'BPP' Vocabulary Quiz

The The Bryant Park Project's Mike Pesca and Trisha McKinney face off in an adult vocabulary tournament.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Saurian, of or relating to a lizard. I love that word. Trish, what do you like?

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: I'm going to say I like a word that - if I don't know if I use it properly. I use it all the time at work, wheelhouse?

PESCA: Uh-huh.

MCKINNEY: I think I use it to mean area of expertise.

PESCA: Yeah, your sweet spot. That's Trish McKinney. She's in with us as we take the BPP into a bold, new, game-show realm. You know, Trish is a three-time "Jeopardy!" champion, and I am a one-time "Jeopardy!" loser.

MCKINNEY: We did not play together.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: No, we didn't. That would have been cool.

MCKINNEY: That would have been funny.

PESCA: And we have with us vocabulary masters and a librarian. We have Jennifer Dziura and Jonathan Lill. They're in our studios today to play a special version of the game that they play in bars throughout Brooklyn, Vocabulary Quiz. Hey, guys.

Mr. JONATHAN LILL (Librarian): Hello

Ms. JENNIFER DZIURA (Comedienne; Blogger; Organizer, Williamsburg Spelling Bee): Well, hello.

PESCA: Did this grow out of popular pub trivia? Or I know you have a spelling bee...

Ms. DZIURA: A spelling bee.

PESCA: An adult spelling bee. Is this what it grew out of?

Ms. DZIURA: The Williamsburg Spelling Bee...

PESCA: Adult spelling bee.

Ms. DZIURA: Yeah, the adult spelling bee in Brooklyn in 2004...

MCKINNEY: Does that mean you spell adult words?

Ms. DZIURA: We spell adult words, oh, yes, we do.

MCKINNEY: That are dirty?

Mr. LILL: Well, we use the same words as the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

Ms. DZIURA: Right. Every once in awhile there's one that sounds a little bit dirty but isn't, like proclitic, which is just a linguistics term.

PESCA: Right. Or this year the kid thought he was being asked to spell "numb nuts."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Did you hear that?

Ms. DZIURA: No, I didn't.

PESCA: Well, let's draw up a clip of that.

(Soundbite of 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Dr. JACQUES BAILLY (Official Pronouncer, Scripps National Spelling Bee): Numnah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAMEER MISHRA (Winner, 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee): Numb nut?

PESCA: And the word we were going for was numnah, which is a pad that goes on - like I have to tell you - a pad that goes under the saddle to cushion the horse or pony's back. The little kid thought he was being asked to spell something different.

MCKINNEY: I'm going down.

PESCA: All right. Well, that's the spelling part of it. Let's play the vocab game. Explain the rules and we'll jump in.

Mr. LILL: So for the first round, Jen is going to ask you to make a sentence out of three words, and you'll get points for using the words correctly, and we also award you points on style for a total possibility of...

Ms. DZIURA: Of five points.

Mr. LILL: Of five points.

Ms. DZIURA: I think, Trisha, you're first.

MCKINNEY: OK? I'm so nervous.

Ms. DZIURA: So we're going to give you your three words and those words are "mendacious," "oligarchy" and "palliative."

MCKINNEY: The oligarchy controlling the oil supply in the Middle East offered a palliative to the U.S. to apologize for their mendacious behavior in keeping all the oil and so - this is a terrible sentence - and so they offered to give us as much as we want.

PESCA: Throw in a rainbow. Throw in a unicorn. Save yourself.

(Soundbite of bell)

MCKINNEY: This is terrible.

Ms. DZIURA: All right, all right. And the bell has rung.

Mr. LILL: That was a beautiful sentence.

Ms. DZIURA: It was very nice. I think that gets a four from me.

PESCA: A four?

Mr. LILL: Yeah, I think that's about fair. That was good style points there.

MCKINNEY: That's generous.

PESCA: I have a question.

Ms. DZIURA: Eight points for Trisha.

PESCA: I have a question. An oligarchy, does that mean the same - mendacious means full of baloney.

Ms. DZIURA: Mm-hmm. Lying, dishonest, disingenuous.

PESCA: Now, an oligarchy, I thought that was one country where a few leaders rule one country, as opposed to a cartel.

Ms. DZIURA: Governed by only a few.

MCKINNEY: Government by a few, but I was thinking of OPEC as kind of an oligarchy, but I could have been wrong.

Ms. DZIURA: I think she was using it metaphorically.

PESCA: Right. I was thinking maybe you were speaking specifically of Iran, which could be considered an oligarchy.

