Friday, June 02, 2006


I really don't understand all of the to do surrounding Spelling Bee's recently. Perhaps that's the pain of being in sixth grade and not knowing how to spell "rheumatism" talking, but I just don't get it. Still, the evidence is there that people are somehow enthralled by kids that get on a stage and try to spell words, considering recent cinema, musicals and the fact that kids dressed in white stalling for time, spelling things and winning $42,000 if they can avoid screwing up for longer than anyone else is now worthy of prime time ABC (though, considering the prime time schedule when there aren't hundreds of kids in Polos spelling "euonym", I guess that shouldn't be that surprising).

So out of curiousity, I checked the news last night to find out the final word.

And it angered me.

I, for one, like it when I have no idea how to spell a word that's winning someone a boatload of money. If, in 2004 you'd asked me to spell autochthonous, which means "indigenous", but which I'm going to pretend refers to the Cthulhu mythos, I'd have had no clue where to start, other than a vague notion that it might start with the letter A. If I were asked to spell "chiaroscurist", meaning "A painter who uses light and shade rather than colour to create the illusion of volume," I'd have been lost and confused, uncertain of what to do other than physically attacking whoever decided that that word was needed and should be that complicated. But last night's final word "Ursprache"? Come on now. "Ur-" is a common enough prefix that it should be recognized (as in "Urfaust", the first draft of Goethe's Faust). "Sprache" is one of the first words you learn.

Then again, I minored in German, and she's like fourteen. So that might be why.

Still though, I mean, good for the winner and all, but "Ursprache"? It's not 1984's winner, "luge", which had been in the Olympics for twenty years at that point, but still, I can't help but think that the people who come up with Scripps' list could have done better.


Jenna said...

like you say, it might be hard for those who have different language backgrounds or haven't had the chance to study language yet, or haven't read enough to know what sounds certain foreign combinations might make, what non-English letter combinations are common. autochtone is a French word. (though I probably would have missed the "th" in that spelling bee word).
I saw a little bit of a spelling bee the other day, (was it the one you saw? how many could really be on at once?) the words were alcazar, bildungsroman, and gallinaceous? phew, that would be reely tuf four a 6th gradder.

Rory said...

Confession time: I have the hots for fourteen year olds that can't spell.

cvhunq (wrong)