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Friday, May 28, 2004



I recently read a great essay by local linguist Geoff Nunberg on spelling bees. It's in his book "The Way We Talk Now", but should also be online somewhere...

John Blackburn

I made it to the Ventura County level in Southern California. No hot studio lights—guess those kick in at state—but I do remember the pressure. Curse you "laudanum" (misspelled as "laudunum")! As soon as that u was out of my mouth, I knew.

And was that misspelling of "competetive" deliburate?


I too have the gift of great spelling. I wish I could have entered the National Spelling Bee, but our hometown newspaper didn't sponsor anyone to the national bee. I didn't even know about the national contest until I was in high school.

I'm glad the bee is televised. I wish, though, that more attention were paid to the terrible spelling errors and grammatical mistakes that seem to be everywhere. I can't read our local newspaper without seeing a statement like 'their loosing they're homes.' Nine times out of ten, when I see a phrase that should be 'you're losing' some idiot has spelled it 'your loosing.' It literally makes my skin crawl and my blood boil.

Maybe spelling correctly isn't a skill. Maybe it's a curse for those of us blessed with brains and the ability to use them.


I fixed a spelling error (thanks, John B.). How ironic is that?


knowing how to spell is of course very useful, but IMHO spelling bees suck. people cramming spelling should focus their efforts on more worthwhile pursuits -- one should only be required to spell words they can use correctly in a sentence; I have no freeging clue what laudanum is (tincture of opium I see via google).

Oddly though I do not think english spelling should be orthogonalized or otherwise reformed, I believe the idiosyncracies make reading, if not writing, much easier. if all words were regularized in spelling they would look too similar.

as an aside, japanese spelling bees would be very very boring.

Q: Please spell 'asashio'

A: a-sa-shi-o

but the Japanese have the kanji to make up for it. Every hour we study spelling in school, they have to study kanji. And then some, probably.

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