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Saturday, May 4, 2013

In Which We Learn the Agony of Defeat

"We'll wake up again."
Cold weather returned, and the pretty little spring beauties and shy trout lilies closed up their petals and went back to sleep. My dreams Friday night kept me busy setting up a straw bale garden and even refinishing old farmhouse floors, and in the morning out came the winter jacket again to keep me warm in the woods with Sarah. 

Friday was the annual spelling competition on Friday afternoon at Gilbert Lodge on (one of the) Twin Lakes west of Traverse City, and once again Marilyn Zimmerman, Trudy Carpenter and I were the the bookstore team. Is it our sixth year? Marilyn and I were by ourselves the first time, and Trudy has been with us ever since.

Well, the Dog Ears Books team did not cover itself with glory this year at the Senior Spelling Bee. Perhaps, as one member remarked, we had become overconfident and needed a little reminder from Fate. Be that as it may, we went down in Round 7 when the three of us agreed to spell ‘vendible’ (the correct spelling) with an ‘a’ in the middle syllable. WRONG! Rather than stretch out the suspense, in case you’re wondering about a rule for –able and –ible words, here and here are links to the answer. We’ll know better next year. Of course, there are many exceptions to the so-called rules....

But oh, the words that appeared when the Bee Master went to his second box! Words no one present had ever encountered in a lifetime, and recall that contestants must be 55 years of age (or is it 50?) to participate! When one team went down on ‘exsert’ (it’s the opposite of ‘insert’), there were only two teams left of the seven who had begun, and when the Bee gets down to the last two teams the rules change. 

Bee Master Michael Sheehan and last two teams
If one team then misses a word, the other team must spell that word correctly and spell a second word correctly to validate their win. If the second team misses either word, it’s on to a new round. This Bee went 35 rounds, due to words such as these: farraginous, aichmophobia, rhonchial, zymurgy, ochlesis, obvallate, oneirodynia, sagittiform, roscid, agrestic, blennoid, and sybotic. How many of those do you think my spell-checking program accepts? It’s entirely possible I’ve made a mistake or two here, but I don’t think all but two are incorrect, as the program is telling me.

Bee Master consults with judges when a challenge is issued
In the end, the father-daughter team took first place this year, and they deserved to win. Second- and third-place teams also put up good, long fights. Maybe next year my friends and I will be back in the top three (where we've always been up to now), but we had a good time despite our loss, and as one team-member whose grandchildren come to watch her spell remarked in e-mail to me this morning, “I had the chance to show my grandchildren that grownups sometimes lose, and they can still go out for ice cream.”  An important lesson, I think we can all agree.

There was irony for me in the word that toppled us, as I have been reading William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, and had noticed his spelling of ‘vendible’ but had thought it must have changed since then. It hasn’t. But did you follow the links above? If you did (and even if you didn't), of the following, which spelling would you choose as correct –


-- and why?

Come to think of it, I probably got a much better night’s sleep refinishing floors in my dreams than going through another spelling bee. But if you take any little bit of wisdom away from today's blog post, let it be this:

“Grownups sometimes lose, and they can still go out for ice cream.” - Trudy Carpenter

Saturday morning fiddleheads


Kathy said...

I'm proud of you simply for participating--and for writing such a generous post about your lessons in the realm of winning and losing.

Maiya Willits said...

I actually did not know that able/ible rule, that's helpful to learn. Sounds like a tough bee all around, but I know you always have fun!

Michael J. Sheehan said...

I am always impressed and humbled by the participants in the Senior Bee. If you look at the list of words actually called, you will be blown away:

fleda Brown said...

I am a terrible speller. I admire the fact that you've gotten as far as you have, and that anyone can remember what a word looks like, its individual letters one after the other. I seem to skip like a frog from lily pad to lily pad, which is odd for a poet to say, I guess. The words you had to spell are amazingly hard.

Dawn said...

I could never do a spelling bee!