Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cain't Spel

The Champ: Anamika Veeramani, 14, of North Royalton, Ohio

Happened to catch the tail end of the National Spelling Bee last night on the tube. Bunch of kids, youngest was eleven, oldest, around fourteen. Cleveland can't win at basketball, but they apparently know not only the Queen's English, but all the other languages, too.

Me, I'm a full-time professional writer with, I like to think, a fair vocabulary, but I haven't won a spelling contest since I took the title in Mrs. Tillery's class in third grade at age nine, with "handkerchief." (In Louisiana, that "d" is always silent, but I'd read the word before. Big advantage, knowing how to read in a spelling bee.)

But: I got exactly two words right during the finals last night: netsuke and juvia, and neither of them English. The former is a small Japanese carving, and I knew it because I have one on my katana's handle. The later is a South American word for Brazil nut. The "u" is usually silent in netsuke, so it's pronounced "net-ski." The "u" is offered as an alternative pronunciation. And the nut word is given the Spanish "h" for the "j." Fortunately, the alternative way of saying it uses the "j" sound -- thus " joo-vee-uh," so I got that one, too.

Rest of them? Not even close ...

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