Oregon Senior Spelling Bee--2007
Bill Long 4/14/07
First Place in Written; Second Place in Orals
The Oregon Senior Spelling Bee, which is often a sort of "dry run" for the National Senior Spelling Bee in Cheyenne in June, just ended. Eighteen contestant vied for the title. The written test came first: 100 words in groups of 25, with breaks after each grop of words. Three of us managed to get fewer than 10 errors on the written test: Linda, Sue and myself. I won that part of the test, missing only two of the 100 words (see below). Then, we went onto the oral rounds. After four rounds of the oral competition, the judges had narrowed the group of competitors down to five: Jason, Helen, Sue, Maggie and myself. Another several rounds took place, and Jason, Helen and Maggie were eliminated. Thus, Sue and I had a face off for a few rounds. I missed a word that everyone in the place, including myself, knew--I inverted the "n" and "c" in sacrosanct, spelling it an unpronounceable "sacrosacnt." Immediately after I pronounced the word, I realized I had made a mistake. Sue spelled her final word correctly: lascivious, and thus took home the trophy. She is a very fine speller, managing to get kea and one or two other difficult words right in the oral rounds, and I hope she decides to go to Cheyenne in June. There was only one other word in the oral rounds that I don't think I recall having heard previously: cinchonism--an overdose of quinine. I would certainly have missed this word.
Because I have a habit of making embarrassing gaffes in some of the oral rounds, I have adopted a more deliberative style of spelling, and it has, general, seemed to work for me--I "see" the words fairly clearly in my mind, and can usually spell them readily. This more deliberative method worked for me on April 2, when I won the quarterly championship bee at the Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland (Linda was second), taking home $100 in the process (to be honest, my friends for that evening made sure that I took home considerably less than $100). The number of words that I now have to "guess" on is getting smaller and smaller, though the Oregon judges/planners always seem to be able to find a few in the Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) that I haven't found. Thus, even though I made a rather dumb mistake today, I am not losing heart. Practice is making perfect.
The 100 Written Words
It might be helpful for you if I listed the 100 words given in groups of 25 in the written competition. This list was "harder" than the Cheyenne list last year, and only three of us missed fewer than ten of these words. As I mentioned, I missed two. I don't want to tell you what they are. See if you can guess from the following list which words I might have missed. I will give you a clue below.
The organizers of the Bee have traditionally given an "A-Z" list during the first round. I think that if you knew this it might have helped you on "xenon," but otherwise it didn't really "tip" you off.
Second Group of 25 Words
Third Group of 25 Words
Fourth Group of 25 Words
Here ended the written rounds. The only clue I will give you is that the two words I missed are in the same group of 25 words. If you have any suggestions, let me know. Would you have not known, or missed, additional words?
Now it is on to Cheyenne in mid-June. My "study pattern" for the next two months will include large doses of mastery of the Linnaean classification system and the words that flow from that (names of fish, trees, birds, plants, animals without number). I will then let myself "wander" into other avenues, checking frequently with the Collegiate to see if the words I study are in it. Thus, my approach is different from previous years. Rather than studying the dictionary, I will study "life," which is much bigger than any dictionary, and then occasionally look at the dictionaries to see what is there. It is like running a marathon a day, when the "race" will actually only be a 10K race in June. At least that is my thinking as of today.
Even if you don't fancy yourself a speller, or don't have the "spelling gene," you might want to review the list above (and perhaps other lists I have compiled) in order to broaden the worlds about which you know something. The key to a vivid imagination is, in my judgment, a well-stocked mind. And words get you there.