya Vijayakumar

AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

"Was I supposed to know who Antonio Alfonseca is?"

tetradactylous
adj. Having four fingers or toes on each extremity.
Antonio Alfonseca hoped a tetradactylous woman would bear his children so they would be normal.

mythologem
n. A basic theme, as of revenge, self-sacrifice, or betrayal, that is shared by cultures throughout the world.
Many people believe that hating Duke and Notre Dame is a worldwide mythologem.

palaver
n. A conference or discussion.
A-Rod called a palaver at the mound to ask his teammates if they knew of any good strip clubs near the stadium.

craquelure
n. A network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish.
Due to craquelure on the current painting, Terrell Owens commissioned a new self-portrait to be placed on the ceiling above his bed.

acariasis
n. Infestation with mites; scabies.
After coming down with an extreme case of acariasis, the hockey player vowed to never again grow a playoff beard.

ruderal
n. A plant that grows in rubbish, poor land, or waste.
The Yankees bullpen was overgrown with ruderal.

Gruyere
n. A nutty, pale yellow, firm cheese made from cow's milk.
All the Packers offered the Raiders for Randy Moss was a sixth-round draft pick and a block of Gruyere.

canaliculate
adj. Having one or more longitudinal grooves or channels.
Shane Battier's head is extremely canaliculate.

oubliette
n. A secret dungeon with a trap door in the ceiling as its only means of entrance or exit.
The two-game win streak made George Steinbrenner consider letting Brian Cashman out of the oubliette.

myoclonus
n. An abrupt spasm or twitch of a muscle group or group of group of muscles, occurring in some neurological cases.
Armando Benitez wished the umpire wouldn't keep calling balks on him over an untimely flare-up of myoclonus.

croquis
n. A rough preliminary drawing; sketch.
The croquis of the assailant done by the police sketch artist looked exactly like Pacman Jones.

marron
n. A large European chestnut.
As the Jazz fans began throwing things on the court, Tony Parker harkened back to his youth when a fan once hit him with a marron.

truttaceous
n. Of, pertaining to, or resembling, a trout.
Sam Cassell's feelings were hurt when an opponent told him he looked truttaceous.

fruticose
adj. Having the form of a shrub; shrublike.
When he looked in the mirror, Ben Wallace realized his teammates were right -- his hair looked fruticose.

girolle
n. A pale orange to yellow wild mushroom.
The Gonzaga basketball player used his dorm-room windowsill for growing girolle.

mollycoddle
n. A man or boy who is used to being coddled; a milksop.
Coach Coughlin wished he wasn't stuck with a mollycoddle as his quarterback.

fauchard
n. A shafted weapon having a knifelike blade with a convex cutting edge and a beak on the back for catching the blade of an aggressor's weapon.
It bothers Ray Lewis that people always assume he is carrying a fauchard.

factotum
n. A person, as a handyman or servant, employed to do all kinds of work around the house.
Michael Vick's cousin plans to fire the factotum he had hired to clean up the blood in the dogfighting area.

puncheon
n. A large cask of varying capacity, but usually 80 gallons.
Right after he accepted the job in Orlando, Billy Donovan ordered his puncheon of hair gel be sent down from Gainesville.

nugatory
adj. Of no real value; trifling; worthless.
Having mercifully reached the end, the Page 2 reader realized it was another nugatory column from DJ Gallo.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" is on sale now.


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