MCKINNEY: Yeah.

Ms. DZIURA: I think it's your turn, Mike. I think you've been delaying.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. DZIURA: All right. So I have got three words for you and you are going to use them in a sentence for us. Those words are "panache," "expeditious" and "yeomanly."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: They seem to go together, right?

Ms. DZIURA: Naturally, naturally. I picked them out for you.

PESCA: Can I adverb some of those words?

Ms. DZIURA: Yes.

PESCA: Or do I have to use them in the form you said? The first mate on the expedition to the South Pole behaved yeomanly when, with panache, he announced that velvet uniforms - what's the last word?

Ms. DZIURA: Expeditious.

PESCA: Velvet uniforms would be worn so that the expedition could continue expeditiously.

Ms. DZIURA: All right.

Mr. LILL: Oh, that maybe is a little...

PESCA: Expeditiously and get there within a week, not a month. OK, there you go.

Ms. DZIURA: OK.

PESCA: I wanted to be clear what that meant.

Ms. DZIURA: I got that. You know, I was a little worried, because you said expedition twice leading up to expeditiously, and I figured, I know he knows the difference. He's getting there. He's getting there.

Mr. LILL: I think your style points took a hit.

Ms. DZIURA: Well, I have to say "panache" was fine. "Expeditiously" turned out fine in the end. However, "yeomanly" is an adjective. He did something in a yeomanly manner, not he ran yeomanly. He planted the corn yeomanly, not an adverb. So I'm going to have to say that's minus a little half-point in there by my lights.

MCKINNEY: Just for grammar.

Ms. DZIURA: Just for grammar.

Mr. LILL: I could go with that.

MCKINNEY: I think you should spot him something for velvet, but that's just me.

Ms. DZIURA: The velvet was nice. That's - when I think panache, I think velvet. It's a warm fabric. If you're going to go foppish to the arctic, velvet's where it's at.

Mr. LILL: It doesn't breath and that's fine. So much nicer than seal skin, I think.

PESCA: But Jonathan, you're taking a half point off for grammar, and you're the guy who said the amount of points, earlier.

Ms. DZIURA: He did say that and...

Mr. LILL: I'm not a grammarian. I was taking it off for style.

PESCA: Yeah, that's cool.

Mr. LILL: Style supersedes grammar, certainly.

PESCA: I agree.

Ms. DZIURA: OK. So I think that that is going to earn a three and a half from me.

Mr. LILL: I agree with you.

Ms. DZIURA: OK, that's a seven for Mike. And we are moving on to round two, which Jonathan is in charge of. I'm ending sentences with propositions constantly, today.

Mr. LILL: I'm going to give you a list of four words. Now, all of these words are eponyms, which means they have been named after people. Some of them have been named after places, which means they're technically toponyms, but we're not going to be that specific. So there are either toponyms or eponyms, but one of them is fake. You have to tell me which one. Now, I can also supply you definitions or origins for all of these words, if you so choose. All of these are ice-skating jumps.

MCKINNEY: I am so ready! Let's go!

Mr. LILL: But which one, again, is not an eponym? Triple Lutz, Cherry Flip, Triple Axel or the Salchow?

MCKINNEY: I'm going to go with the Cherry Flip.

Mr. LILL: The Cherry Flip is right!

(Soundbite of bell)

Ms. DZIURA: A Mr. or Ms. Cherry.

Mr. LILL: No, no. Most people presume the axel means an axel and not somebody named Axel.

Ms. DZIURA: What was your fake etymology?

Mr. LILL: Oh, the famous skater, Edith Cherry.

Ms. DZIURA: Well, I think it's your turn next, Mike.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. LILL: Mike. These are all types of musical instruments. The saxophone, the sarrusophone...

PESCA: Sousaphone or sarrusophone?

Mr. LILL: Sarrusophone, the flugelhorn, or the theremin?

PESCA: What's the other one besides for the - after the saxophone?

Mr. LILL: Sarrusophone.

PESCA: Sarrusophone. That sounds more like something that Dr. Seuss would invent. I'll say Sarrusophone.

Mr. LILL: You are wrong. I'm sorry.

MCKINNEY: No.

Mr. LILL: It is the flugelhorn. Sarrusophone is named after Pierre-Auguste Sarrus, a French bandmaster.

Ms. DZIURA: All right, so we are moving along to round three. How do you guys feel so far?

MCKINNEY: I am terrified.

Mr. LILL: And what is the score?

