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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


A question for language experts

or those of you who live in other countries...

Do countries where english is not the primary language hold spelling bees? It seems to me that almost every other language's spelling makes much more sense and follows much clearer rules than english - so spelling wouldn't be as tricky. But maybe there are archaic words derived from other countries?

edited to add: as awesome as it is to be able to watch the spelling bee on network tv, I wonder if it might add undue stress and pressure on those poor kids! And these words are damned hard! Especially when you consider the winning words from the past (croissant? Luge?). And the dude who pronounces the words should really have lips that actually move when he pronounces the words so the kids can see the pronunciation. And why is there a priest there? In case someone needs their last rites?


At 10:23 PM, Blogger dr four eyes said...

We were wondering about the priest, too. What up?

At 8:24 AM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

I don't think that even most English speaking countries have them. Or at least, they aren't such a big deal most places apart from in the USA.

But there are quite a few other languages that have equally bizarre and unpredictable spelling systems. Danish is the worst one I know of, and I don't think they hold spelling bees. But I have heard that France has dictation competitions, which are the same sort of thing, I guess.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger BrightStar said...

I don't think he was a priest. I think that was just his outfit.

I was annoyed that most of those words were words you don't really hear or see or use on a daily basis. I mean, I don't think my vocabularly is THAT bad... those words did not seem like real words to me.

Also, I am concerned that the Scripps spelling bee is getting more and more exploitative.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

I loved the spelling bee! I've heard that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn b/c of erratic spelling and pronounciation rules. However, I also speak German, and most other people have a hard time learning it, so maybe that's hard too. Dunno.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

eddie: what I like about German is that the ei/ie spelling makes sense - the pronunciation tells you how it is pronounced. That is the one thing that always messes me up with spelling (I still remember the traumatic spelling bee in 6th grade when I got knocked out for mispelling 'sleigh" because I can't do e-i combos. German has complex words - but they are easy to pronounce once you know the rules - japanese too.

b*: it was a priest outfit? who wears a priest outfit? What annoyed me was that the words got easier as they went on in the finals - and those words of "unknown" origin were just cruel as the kids could use no heuristics to figure out the spelling. It also seems unfair that so much of it is "luck of the draw" - that one kid could get an impossible word with unknown origin, and then the next kid got a kind of pasta (c'mon - pappardelle?) or a japanese food item. They really need better standardization. And in terms of the types of words - I don't mind *so* much that they are words that are unusual - but I do think that words for a clothing item or a dance - words that are very culturally specific are a bit bizarre. I think words that *could* be useful would be a better focus. What was that word for a government led by idiots? kackocracy? I meant to write that one down.

styley: interestingly, it seems as though it was the french words that gave most kids the most problems - all those silent letters.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Clio Bluestocking said...

Did you see this?: http://www.slate.com/id/2167194/

At 1:21 AM, Blogger Bella Sultane said...

Here's a twist:


At 7:37 PM, Blogger BrightStar said...

I agree with you about the word choice thing... the "could be useful" sort of words were good, and the culturally specific ones definitely seemed luck of the draw. I was annoyed at pappardelle, too.


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