Special Sub-Topic: The Bee
|The concept of the spelling bee arose in the 1700s among the Puritans. These saintly folk needed a sedate name for their entertainment, to show that it wasn't just a frivolous pursuit. What did they call their spelling contests?|
Spelling schools. This title certainly did not give the impression of a wild and rowdy event! Instead, the "spelling schools" were competitive but peaceful evening events.
|Spelling bees are uncommon in countries outside the US. Why?|
Most languages are spelled phonetically; a spelling bee wouldn't be much of a challenge!. Due to its roots in a multiplicity of languages, English is fiendishly inconsistent when it comes to the spelling of words. In contrast, most other languages follow strict phonetic rules, and thus a spelling bee in Spanish or Russian would pose little challenge.
|As evidence of the declining state of US education, some people have used the argument that the winning words for the National Spelling Bee today are much simpler to spell than those of 50 years ago. |
f. In fact, the winning words today are much more difficult than those of the Bee's earlier years. As examples, some of the winning words in the first decade of the Bee (1925-1935) were "knack," "gladiolus," "luxuriance," "deteriorating" and "intelligible." In the decade 1996-2006, winning words included "autochthonous," "appoggiatura," "vivisepulture," "succedaneum," and "ursprache."
|In the 2006 film "Akeelah and the Bee," the inner-city African-American girl Akeelah goes head-to-head against the rich, extensively-coached Dylan to determine the victor of the Bee. Defying their previous relationship, the two "co-spell" their way to a combined victory as co-champions.
Has a tie ever occurred in the real Scripps National Spelling Bee?|
y. In fact, it's happened three times- in 1950, 1957, and 1962.
|Despite the all-American nature of the National Spelling Bee, a group gathers every year to protest it. Why?|
They feel that the English language should be made easier to spell. This group, the Simplified Spelling Society, feels that the English language should be entirely revamped to be spelled phonetically. They feel the Bee highlights the absurdity and uselessness of the English language, which they think is not something to be celebrated.
|Who are the primary sponsors of individual contestants in the National Spelling Bee?|
Newspapers. Almost all entrants are sponsored by newspaper publishers, who usually pay the travel expenses of the contestant, some family members and often the contestant's English teacher.
The EW Scripps Company, sponsor of the Bee itself, owns many newspapers, including the New York Herald Tribune, the Cincinnati Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
|Only US citizens may compete in the National Spelling Bee.|
f. Contestants from several countries have participated, most often from Canada and New Zealand. In 2006, Finola Hackett, the second-place finisher, was from Alberta, Canada. In 1998, Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica won the Bee.
|A fairly-recent innovation in the National Spelling Bee is the gradual increase in difficulty in words spelled each round. Previously, the first two rounds were fairly easy; the third round was much more difficult and designed to eliminate a large number of spellers. What was this killer round called?|
The lawnmower round. Alas, the "lawnmower round" was my downfall as a contestant in 1976. "Aporia," meaning "A figure of speech in which the speaker expresses or purports to be in doubt about a question," according to dictionary.com, was my nemesis. Fearing the often-deadly silent "h," I spelled it "aphoria."
|What is the official dictionary of the National Spelling Bee?|
Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. This dictionary, often called "Webster's Third" for short, contains over 450,000 words. It was first published in 1961. At least one Bee contestant, David Tidmarsh, had as his claim to fame having read and studied the entire Webster's Third. He won the 1997 Bee.
|The official word study list for the National Spelling Bee is now known as the Paideia. What was it called prior to 1994?|
Words of the Champions. Perhaps "Words of the Champions" sounded too much like a Wheaties commercial? "Paideia" is a Greek word referring to the process of educating people so that they may reach their true potential. It is found in root form in several words, such as encyclopedia and Wikipedia.
|In general, under National Spelling Bee rules, if a word cannot be used during a game of Scrabble (such as a proper noun or a foreign word), it also cannot be picked as a National Spelling Bee word.|
f. While this was true in the past, the increasingly-capable cadre of spellers attending the Bee has led to the selection of more and more obscure words. Placenames and other proper nouns, as well as foreign words, are fair game now.
|In 2006, several unusual things happened during the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Which of these did NOT occur?|
A contestant fainted onstage during the Bee. While no one had a spell at the Spelling Bee in 2006, in 2004, Akshay Buddiga did indeed faint during his time upon the stage. He recovered, spelled his word ("alopecoid") correctly, and went on to eventually take second place.
During the 2006 Bee, online betting book PinnacleSports.com took bets on such matters as whether the winner would wear glasses and whether the final word contained an "E." (The winner, Kerry Close, did not wear glasses, and her word, "ursprache," did indeed contain an "E.")
ABC broadcast the finals live on prime-time TV for the first time ever.
Speller Saryn Hooks was reinstated after she spelled the word "hechsher" correctly. The judge's list had the word as "hechscher," but Lucas Brown, brother of San Diego contestant Julia Brown, caught the error when he entered the word into his computer's dictionary. His father brought this to the attention of the Bee judges, and Saryn was reinstated . She went on to take third place.
|Disney Theatrical planned an adaptation of which of the following spelling-bee movies into a Broadway play?|
"Spellbound," a 2002 documentary about the 1999 National Spelling Bee. Disney Theatrical dropped the project for unknown reasons. It was probably intended to compete with (or at least copy the success of) the popular play "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
|In the 2000 novel "Bee Season" by Myla Goldberg, the central character Eliza Naumann, guided by her father, uses a special mystical technique to prepare for the Bee. What is it?|
Kabbalism. In this complex novel (which is more about family and religious relationships than the Bee,) Eliza and her father Saul explore the techniques of 13th-century kabbalist Abraham Abulafia, who delved into trying to connect with the spirits of words.
|"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is a popular musical, first performed in 2005. What unusual feature does it include?|
Audience members become part of the onstage spelling bee. Audience members are invited to participate in the bee. While they are indeed given some fake words (such as "smoogligan" and "krizzlemum,") most of the words are genuine. On several occasions, National Spelling Bee participants have been part of the impromptu cast!
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