Like the end of the Olympics, I am having spelling bee
withdrawl withdrawal today. I am not yet ready to let go of the two astounding — if predictable — facts surrounding the annual spelling extravaganza.
1) We have far too many useless words in our language. Perhaps there should be a sunset provision whenever someone makes a word. If it is not used for one year or if it’s use is followed by the more common “huh?”, it is banished from our language. Forever. We’re not fooling.
Alcopops, chengguan, and chiconomics (the ability to maintain one’s fashion sense in a bad economy) are dangerously close to entering the lexicon (n. Gk. lexikos, of words. Def. What you write when you’ve already used language too much in a blog post.)
2) We feel a little queasy about whether we put our kids through too much. National TV? Prime time? Academics have often wondered what would happen if the math quiz got the same attention as sports, but as far as I know, Grey’s Anatomy has never been delayed to show a kid’s sporting event.
There was a moment near the end of last night’s spelling bee in which a young woman spelled the word wrong, then buried her sobbing head into her parents’ embrace. On the other hand, the last remaining young man who spelled his word wrong, calmly sat down as if it was just another day in homeschooling hell.
The Daily Beast saw it coming:
If you’ve seen the documentary Spellbound, you know the lengths to which some kids–and, more to the point, some parents–go to prepare for the Bee. The finalists will have spent hundreds of hours–possibly thousands in the case of veteran spellers–memorizing arcane words. They will have been tested via printed word lists and interactive software. They will have been drilled ceaselessly by demanding moms, dads, teachers and coaches. For the top competitors, the pressure is profound. (As the Bee has evolved, it’s grown more difficult. The winning word in 1981 was “sarcophagus.” Not to brag, but my first-grade daughter can spell that.)
(Aside: Do these kids “text” on their cellphones? Do they spell out all of their words or abbreviate, thereby misspelling them?)
Most people seem to agree, however, that it’s not an entirely bad concept to watch kids using their brains for a couple of days; even if they have no sense of chiconomics.