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Some pronunciations questioned during bee

March 10, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

At the start of the Washington County Spelling Bee on Saturday, pronouncer Jim Newkirk said he wasn't sure who had a tougher job - he or the contestants.

It might have been the judges.

During the sixth-grade spelling bee, one of the judges' rulings was challenged by a contestant's father from the back of the auditorium.

That challenge was one of two written grievances filed during Saturday's spelling bees at Western Heights Middle School. Both were denied.

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After Geoffrey Huntoon misspelled "clodhopper" in the first round of the sixth-grade spelling bee, his father filed a written grievance over the pronunciation of the word.

While Jack Huntoon took issue with four or five words pronounced by Newkirk, it was the pronunciation by The Herald-Mail's opinion editor, Bob Maginnis, that bothered Huntoon.

Maginnis was in charge of reading definitions and sentences. In his written grievance, Huntoon claimed Maginnis mispronounced "clodhopper" as "gloghopper."

Geoffrey could be heard mispronouncing the word before he misspelled it.

Before the bee began, a videotape explaining the rules was played. On the video, it was stated that contestants should pronounce the word first so the judges know the word was heard correctly.

But Head Judge Paul Bailey, who is vice president of the Washington County Board of Education, said the judges do not have to notify a contestant if he or she mispronounces the word before spelling it.

The other two judges were School Board member Roxanne Ober and The Herald Mail's executive editor, Terry Headlee.

Then Bailey announced that "clodhopper" was pronounced clearly in the sentence and denied the grievance.

"Can I show you a video and you can see for yourself?" Huntoon said from the back of the auditorium.

Bailey said the judges had made their decision.

"An incorrect one," Huntoon said.

Huntoon then said he would play the video, captured on his digital camera, for the judges after the contest ended and apologized to everyone for the disruption.

When the contest ended, Huntoon approached Maginnis and the judges separately. Maginnis told Huntoon that he could be right.

Huntoon reiterated his concerns to the judges about mispronunciations.

"There are bigger problems in the world than this," Huntoon said. "I'll give my son the speech about how life isn't fair sometimes."

During the first contest, the seventh-grade bee, Newkirk realized he mispronounced "battalion" after Maginnis read a sentence using the word at the contestant's request. No written grievance was filed about this.

Instead of spelling "battalion," Bailey had the contestant spell the next word, "lieutenant." It was misspelled.

"I want to be fair to the kids and I want to make sure I pronounce the word correctly, without overemphasizing each syllable," Newkirk said between bees.

Newkirk said this was his first time as pronouncer and that he had practiced pronouncing the words. Newkirk is the School Board's supervisor of elementary reading and social studies.

The other grievance filed questioned the spelling of "enlivened," Bailey announced.

As for any mispronunciations other than "battalion," Bailey said, "From my point of view, if they were mispronounced, I didn't think it impacted the bee."

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