Watching the national youth spelling bee finals, the talent was amazing. Each speller seemed to have a set plan to give them time to think and a pattern to help them figure out their spelling of an obscure and challenging word. One contestant “wrote” the word on her hand with her finger. The spellers ask for the word origin, figure of speech, its use in a sentence, and any other possible pronunciations before setting out to spell the word.
I recently read about the word “set.” A simple word, but "set" has the largest number of meanings -- the Oxford English Dictionary has 26 pages devoted to this little three-letter word. Now that would slow down the spelling bee.
For fun, our family used to play “dictionary.” One starts with a word and then takes one of its synonyms/or second meaning and looks it up. Then from that word, another synonym is chosen and it is looked up. Try it—it is as convoluted as playing telephone or gossip, where the word changes every time someone passes the word they think they heard on to another.
Here are some examples. A mead can be a potent drink or a meadow. A meadow is also a lea which is also a grassland which is also a prairie. I’ll have another glass of prairie, please.
A joke can also be a jest, gag or jape as a noun and chaff as a verb. Chaff can also be rubbish or trash, banter or persiflage. Persiflage? My little dictionary did not meet the cut to give me a definition there. I guess I’ll just chaff with my friend a little.
The Santa Fe Public Library’s spelling bee for adults is held in the fall. No standing up to be embarrassed; it is a written spelling bee where you can be just as embarrassed by someone grading your paper. “You didn’t know how to spell chassis?” It brings back the 5th grade all-school spelling bee, making me flush 40 years later. I will now never forget the words calvary and cavalry and I will never be in a stand-up spelling bee again if I can help it.
by PCH @Main