Friday, June 02, 2006

How do you spell E-N-V-Y?

I don't suppose anyone else spent the better part of last night watching the National Spelling Bee on ABC?

No? Just me? I'm the only N-E-R-D?

The only reason I was watching is because the Yankees took a 5-0 lead on the Tigers in the second inning. (The men of the Olde English D managed to come back, however, and defeat those Bronx Bombers, 6-5. All is right with the world today.)

Spelling bees are the bees' knees, man. The drama! The humanity! The grammar! Didn't you see Spellbound? Or Bee Season? Maybe you read the book instead? How about Akeelah and the Bee? (I meant to catch that, but I think it's gone from local theaters.)

Anyway, I love watching the "twitching little freaks," as Tony Kornheiser calls them, work their way through words like "pathognomonic" and "icteritious," while breathing heavily into the microphone, eyes clenched shut, repeating the word in question in tandem with the pronouncer - "Septentrional... ?" "Septentrional." "Septentrional?" "Septentrional." - and using every tool (etymology of the word, its definition, and use of it in a sentence) available to them.

Witnessing their anxiety seems worth it, however, when the stress leaves their faces after spelling the word correctly. The walk of shame back to the parents after missing a word? Not so much. (Fortunately, each of the parents looked supportive in defeat.)

At least that's why I tell myself I watched the National Spelling Bee. The truth is I envy the hell out of those kids. I've never even heard of 95% of the words they're given in competition, yet after some fishing around, the kids find it somewhere in their brains.

I've always fancied myself a good speller, much to the annoyance of some of my friends, but to the benefit of many. You want me around when you're doing that crossword puzzle, my friend. And I've taken pride in that. Spell check is for pussies, man. (You're damn right I'm checking this post for typos!)

Okay, I'm totally frontin'. I lost in the finals of my class spelling bee in fourth grade. It was shocking, devastating, I've probably never gotten over it, and have only been able to share this with a select few people. It feels even worse when I think about the word that flummoxed me. It wasn't "strychnine," "loxodromically," or "redivivus." It was "forth." And at the time, I had never heard that word, under that definition. I know - it's embarrassing. I totally blew any chance with the fourth grade chicks in that moment. So I watch these kids spell to console myself vicariously.

Anyway, congratulations to the Last Girl Spelling, Katharine Close. Her winning word was "ursprache," yet another word I've never heard of ("lost language of paradise"?) and will surely never use in regular conversation.