Spelling Bee Question

I heard a little piece on NPR today with the new spelling bee champ. His favorite word is “dghaisa.” The commentator states that “not many words in English” start with dgh. The champ comments that it is the only one.

My question is, why is this an English word? It’s Maltese. It describes a particular kind of Maltese boat. Are all foreign nouns English by default?

No, but English is rather noted for its tendency to adopt foreign words when they suit. Think of kayak, cwm, algorithm, kiva - and countless others.

Sure, but dghaisa? How does it suit? Seen one lately? Not to be a smartass, but hoe does this particular word qualify as English?

Google for “Dghaisa”. How many of those sites are in Maltese? How many in English?

I think the Maltese spelling is dghajsa anyway.

Dghaisa is what you call a dghaisa in English – it’s fairly consistently spelled and used as such. What more do you need to classify something as an English word?

Not I. But presumably some English speakers did, and wanted a term for this craft. So the local name was pressed into service.

No, in “english” it would be “Maltese boat”.

What if you wanted to distinguish a particular type of Maltese boat from another type?

Maltese boat 1 and maltese boat 2?

A foreign word “pressed into service” doesn’t make it an English word, IMO.

via, rendezvous, and pizza would all like to know if you want to settle this outside.

Obviously there’s no “rule” about which words can or can’t be considered part of the English language. For the sake of the spelling competiton, however, I would not include words of direct foreign origin which would require translation or explanation when used in a general text.

The taxonomical names of species, for example, would be an obvious no-no. But what about words like Weltanschauung (maybe) or Wehrmacht (no), apercu (maybe) or soigne (no).

IMO the more technical the word, the less it is in real circulation in the language, and hence the less claim it has to being a living part of the language. Dghaisa IMO falls in this category.

Except for “pizza”, I don’t even use those words. IMO (again), I don’t consider “pizza” to be an English word.

But I really don’t want to argue the point.

Probably not with the first 5 utterances. But English has no official “academy” or other organization that manages the language. And we do have that long history of borrowing words from all over. So it does tend to happen rather easily.

According to Wikipedia, the official dictionary of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

So what makes a word an English word for the purposes of the spelling bee is its appearance in that dictionary.

It highly pisses me off when I’m working a crossword puzzle and a foreign clue to a foreign word comes up. Dammit, if it’s going to be an international puzzle let me know by the title! Seems to me like its a cop-out by the puzzle makers because they can’t thing of a good clue for an english word. :dubious:
/end rant

I couldn’t agree more that there is no way that it (dghaisa) is an English word and now it will soon (I am sure) become an acceptable Scrabble word - just like “za” which as we all know is a common usage of those without the strength to actually sound out “pizza.” Just another way really to keep the word game mavens on their toes (and to get a 2-letter word with the letter “z” which previously did not exist.) I think the “SH” Spelling Bee and Scrabble would both be a lot more interesting if the word speller had also to provide a reasonable definition instead of asking for one as in the bee or saying “who cares” as in most serious Scrabble games.

The finals of the National Spelling Bee have gotten ridiculously difficult. When it began, the words that decided the championship were actually words that you could expect to read at some point in your life. Now the winning words are ones that the vast majority of people will never read in their life (except in news stories about the National Spelling Bee). The contestants are now so well trained that any word that there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll see sometime in your life is too easy to distinguish the top contestants. Now they have to use absurdly arcane words for the finals, and this frequently means words borrowed from other languages and used so seldom in English that it’s questionable whether it’s really an English word.

easy solution of course is to eliminate the prize money

I’m pretty sure I heard weltanschauung used in televised spelling bee. Or was it weltschmertz?

dennis gallagher writes:

> easy solution of course is to eliminate the prize money

It wouldn’t help, since the contestants are competing for fame, not money.

Nah we don’t borrow them, we just take 'em.

So there :smiley: