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A Bad Spell

It wasn’t pretty.

The brain trust here at the Weekly Villager sallied forth to adventures in orthography by participating in the22nd Annual Community Spelling Bee for Literacy, co-sponsored by the Portage County Literacy Coalition Community Partners at the NEOMED Conference Center on Friday, May 24, 20013.  And fourth…maybe fifth… was about where we wound up…out of five.

Like lots of vital services–think schools, health care, libraries, senior services, local governments, child care–the PCLC has been pretty much left high and dry by the State of Ohio and is largely sustained by contributors who grasp the importance of literacy across all aspects of the community, from the schoolyard to the workplace, from recreation to travel.  It’s about health and safety as well as a “pursuit of happiness”.  Teams from businesses, institutions and service organizations across Portage County have, for more than two decades, participated in the Spelling Bee to showcase the support of and commitment to second chances for those willing to undertake the effort required for the journey to a better future highlighted by literacy.

The Weekly Villager, of course, has a vested interest in people being readers, so, in conjunction with Delta Systems, Inc., the team took its place–a high place, as a matter of fact(We were on  the top tier of the panel seating)–before the assembled supporters.

Other teams were from the Community Action Council of Ravenna, Deluxe Business Systems, Streetsboro, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), Rootstown and Team Herb (a team of PCLC members memorializing a late member of the group).  Pretty tough competition!

And that wasn’t the half of it.  The categories were : Stumpers, Animal Instincts, Play’s the Thing, Decorator’s Delight, In Short, Do You Hear What I Hear, Within Region, Sharp Dressed, Only U, Q and A.

Do you detect a hint of ambiguity or flim-flam or misdirection in any of those?  Do they seem to reek of trickery?  Do they remind you of pun-intended clues in a crossword puzzle in the New York Times…or even the Plain Dealer ?  Well, all of those did , indeed, come into play…and NOT to anyone’s advantage.  Furthermore–as far as we three visually-oriented, ink-stained wretches from the print world were concerned–the most difficult rule to overcome was  the one stating that team members were NOT permitted to write down any of the words as the competition proceeded.  Arrrrggghhh!  Looking at a word on paper to organized the letters in the mind and determine the correct spelling is TOTALLY different from trying to visualize the word ‘from scratch’, so to speak, especially if the word itself is a total wing-nut that you find coming at you from left field.  There was even one which I had never heard of (remarkable in itself), or maybe I heard it wrong, ; the word was “givey” (I think).  Anyway, Webster’s New Ninth Collegiate had never heard of it either and I can’t figure out what it may actually have been  if my perception was all askew.  And that was just the start!

Later, at the computer, I found that the online dictionary locations could deal with these but I think that it’s time for me to get a newer dictionary, you know, one with pages and not chiseled on stone.

We went on from there to “louche”, “ikat”, (which Webster’s didn’t know either),  “touché”, “staccato”–oh, the list went on and on.  Spellers were falling left and right.  I got “proscenium”, a stage term, which I know perfectly well when I see it in print in front of me , but managed to skip the superfluous “S” in the competition.  The Only U category tripped up quite a few folks with words like “susurrus” and “usufruct”…words YOU use every day, no doubt…with “U” being the only vowel.

The list even went international on us, with the German term, “schadenfreude” in there as a ringer (sort of like “touché”, actually).  I thought that was cruel, but the lady who got the word actually could spell it.  Scots got in a lick with the “sporran”–that’s the little  furred purse/pouch that bagpipers wear in front of the kilt in Highland wear (Well, they don’t have pockets in those things and heaven only knows what you’d find underneath, certainly nothing to stash  your change in).  French probably had the most  representation, overall, including “torchere”, which is NOT “torture” (Maybe the person who got the word would disagree) but a tall lamp or candlestand.

Whew!

The Community Action Council of Ravenna took top honors…and deserved them.

The goody bags were great too and featured Hermann’s Pickles as part of the stash.  We may try this again.  No studying .

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