So I got to fulfill one of my life's dreams by taking part in a spelling bee today. Unfortunately, I wasn't a contestant, but better still, I was a judge, as part of the newspaper's annual county bee. About two dozen kids grades 5-8 took part and I got to sit at the front with my editor Bart and ring a bell loudly whenever a kid misspelled a word, thus scarring them horribly for life. It was quite fun -- after watching the terrific movie "Spellbound" (which I reviewed here) recently it piqued my interest in the crazy, All-American phenomenon of bees. I have to applaud anything that judges kids on something less tangible than looks or physical brawn.
The words started easy ("tough" and "tangy") but gradually worked their way into the highly obscure ("ergot," "chonolith," "glioma," and the showstopping "otorhinolaryngology"). The kids did great, and we mean judges didn't make anyone cry. There were audible gasps from the crowd of parents and relatives as weirder words were unearthed ("gerenuk," anyone?), although in the end the winning girl took the title on the easier combination of "embroidered" and "aquamarine." It was funny to see the older, taller kids that I'd pick as winning lose out and that the grand winner was this too cute 5th-grader. I admit to taking some evil glee at "dinging" that bell out on the kids but we still gave them a round of applause anyway. And no parents were waiting afterwards to beat the judges senseless with a hefty dictionary, so all were h-a-p-p-y in the end.