I served as a judge at the Gwinnett County Spelling Bee for the seventh time Saturday at Central Gwinnett High School. Though I’m somewhat a veteran of the event at this point, the kids who compete in it still amaze me.
This year may have taken the cake. Which makes a lot of sense when you consider the 12 finalists spelled so well that we ran out of words. That’s right, event organizer Louis Mair, assistant principal at Berkmar Middle School, had to go to a back room and retrieve a back-up list so we could finish.
When you are in this arena, the answer to the question: “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?” is “Not likely. In addition to their intelligence, the students show amazing poise as they spell in front of an auditorium fixated on every letter and grace as they humbly accept their fate when missing a word.
It is a neat event in that regard, distinctly old school with a touch of new-age intelligence. We are no longer surprised that our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren can use technology better than us, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same brain power helps them spell so well, even words that might not be familiar to us.
To that end, I’d like to share some of the more impressive words (and their definitions) that were spelled correctly during Saturday’s bee. Call it our own version of words with friends.
Aphasia: The loss or impairment of the power to use words as symbols of ideas that results from a brain lesion.
Barbara: A sod or turf hut of northern Hiberia or of Alaska; especially a hut of the Aleutian islanders built partly or wholly underground.
Kirtle: A garment resembling a tunic or coat usually reaching to the knees and worn by men often as the principal body garment until the sixteenth century.
Ocarina: A simple wind instrument or toy of the flute class having a mouthpiece and finger holes and usually made of terra-cotta.
Rejoneador: The mounted man who thrusts a short bared spear into the shoulder muscles of the bull in bullfighting.
Intaglio: An engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material.
Glossolalia: Estatic speech that is usually unintelligible to hearers and is uttered in worship services of various contemporary religious groups laying great stress on religious excitation and emotional fervor.
You can bet the students who participated in Saturday’s bee felt some emotional fervor, but they all did a nice job no matter how you spell it.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.