Sunday, October 1, 2006

Spelling Bees of the Past, Present, and Future

Dear Friends, 

  The Hard Taco song for October '06 is called, "Mouf Breavah." You will find that this is a very satisfying combination of two words to say out loud. Even if the song doesn't get stuck in your head, you will surely find yourself prancing around, saying "mouf mouf mouf" halfway into next week. I felt the same way the first time I heard a song with the word "jiggy" in it.   

  Part of my incentive for introducing alternative spellings like "mouf" into the American rhetoric is that children have become far too good at spelling. In the 1930's, contestants won the National Spelling Bee for spelling words like knack, torsion, deteriorating, and initials. I am not making this up... in 1940 there was only one child in the entire country that could spell the word therapy. I'm not implying that your grandparents were retarded, although it would explain why you never see them working on Science Fair posters.

   Since then, kids have gotten smarter, spelling bees have become more ethnically diverse, and the competition has gotten exponentially fiercer. Some of the winning words from the last ten years have been vivisepulture, antediluvian, chiaroscurist, and succedaneum

   I realize that there has already been a documentary about spelling bee contestants, so I am compiling so archived footage into a documentary about spelling bee judges. It will be called "The Pronouncers." Here are a few excerpts: 

("The Pronouncers" - Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, 1944) 
Judge: Your word is, "Ahoy." 
Contestant: Can I have the definition? 
Judge: Ahoy. An interjection used to hail a ship or a person or to attract attention. 
Contestant:  Can you use it in a sentence? 
Judge: Use it in a sentence? 
Contestant: Yes, please. 
Judge: Ahoy! 

("The Pronouncers" - Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, 1961) 
Judge: Your word is, "bishopric." 
Contestant: Enamel. E-N-A-M-E-L. ENAMEL. 
Judge: What? No, your word is, "bishopric." 
Contestant: I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. Acuity. A-C-U-I-T-Y. Acuity. 
Judge: Well, yes, that is that is the correct spelling of that word.  
Contestant: D-W-A-R-F. Dwarf. D-W-A-R-F. 
Judge: Impressive! Wow, that's really good. Did anyone else see that? You're moving on to the next round!   

("The Pronouncers" - Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, 2002) 
Judge: Your word is, "Philamot-symblepharon-rescission-wayzgoose" 
Contestant: Can I have the language of origin? 
Judge: No. 
Contestant: P-H-I-L-A-M-O-T-S-Y-M-B-L-E-P-H-A-R-O-N-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N-W-A-Y-Z-G-O-O-S-E. 
Judge: (Squeezes bike horn.) So sorry! We were asking for "rescission," which means, "the act of rescinding." You spelled "recision," which means "the act of rescinding, annulling or canceling." (Throws microphone at contestant.) Seriously, get the @#%$! off my stage. 
Contestant: Thank you, Ma'am. 

("The Pronouncers" - Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, 2006) 
Judge: Your word is, "Jiggymouf." 
Contestant: Awwww, yeah! 
(Strobe lights come on, and both start crunk dancing.) 

With warmest regards,