Speller stumbles

'Oligodactylism' trips up county student

'Oligodactylism' trips up county student

June 03, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

When Blaine Ford of Boonsboro heard the word "oligodactylism" during the first oral round of the 77th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday he knew he had a problem.

"I didn't have a clue," Blaine, 13, said.

He knew that "dactyl" meant finger or toe, but he said he was unfamiliar with the longer version of the word, which means a deficiency of fingers or toes.

He said he took a guess and spelled it "aligodactylism."

He was off by one vowel.

Blaine, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, later was eliminated and did not move on to the second oral round of the competition in Washington.


As Blaine's mother, Donna, listened to students try to spell the words during the first oral round, she was thinking, "Oh, listen to these words," she said.

"I was just hoping for one word I was sure he would be sure of," she said.

As for "oligodactylism," she said, "I thought he knew that one. One vowel off!"

In past years, when students spelled a word incorrectly during the first oral round, they immediately were eliminated from the competition.

This year, students were not eliminated until after completion of a written spelling round Tuesday and an oral round Wednesday morning. After the judges calculated the results of the first two rounds, 94 of the 265 students who started the competition moved to the next round.

After all students had gone through one oral round, the numbers of the students who would advance were announced.

Blaine laughed when asked after the oral round if he thought his written test score was good enough for him to advance.

"I doubt it," he said.

He thought he correctly spelled 12 or 13 of the 25 words, he said. He later learned his score was 12.

By the end of Wednesday's competition, 46 spellers remained for today's championship.

Blaine became Washington County's representative to the National Spelling Bee by winning the March 13 Washington County Spelling Bee. Blaine's trip to the national bee was sponsored by The Herald-Mail Co., which also sponsors the county spelling bee.

Blaine said he enjoyed meeting some of the other spellers and engaging in activities in the Washington-Baltimore area during his stay.

"It was pretty fun," he said.

Elizabeth Anne Allen, 14, an eighth-grader from Musselman Middle School in Inwood, W.Va., incorrectly spelled "whilom" in the oral round. She spelled it "whilum."

According to the National Spelling Bee Web site, she did not advance to the third round.

Information on the competition is available on the Web at

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