The national spelling bee was on ABC last night. Did anybody else see it? I was flipping back and forth between that, the Game Show Marathon, and The Office reruns. If you missed it, let me explain briefly. A stage full of 8th graders and their parents sit and wait nervously as PhD's in suits make up words and say them into the microphone. At that point, the 8th grader goes through a ritual involving phrases such as "could you repeat that?" and "what is the etymology of the word?" I listened to word after word and didn't recognize even one of them. The winning word was "ursprache." Congratulations. That's the last time you'll ever hear that word used on television.
It reminded me of one of the most embarrassing times of my childhood. It was 8th grade and I was back at the regional 7th and 8th grade spelling be. The year before I had come in 3rd and I was determined to improve on last year's performance. The year before I had been knocked out by my arch rival (and good friend), Sarah Nolte. The 8th grade bee finally came down to an epic battle between the two of us as we went back and forth in the last round. Each of us were pulling words out of nowhere and getting lucky on some guesses. At least I was. Then it came. I stepped up to the mic and heard it uttered slowly by Sarah's dad who also happened to be running the show. It was the word that would knock me out of the competition. This is the point where I'd like to say that the word was something I'd never heard before. Something incredibly difficult with an etymology as diverse as an African long-tailed monkey on vacation in Belize after working for a summer in Greenland. Nope. The word was…. "hoarse." I'll pause for the laughter to die down. I was excited to have drawn such a simple word so I immediately started to spell it (the correct way with the "a") and the judges stopped me. "Wait, you need a definition." They gave the definition and then I started overthinking. AUGH. Which definition has the "a"? It was a brain meltdown of epic proportions. I'm in awe of it to this day. I of course chose to spell the word like a second grader and left off the a. As soon as I got to "r" I realized my mistake but it was too late. I lost on the word "hoarse." It was just the beginning of Sarah being one better than me in every subject we had together in high school.
You may now commence with the mocking.