Ms. DZIURA: The score is nine for Trisha and seven for Mike.

Mr. LILL: See, Trisha, nothing to fear.

MCKINNEY: I fear it anyway.

Mr. LILL: You're doing well.

MCKINNEY: I fear. I don't like this.

Ms. DZIURA: Well, you know, if you were doing this at the actual event, which we hold once a month at Chelsea Market, you would have had a lot of time to drink beer in between.

PESCA: Oh, yeah.

MCKINNEY: Ah, that's what's missing from this experience for me.

Ms. DZIURA: That's what's missing. OK. So the way this next round works, this is the synonyms round. And so I ask you, which word means X? And then I give you four options. So here's how it works. You get three points for picking the correct answer out of the multiple choice option, and then, once you have done that, you can win an additional point for defining the incorrect answers. I will be the final arbiter of whether your definition is sufficient on those. All right, Trisha, which word means pertaining to flags?

MCKINNEY: Flags, F-L-A-G-S?

Ms. DZIURA: Yes. That's correct. Your choices are - don't laugh - "gynecomorphous," "ichthyoid," vexillary" or "boorish."

Mr. LILL: You can laugh.

MCKINNEY: I'm going to have to guess.

PESCA: I knew this one. That's what always happens.

MCKINNEY: Do you really?

PESCA: Mm-hm.

MCKINNEY: OK. So I'm just going to pick the last example, boorish.

Ms. DZIURA: It is not boorish. That is incorrect. The answer is vexillary, which Mike is nodding. He knew that.

MCKINNEY: Can I give Mike the chance to earn my extra point?

PESCA: No, no.

Ms. DZIURA: You cannot do that. There is no trading. If you wanted to venture a guess for gynecomorphous or ichthyoid, you could win an additional point.

MCKINNEY: I would think that ichthyoid has something to do with fish.

Ms. DZIURA: That's correct. Pertaining to fish. We'll just go with that. That's a point for ichthyoid.

MCKINNEY: Gynecomorphous would have something to do with body shape and female.

Ms. DZIURA: Pretty much, female in appearance. I'm going to go with that. That's fine. We are moving along to Mike's question. Which word means swallowing? "Ataraxia," "perambulation," "deglutition" or "Dulcinea"?

PESCA: Deglutition.

Ms. DZIURA: That's correct. That is three points for Mike.

(Soundbite of bell)

PESCA: Shall I try to...

Ms. DZIURA: Yeah, absolutely. Ataraxia.

PESCA: That is of or relating to the spider species found mainly in the Midwest.

Ms. DZIURA: Oh, I wish we were giving style points. It means tranquility, but we're going to ask you about perambulation next.

PESCA: I thought that means just, like, walking around.

Ms. DZIURA: It really does.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. DZIURA: And Dulcinea? It may be Dulcinea, actually. I'm not sure.

PESCA: I thought that was the Man of La Mancha's sidekick.

Mr. LILL: It is. That's his horse.

PESCA: That's his...

MCKINNEY: No, it's his love. It's his love interest.

PESCA: Yeah, that's what I thought.

Mr. LILL: All right.

Ms. DZIURA: OK, a sweetheart. That works.

PESCA: OK.

Ms. DZIURA: That works for me. So that's an extra two, so that actually is five points for Mike in this round. So that is a nice little comeback here. I think our current score is 12 for Mike to 11 for Trisha.

MCKINNEY: Oh.

PESCA: It's tight.

MCKINNEY: You should see the fire in his eyes right now.

PESCA: Trisha, it only gets dramatic, like, if you're going to win, I need to pull ahead right before you.

MCKINNEY: OK.

Ms. DESNA: We are in to our very last round now and Jonathan is in charge of that. So what horrific task do you have for these contestants?

Mr. LILL: I am going to give you a number of words and all of the words are definitions or synonyms for other words, and you have to give me the other word. The clue is that your answer will end in A-T-E. So, for instance, if I gave you the word "destroy" or "erase", you would tell me "obliterate" or "annihilate". You get one point for each, so you have the possibility of really racing ahead and winning, or failing miserably.

PESCA: Right.

Ms. DZIURA: OK, and if you have no idea, you can just say pass and we'll go straight to the next one.

Mr. LILL: Exactly. Trisha, here we go. Imply, suggest.

MCKINNEY: Insinuate.

Mr. LILL: Correct. Join in.

MCKINNEY: I pass.

Mr. LILL: Confirm.

MCKINNEY: I pass.

