Psammophiles were in the news last week, thanks to Dev Shah, winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The word is pronounced “sam- uh-file.”
If you know your Greek roots, as Bee competitors usually do, the “-phile” part would be fairly easy, especially when you’re told the definition. “a plant or animal that prefers sandy areas.” Dev made the leap from “prefers” to “loves,” that is, “phile.”
You know lots of “-philes,” I’m sure. A bibliophile loves books. An Anglophile loves everything English. I am married to a cinephile. More obscurely, barophiles like the pressure of the deep sea. Psychrophiles love the extreme cold.
To figure out what psammophiles love, Dev had to know that the prefix “psammo-” is from the Greek word for sand. That’s how he knew to begin the word with a silent “p.” Sand rice and sand toad flax are psammophilic plants (also known as psammophytes). Certain gerbils and scorpions are psammophilic animals.
Dev’s expertise in etymology earned him $50,000 and bragging rights for the rest of his life. Who says Greek and Latin are a waste of time?
What kind of -phile are you?