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How do you spell that?

I like to visit schools every chance I get, because it reminds me of "the good ol' days" when the only thing I had to worry about was if my grade on the latest paper was better than my classmates'. Also, looking at the student's handiwork displayed along the walls of the schools reminds me of how interesting and fun life is when viewed through the eyes of a child. I also see long-forgotten lessons that I now take for granted.

For instance, at Thomson Elementary recently, I saw a project where one class had searched for words that contained the blend "er." When I read the answers posted in the children's handwriting, I was amazed at the number of words.

Another thing I take for granted is the ability to spell words, or rather, the ability to use an on-line dictionary to find the correct spelling of a word. It's just too easy to do these days. I have always been pretty good at spelling, although I wouldn't consider myself the best. So, imagine my surprise to learn the extent of my inability while covering the county-wide spelling bee last Thursday. I tried to mentally spell each word as it was called out. I got a lot correct. I also had a lot of half-rights - meaning I said to myself, "it's either spelled this way or that way." I also had to laugh at how we Southerners pronounce/hear words. One child spelled "century" for "sentry," and a few words later, I incorrectly spelled "turbine" for "turban."

I congratulate each contestant in the bee last week. Standing up on a stage and talking into a microphone is intimidating enough. Adding the responsibility of spelling words correctly is a monumental task. Every one of those kids should be applauded.

In searching for the origin of the name of the competition, (why would it be named after an insect?) I came upon a website devoted to the study of words - On the site is a page of "weird words," which, of course, caught my attention. Lynne Entrekin, who was the caller at the spelling bee, told the contestants that she loves words, because "some just roll off your tongue." This list of weird words was definitely some to try rolling, although many were tongue twisters. I encourage anyone who loves words to check out the website. You'll find words you didn't know existed, like cruciverbalist (a solver of crossword puzzles) and sabermetrician (a person who studies baseball statistics); words you'll want to keep in mind, like snollygoster (an unprincipled person or a politician) or jobbernowl (a blockhead); or you may identify the whole list as just gobbledygook (unintelligible language), and give it a floccinaucinihilipilification (judged to be worthless.)

Web posted on Thursday, February 08, 2007

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