Mr. LILL: Befuddle.

MCKINNEY: Obfuscate?

Mr. LILL: No. Think.

MCKINNEY: Cogitate.

Mr. LILL: Correct. Worship.

MCKINNEY: Venerate.

Mr. LILL: Lie, as in to tell an untruth.

MCKINNEY: Deviate. That's not right. No, I don't know.

Mr. LILL: Repeat.

MCKINNEY: Pass.

Mr. LILL: That's 10.

MCKINNEY: I'm crashing and burning.

PESCA: It's tough.

Ms. DZIURA: When you're on the spot, it absolutely is. It absolutely is. And that is a final score of 14 for Trisha.

PESCA: Words that end in -ate, same deal?

Mr. LILL: Yes, exactly.

PESCA: OK.

Mr. LILL: Join together.

PESCA: Pass.

Mr. LILL: Plead in protest, or simply to protest.

PESCA: Oh, agitate.

Mr. LILL: Show, prove, explain.

PESCA: Demonstrate.

Mr. LILL: Enroll in university.

PESCA: To matriculate.

Mr. LILL: Find your bearings by GPS.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: To locate?

Mr. LILL: To spread, as a rumor.

PESCA: Disseminate.

Mr. LILL: Disown.

PESCA: Disinher-ate (ph)?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LILL: If only that was...

PESCA: I got stuck on that. OK. Hold on. To disown, to - I don't know. I'm going to pass on this one.

Mr. LILL: Pass into or through.

PESCA: I don't know. Pass.

Mr. LILL: Move to another country.

PESCA: Emigrate, with an E.

Mr. LILL: Rejoice.

PESCA: To celebrate.

Mr. LILL: Disparage, malign, defame.

PESCA: To - I don't know. We'll pass for the sake of...

Mr. LILL: And that is 10.

MCKINNEY: You already won, anyway.

Ms. DZIURA: So that is seven points in that round for Mike, giving him a final score of 19 and the win for the game.

MCKINNEY: Yay!

PESCA: Thanks. Well, I want to thank you guys for coming in, you combo-quiz masters and librarians. Jennifer Dziura and Jonathan Lill, thanks very much.

Ms. DZIURA: You're welcome.

Mr. LILL: It was our pleasure.

PESCA: All right. And here's a little post-game analysis, as I am joined by Trish McKinney. Trish, I have some good news for you.

MCKINNEY: The loser.

PESCA: No, no, no. I have some excellent news for you, some news that may ameliorate, alleviate or mitigate your bad feelings. I hope it placates you.

MCKINNEY: I'm palpitating.

PESCA: Yes. Nice. When I tell you this - I actually got more questions in the speed round than you did.

MCKINNEY: I have to say I knew that, because in the moment, I thought, wow, I totally blacked out. How many - I didn't think I got this many questions. I must have blacked out because I was so nervous.

PESCA: Right, one of those time-shifting phenomena. No, see, when they played the real game at the bar, they do it by time, and here they were supposed to do it by the number of questions, so it was a little snafu. Now, I don't want to pat myself on the back too much. I think I probably...

MCKINNEY: You would've won anyway.

PESCA: Some people do say that, and one of the reasons is - this was so coincidental, but remember that vocab word you got, vexillary?

MCKINNEY: Yes, I do.

PESCA: Or vexillology.

MCKINNEY: Now seared into my brain.

PESCA: That was an obscure word, and yet, purely coincidentally, I was reporting on NPR about protests that took place in April of 2006. Here's how I began this - it's true. We didn't make this up. Here's how I began my report.

(Soundbite of NPR's Day to Day, April 11, 2006)

PESCA: Before we get to the symbols, an interesting word, vexillology, the study of flags. These days, everyone...

MCKINNEY: So you're saying that you're a cheater.

PESCA: What are the chances of that? No, no. I didn't cheat.

MCKINNEY: You did that story just so you could beat me in a vocabulary quiz.

PESCA: Two years past.

MCKINNEY: Two years later.

PESCA: Yes, I've also used "defenestrate" in a newscast.

MCKINNEY: Have you really?

PESCA: I forgot why, but certainly not talking about Prague in the 17th century.

MCKINNEY: That does not mitigate the pain I feel at losing to you.

PESCA: Well, I do venerate you and your participation. And thanks, everyone, for listening to this hour of the Bryant Park Project. I'm Mike Pesca. We are always online at npr.org/bryantpark. As I've said many times and will continue to say again, because I wouldn't say it if it weren't true, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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