May 31, 2007

"just a bunch of memorizations"

I'm watching the National Spelling Bee finals on TV. One Wisconsin contestant is still in. Of course I'm rooting for her. She just had to spell helodes. After hearing that the word is of Greek origin, she made an educated guess. And she got it right! A word's etymology is usually a better clue to its spelling than the meaning of the word. Which makes me wonder why the spellers usually ask for the definition of the word first.

Oh, here's a Polish word, oberek, and one more contestant is out. That's really tough, there are not many words of Polish origin in the English language, it's hard to make out a pattern.

Here she is again, Isabel Jacobson of Madison, Wisconsin. I've never heard the word she has to spell, a 4-syllable word "made up of Greek elements". Cyanophycean. Good grief! She asks if it comes from the Greek word for "blue". It does. Go, Isabel! Noooo. She gets the ending wrong. She spelled it -tion. She finishes third (she finished 14th last year). Congratulations, Isabel!

Two cute bespectacled boys left. 25 championship words. Evan O'Dorney, 13, from California, goes first. The first word sounds like an adjective from Greek. But what is the root? I have no clue. The word is zoilus. He gets it right. Nate Gartke, also 13, from Canada. The second word is an adjective from Latin. It has two pronunciations. Vituline. Relating to a calf or veal. I think this is a little easier to spell than zoilus (and certainly easier than cyanophycean), but perhaps that's just because I know more Latin than Greek. He gets it right.

Oh, here's a word I know. Pappardelle. That's an easy one for Evan. You just have to like pasta! Nate takes on videlicet, which I have seen written a number of times, but I've never heard it pronounced before (it's hard to go wrong, the word has 3 pronunciations). viDEliset.

While there's a commercial break, I look at the final contestant's profiles. All three (Isabel, Evan, and Nate) play an instrument, and Evan is also great at maths.

Food again. Yosenabe. A Japanese seafood soup. I think it's doable. Yes, it is! Again I think that Nate gets a more difficult word. Coryza. And Nate doesn't spell it correctly (how I love that he says "zed"). So here's Evan again. It's his chance to win. Serrefine. And he gets it right! Evan O'Dorney is the winner of the 2007 National Spelling Bee. Congratulations!

A smart kid! He doesn't really like spelling because "it's just a bunch of memorizations". He prefers maths (where "it all comes together") and music (because it's creative).

No comments: