We have been fortunate to attract the support of many smart and committed volunteers over the years. It really helped LearnThatWord along, and made it the complex and valuable tool it is today.
Every once in a while, we are blessed with someone who goes above and beyond and who contributes in a special and impactful way. This year, we want to honor Ms. Mary Anne Clark, Ph.D., as our 2015 volunteer of the year. She not only recorded over a thousand words, but even edited them as well! She also is on the lookout for good additions to our database, and has added quite a few interesting words.
Ms. Clark is Professor of Biology at Texas Wesleyan University. We featured her Spelling Bee triumphs in a previous blog post here.
Thank you for your valuable contributions! When I asked Ms. Clark about the origin of her special connection to words, she sent me the following story:
There's a Word for That.
I didn't learn to read until late in first grade. My mother had read to me a lot, but the fact that I could not really read myself was immediately spotted by my teacher, Mamie Murphy, when I failed to "color three balloons purple." She took me in hand and by the end of the year I could read. It became not just a useful tool for coloring the right balloon, but a lifelong pleasure. In college, I took a really useful course about the Greek and Latin roots of English words. One of our assignments was to find five new words a week and write a little analysis of them. This was an excuse to read whatever I liked and call it homework. Aldous Huxley proved to be a goldmine of strange vocabulary; my most productive phrase from one of his books was " The stertorous borborygmus of the dyspeptic Carlyle" from Point Counter Point.
By the time I had finished the course I was a hopeless word junkie.
Year before last I volunteered to join the Texas Wesleyan team in a Corporate Spelling Bee sponsored by the Tarrant Literacy Coalition. To my absolute astonishment, we won. The head speller for the team was the amazing Bruce McDonald, who absolutely blew me away by pulling the correct spelling for "emmeleia," a word none of us had ever heard, out of the ether. Bruce teaches religion and humanities and is an accomplished musician, so he has a large word fund. My other teammate, Marilyn Pugh, teaches psychology, and is also an outstanding speller. I teach biology, which is another word swamp.
When we went back last year to defend our title, which turned the spelling bee from a good romp to a terrifying ordeal, the TLC provided us with a number of training tools, which included the Learn That Word web site. While browsing through the LearnThat word lists, I noticed some mismatches between spoken and written word entries. After some petulant grumbling, I sent about a dozen sound files to the support site. The next thing I knew, I was a volunteer. What a great job for a word junkie! I have enjoyed combing through the word lists, and picking up new words as I look for sound mismatches.
A few weeks ago, shortly after my husband and I had seen a particularly vapid movie, I came across the perfect word for it in one of the LearnThat word lists: Sardoodledom.
Who knew there was a word for that?