Thursday, September 29, 2011

a word on spelling bees

there are some things you should know before your first spelling bee.

one, attire.  ("attire: A-T-T-I-R-E.  attire.") attire can make or break the event.  too many would-bee-spellers think they can show up in their sneakers and polos.  people, this is not a frivolous endeavor, to set out to correctly spell the lexical bricks of our every communication.  to strut your orthographic merit, you must first show you can wear it.  it, of course, being the accoutrements fitting for this mental station for which you aim by entering yourself in a spelling bee.  this is, as one might say, the reverse of sweet katerina's speech:

Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth
. . .
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
(Taming of the Shrew, V.ii.169-172)

in the case of the spelling bee, our external parts must be made to well agree with our internal parts, orthographical skills being chief, of course, among such.

some apparel you might consider:

  • sperry top-siders (for boys)
  • oxford shoes (for boys or girls)
  • pleated skirts (for girls.  scottish boys excepted.)
  • yellow- or navy-themed ensembles (see parenthetical note A)
  • tortoise-shell glasses (fake or prescription.  only you will know the difference.)
  • a tie or a bow-tie (for the boys)
  • avoid overly gaudy jewelry (both sexes), as no self-respecting lexical aesthete will take seriously a person draped in, as they say, "bling."
parenthetical note A:  color-themed ensembles can be a precarious arena through which to navigate.  if your escort is using the same color scheme, you may consider each appropriating slightly different tinctures so as to increase the monochromatic range (and therefore interest) of the ensemble's ultimate delivery.

now when you find yourself onstage, microphone in hand, beckon the etymological powers of the universe to you.  listen to them.  take your time.  use your stopwatch if you need to, but take every blessed second.  because sometimes the idea that perhaps "klomp" is spelled with a "k" instead of a "c" won't come to you until second 57.  that 57th second might mean the difference between a shameful walk off stage and that coveted trophy.

cheer for fellow spellers when they forget the first "u" in "chauffeur."

always doubt the moderator's ability to pronounce words correctly.  he or she might mistake "raucous" for "ruckus", or "piquancy" for "pickansee" (which isn't even a word), so be sure to ask for a definition and the part of speech where appropriate.

and most important of all, when you're sitting there on stage, front and center, spell-write every word the moderator gives your opponents on the palm of your hand with the forefinger of your other.  do this with an air of unparalleled intensity.  your competition will get a little more fidgety as you knowingly nod to yourself, "yes, i DO know how to spell 'autobahn' despite it being a different language."


  1. I am loving this post. Carolyn, you are AMAZING!

  2. I love your picture. It makes me want to...
    Punch holes in walls (pride in knowing you)
    Yell random nonsense out of the front door (giddy)
    And do yoga.(wanting to become more one with my spelling bee-er)

  3. Alas, if only I had read this before that fateful 7th grade preliminary round...