I'm a fan of the Scripps bee and was just wondering what's the hardest word you've seen in terms of both orthographic trickiness and usage/popularity?I turned to our panel of experts. First, from Nupur Lala:
2011: sarangousty (round 12/20, atypical Persian vowels, Google=7,100)
2010: engysseismology (round 6/9, rare Greek root with rarer repeating consonant, Google=9,880)
2009: schizaffin (round 12/16, nearly unsolvable etymology - Greek plus Latin to ISV plus Latin combining form, Google=286 and more than half of those are spelling bee pages)
Great question! "Engysseismology" wins my vote, with "schizaffin," "aitch," and "iliopsoas" as closely tied for runner-up. I consider the "surprise element" of the word, which makes some words seem less difficult when viewing from home as opposed to when a speller receives the word. The surprise element can consist of the dreaded "etymology unknown" to a nearly unsolvable etymology to just too much to figure out per syllable. It causes spellers to panic and stop thinking. "Heiligenschein" given in 2006 was a great example of a word that illustrates this principle. It was not intrinsically difficult but would have sent most spellers packing because it sounds intimidating, tests knowledge of German at a very deep level and presents a potential pitfall with almost every syllable.And Amy Goldstein:
"Engysseismology" has a surprise element that would have sent me running off stage. The word's length, irregularity within the roots and how terrifying it actually is when spelled correctly all make the word seem cruel in retrospect. I cannot remember any word standing out in my mind like that otherwise.
I'll just point you to the widget in my column ...
The five hardest words of the past three years:From this year's list I'll add naumkeag, puszta and sangsue. Was tempted to add phanerogam just because I was thrown off by what I had thought was a Latin root, but it was actually New Latin, so never mind. Also, it has the root phan- = visible in it.
. engysseismology, 2010
. Leishmanic, 2010
. myoclonus, 2008
. palatschinken, 2009
. phenazocine, 2010