Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vocab Off!

I must be in a feeling sad for people mood cause I never go to these teeny-weeny bad acoustic concerts, some guy, a guitar and a mike playing in front of ten people — technically nine and a volunteer sound guy. He's okay; my ears aren't burning but it's not like I'm not seeing him go triple platinum, or even triple aluminum, but then he strums a final chord and there's what I believe they call a "smattering" of applause. Again, ten people; the praise is just so anemic it makes me want to cry. Me, I'm cupping my hands so it looks like I'm clapping, but I don't want to draw attention to myself. I'm for a new rule in society, if there's fewer than, say, fifty people then no clapping. We all snap like beatnik poets, which is supposed to sound weak and laconic. You still probably wouldn't hear me though.

Such a nerd, though — I came for the... god, such a motherfucking nerd... vocabulary bee.

Round one: Come up to the microphone, Scripps style, and use the following three words in a sentence. Jingoist, laudatory, nebulous. Penurious, perfunctory, sacrosanct. It's all the fast-paced action of vocabulary combined with the incoherent ramblings of the crazy guy on the sidewalk who blurts out random words. Augury, avarice, burgeon. Some guy named Sid, who I'm sure I've seen at other geography bees, bar trivia contests, Scrabble nights, etc., where he probably also annoyed the living shit out of me: "The ornithologist's augury was he saw as a burgeoning field because there's avarice and money in ornithology." No style points.

Ornithology — twice! Then the guy has to yell at the judges because their definition of "augury" wasn't specific enough. An augury is a prophecy read from birds' entrails, except according to the American Heritage Dictionary (it's on my computer), it's not. On one side, they're lexicographers, but Sid's opposing argument is, well... loud.

Did I say "nerd?" I meant "hipster." I'm live-blogging this, for Christ's sake!

And points off to Meg for trying to subvert the game with her sentence. "Quixotic means idealistic, comma, hubris is like pride, comma, and castigate means a dressing down, comma. I mean period."

Sid: "Semicolon!"

Round two: Know your prefixes. Nychtophobic. Aurivorous. Which nobody knew, cause again, it's a contest for twenty-something hipsters and not socially maladjusted seventh-graders with stacks of root word flash cards. So they dumb it down for us with clues... not like funny ones or anything, just plain old Wink Martindale type shit. That's disappointing, really — I expected the hipster grown-up vocabulary bee, of all things, to be a mock ironic celebration of how much better we are than those knuckle-dragging blue-collars, and caked with extra irony since each of us, as an individual, was above the insecurities assuaged by calling someone who's not in the room a dummy. But it's just this chick in an inappropriate tiny white dress playing Alex Cameron, Doctor of Pronunciation, and some folks defining words. I'm not really having fun — this Meg girl is standing right behind me, either watching me type or not at all aware of my existence (and I'm not sure which is more awkward) — but I don't think anyone else is either.

What little crowd there was is getting sick of clapping every time someone guesses a synonym for the word.

Round three: Multiple choice. The words are getting pretty obscure, the kind that if you saw them in print, you'd be able to make out the meaning from the context and your past experience with English, but just hearing them is a garble of mismatched syllables. But it's multiple freaking choice. We've gone from hoping someone will use three words in a clever, amusing sentence down to a pop quiz.

Bonus round, this one's for the grand prize, the "25-Foot Long Crossword Puzzle:" Great, more words! You get the definition and you have to come up with the word, which ends in "sion." Whoever gets the most words in a minute wins. This isn't bad cause I can play along and feel stupid when I can't figure out the answer or even stupider when I figure out an answer that ends in "tion."