Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30: Spellbound Day

Today is the anniversary of the release of the Academy Award nominated documentary Spellbound. The film profiles eight participants in the 1992 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Each profile follows the path each youngster took to the Nationals, showing their hometown, their family, and their study techniques. The most gripping parts of the film, however, are the scenes of competition in the National Spelling Bee. Each contenstant battles the seemingly capricious rules of English spelling, straining to comprehend each obscure word they are presented.

The most successful spellers attempt to bring order out of the chaos of English spelling through dilligent study of Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish words. Each word is pronounced for the competitors, but because of the great disparity between English spelling and pronunciation, a word's etymology is a more reliable source of clues to its correct spelling.

The National Spelling Bee began in 1925, and The Scripps Howard News Service began sponsoring the bee in 1941. The bee began with only 9 contestants and has grown to over 200 participants. Each spring contestants compete for an ever-growing list of prizes, and the last half of the final day's competition is even broadcast live on ESPN.

Another term sometimes used for spelling is orthography. The word is from the Greek: ortho for correct and graphe for writing.

Spelling: The Presidential Debate
Even presidents have weighed in on correct spelling:

It's a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word! --Andrew Jackson

Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember it, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well. --Thomas Jefferson

Today's Challenge: Bee All That You Can Bee

Below is a list of winning words from the recent years of the National Spelling Bee. See if you can select the one in each group of three that is correct.

1. 1996 vivisepulture vivicepulture vivissepulture

2. 1997 uonym euonym euuonym

3. 1998 chiaroscurist chiarroscurist chiaroscurrist

4. 1999 logorhea loggorrhea logorrhea

5. 2000 demarch demarche demurch

6. 2001 succedaneum sucedaneum suckendaneum

7. 2002 prospicience prospisiense propiceince

8. 2003 pockocurante pococurante pococurent

9. 2004 autochthonous autokthonous autockthonous

10. 2005 apoggiatura appoggiatura appoggiatura

Today's Quote: Three things you can be sure of in life are death, taxes, and misspelling. --David Grambs

1. vivisepulture 2. euonym 3. chiaroscurist 4. logorrhea 5. demarche 6. succedaneum 7. prospicience 8. pococurante 9 autochthonous 10. appoggiatura

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