Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Grammar Commando Takes the Stage

When I was a kid, all the cool homeschooled kids did the spelling bee. Some of them even went national. I never did this, despite a significant natural aptitude for spelling. (This is completely a gender-linked trait in my family. None of the male members of the family can spell at all, while all the women are pretty good at it. However, the guys can fix washing machines, and on the whole, my life would probably be better if I could drop the spelling of "pusillanimous," a word I have never used except right now, and replace it with information on how to operate a socket wrench.) When we played Huggermugger, a word game with a heavy spelling component, my siblings would refuse to tell me the word I had to spell correctly: they would just read the definition and then I had to guess what the word was *and* spell it correctly. I thought this unfair, as it was the only game I could win. But I still got it right every time, so I didn't protest too much.

This week, DOB found me the chance to take spelling onto a slightly wider stage, as the local adult literacy group has a spelling bee as an annual fundraiser and his Rotary club was sponsoring a team. It was only a very slightly wider stage, and there were eleven three-person teams on it, on a very hot May night in a community college theater built in the good old Washington tradition of "Air conditioning? Who needs air conditioning?" The ice ran out before the eighth round.

Many of the other teams had themes and costumes and banners and special cheers, like the "Beeutifuls" the "Trio in Bee Sharp," the "Bee Gees" (complete with disco ball) and the "Spellz Angelz." Our team had the uninspiring name of "The Bee-Wheres." However, good spelling and good costuming were apparently not correlated, as in the final round it came down to us and another Rotary club with the slogan "We Bee Ducks" and fuzzy yellow headbands. (I don't get it either. But, they could really spell. In fact, their main speller kept correcting the pronouncer.)

My great triumph of the evening was "parricidal," a word passed on by two previous teams, including the ominous Ducks, because nobody had asked to have it defined. Once I knew it was "pertaining to the killing of a close relative" the spelling was obvious, but everyone else had been thinking of parasites. However, I went down in flames on "ciguatera," a tropical disease caused by fish poison. (The words to hope for at the end are the really long ones with lots of Latin roots. Get an obscure short word from India or Brazil and you're sunk.)

So, we came in second, but it was still a lot of fun, and it even counted as a date night although we spent the whole evening at opposite ends of a crowded room, most of the time unable even to exchange significant glances because the Trio in Bee Sharp and Spellz Angelz were in the front two rows.

And while I'm feeling inspired, let me point out a spelling error that I've been seeing a lot of online lately.

This is satire:

This is a satyr:

See? Not the same thing. Also, it took me awhile to find an image of a satyr suitable for this blog. Those dudes have a reputation to maintain, and they work hard to maintain it. 

DOB was gratified not to be called up as an alternate on the team--his spelling is solid for ordinary purposes but not at the competitive level--but he is volunteering for team theme design next year. His thought is to call them the "Spell Casters" and have everyone dressed as wizards, including one dressed as Gandalf who, whenever another team tries to use their one free pass on a word, stands up and shouts, "You . . . shall . . . not . . . pass!"


Darren said...

I have been in an adult spelling bee the last two years with two homeschool moms who are absolutely amazing spellers. We actually won both years, which was pretty cool.

I love Ron's idea! That would definitely liven things up :)

Diary of an Autodidact said...

While I am passably competent at spelling on paper or screen, I am absolutely atrocious at oral spelling, so I am with Ron on this one.

I vote for more Grammar Commando themed posts!

Wendy said...

Congratulations! The fish poison word was appalling. And i love the theme idea! The Emperor, a high school English teacher, loves to pull that Gandalf quote too, although not when the student in question is around, just at the end of long grading sessions.

My kids seem to come in speller and non speller varieties.

the Joneses said...

I can't spell out loud at all. So we never even spelled around our kids. We just used extremely long, roundabout definitions, a la "Taboo."

The satyrs' reputation made me laugh.