Thanks, Rudge. Now that I know it is just me I'll experiment some more. Maybe I'll try reinstalling.
Edit: Reinstalling didn't help. Can you tell me if your Abysuite in Home is empty except for the empty folder Abiword Profile. In Abiword Edit > Preferences > Spell Checking tab is Dictionaries grayed out?
Yes, I did install the Abiword dictionaries from Synaptic.