Can you spell better than a 12-year-old?

March 30, 2007|by LISA PREJEAN

The first round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee has two parts: written and oral. The written part is described as "savage," by James Maguire in his book "American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds."

(Perhaps the only thing nerdier than a word nerd is someone who likes to read about word nerds. I admit it. I'm reading the book.)

In the written round, contestants are given a spelling test consisting of 25 words picked from anywhere in a specified unabridged dictionary.

(How's that for narrowing down what you need to study??!!)

"Just for fun," Maguire says, the parents of the contestants are given copies of the test so they can spell along.


That sounds like a blast, doesn't it? Even though it should be a parent's goal for our children to become smarter than we are, it's difficult to take when a 12-year-old can spell better than you can.

Some of us had a small taste of that feeling last Saturday during the Washington County Spelling Bee in Hagerstown. The children competing on stage did a terrific job, and we can be proud of them all. All the participants are champions because they had to win or be the runner-up in their school bees. Most of us wouldn't want to be all alone up there on stage having to spell a word into a microphone.

I took notes on the words that were given because I coordinate our school bee, my son was a participant, I like words, and I like kids who like words.

Each participant was given a copy of "Spell It!: Tricks and Tips for Spelling Bee Success," a guide published by Merriam-Webster. They studied words from this booklet in the weeks leading up to the bee.

How would you have done in last Saturday's bee? Would you have "spelled out" in the first round? Would you have been a champion? Take this test and see. These are some of the words that were given at the bee. Circle the correct spelling of each word:

1. salo sallow

2. hibatchi hibachi

3. kahuna kahunna

4. hazzard hazard

5. pacifism pasifism

6. allegro aleggro

7. wonderlust wanderlust

8. carmine karmine

9. flamenco flaminco

10. troyka troika

The correct spellings

1. sallow - Old English word that means of a sickly pale-yellow hue. If you spelled this one correctly, congratulations. You would have made it through the first round of the sixth-grade bee.

2. hibachi - Japanese; a small, charcoal-burning grill of Japanese design. (Second round, sixth grade)

3. kahuna - Hawaiian; any person or thing to whom larger-than-life power or authority is attributed. (Third round, sixth grade)

4. hazard - Arabic; risk, peril, danger, jeopardy. (First round, seventh grade - If you put two z's in this word, perhaps you were thinking of the "The Dukes of Hazzard.")

5. pacifism - French; opposition to the use of force under any circumstances. (Second round, seventh grade)

6. allegro - Italian; fast, often used as a musical direction. (Third round, seventh grade)

7. wanderlust - German; an impulse, longing or urge to wander or travel. (First round, eighth grade)

8. carmine - French; a red or purplish-red pigment. (Second round, eighth grade)

9. flamenco - Spanish; the Spanish gypsy style of dance or music. (Third round, eighth grade)

10. troika - Slavic; a Russian vehicle, especially a sleigh or carriage. (Fourth round, eighth grade)

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles