Current Theme: Crosswordese
ETUI /ay.TWEE/ n. a little ornamental case for holding small jewellery or other useful items, especially those required for emergency sewing jobs
The word is occasionally spelled ETWEE
, which is pronounced exactly the same way, but in my humble opinion lacks literary distinction ;-)
I kicked off April’s Crosswordese theme with this one for a very good reason. No crossword solver, Scrabble player, or spelling bee contender can escape this little gem.
You see, crossword constructors are always on the lookout for words with a high vowel to consonant ratio, because there just aren’t very many of them in the English language, and the grid always requires them. As a result, the ones that do exist in our lexicon occur with a much greater frequency than consonant-heavy words .
In Scrabble, players (well, the ones who know what they’re doing at least!) are always trying to ‘balance their racks’, which means unloading surplus vowels in moves known as ‘vowel dumps’. As a quick way to dump an E-U-I combo through an existing T on the board, ETUI is pretty cherished by this crowd.
And even in spelling bees, this charming little word gets a good workout. After all, if nobody told you how to pronounce this word, would you have worked it out? Probably not from its lineage: “French, from Old French estui, prison, from estuier, to guard, from Vulgar Latin estudiāre, from Latin stadium, study..” Sheesh!
Scott Firebaugh will certainly carry this one to his grave…
Scott is a multiple place-getter, and one-time winner, of the world’s largest senior Spelling Bee, run by the AARP association in Wyoming every year. Now trust me, this guy knows virtually every word in Merriam Webster.
But compare the word he spelled correctly to become the 2010 AARP National Spelling Bee Champion, to the one that relegated him to second place in 2009, and I think you’ll agree that you should never judge a word by its length ;-)