The Spelling Bee Sting

Tonight was the finals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. I usually watch, but this year I forgot when it was supposed to be, and I happened to catch parts of it on TV over dinner at a cafe in Milwaukee. At least, until they changed the channel to basketball. After some geocaching, I filled my tank in West Allis and got back to Madison about an hour ago to discover that this year was a Spelling Bee first: co-winners.

The rules of the Spelling Bee state that if, after five rounds, the final two spellers do not misspell a word, co-winners are declared. This has only happened a few times in Spelling Bee history; the last time was in 1962. This year’s co-winners were Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas. Even though the final-round words usually mystify me, I had actually heard of both the final words. Stichomythia (Sriram’s word, which I spelled correctly without looking up) is a word I use all the time that describes the back-and-forth dialogue that originated in Greek theatre, and Ansun’s word was feuilleton, a type of editorial.

My school never had spelling bees. We had the geography bee (more about that in a future entry) and the Bracha Bee (yeah…) but I only remember one spelling bee. It was among all the first grade classes. I entered first grade on a third grade reading level. I also had a knack for spelling, which was pretty much the only thing I had going for me, thanks to having a mother who was a schoolteacher and babysitters who taught me words with flash cards, and also just being kind of a weird kid, having taught myself to read at age 4. I wasn’t reading and spelling the same words as the rest of the class, so when the spelling bee was announced for the next week, I didn’t really think about it; actually, I don’t really remember how the news was broken to me, I think my teacher just said it in front of the whole class. It was something like,

“All the first graders will participate…”

::everyone looks at me::

“…except for Jacob. Because we all know that he’d win and nobody else would have a chance.”

For some reason, thinking about it makes me wonder why I wasn’t more upset about this. I guess I took it as a compliment, because I don’t remember my parents or my teacher telling me anything about being excluded.

But then…

“Jacob will be serving as a judge.”


Finally, I had the power over my classmates! No one could stop me. Bwahahahaha INVINCIBLE.

…except it was just a spelling bee. I got to define the words and make sentences when asked. Then someone won, and the prize was a piece of paper with an ice-cream scratch-n-sniff sticker on it. I got one too for being a judge.

That was the highlight of my elementary school career.

I had a sad childhood.

This was not a very interesting story.

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