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Spell Well?

May 25, 2008 at 5:58 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

Apparently dozens of Carls have a secret talent: spelling well. Such spelling dexterity was revealed last week at Carleton’s first annual Spelling Bee, held by Campus Activities.

The office invited all Carleton spellers to come with a flurry of posters over the past two weeks. The chapel was pretty heated and in their spelling fury, the windows had to be opened for fresh air.

For many of the spellers, this experience brought up memories of high school and middle school spelling bees. Others were completely new to the competitive sport.

The designated pronouncer, Jackson Bryce, a professor of classical languages, read the words aloud and each speller had 90 seconds to repeat the word, spell the word, and repeat the word again. A correct spelling guaranteed advancement, while even one slip-up caused instant elimination.

Here are some of the posers Professor Bryce gave to the spellers:

quadrumanous adj. Having four hands.

phillumenist n. One who collects matchbooks or matchbox labels.

gongorism n. An excessively involved, ornate, and artificial style of writing.

anabibazon n. The ascending node of the moon’s orbit with the ecliptic.

quidnunc n. One that is avidly curious and given to speculating especially about ephemeral or petty things.

The spelling words were from a shortened version of the list the Scripps National Spelling Bee gives out to its contestants. The Scripps list has over 23,000 words, but the Carleton spellers, fortunately, only had to go over about 575 words to practice. The first five rounds were a quick elimination – by the end of these, only six (out of 29 who entered) of Carleton’s most serious spellers remained. All six Carls held their own until Round 9, when one of them was eliminated by udometer (that’s another word for rain gauge). By Round 13, the three spellers left were declared the finalists.

At this phase of the game, the rules of the contest were different. Spelling a word incorrectly did not mean automatic elimination. If nobody spelled a word correctly, that round would not count. To win the spelling bee, the student had to be the only speller in a round to spell a word correctly, and then spell an additional, winning word.

The three finalists were Molly Nichols ’11, Garret Miller ’11, and John Cossette ’11. They began to duke it out for first, second, and third place. The trio were super spellers, none of them making a false move for two more rounds. Then at the beginning of Round 15, Cossette tripped up on glockenspiel (a German musical instrument). He sat back to see if the other two spellers would spell their words correctly. Right after him, Nichols spelled phalacrosis (baldness) wrong. Miller, the third speller, aced tropicopolitan (inhabiting all countries near the equator), getting the chance to spell the winning word. And the final word? Terraceous (meaning made of earth). He spelled it correctly and snatched first place.

After Nichols and Cossette competed for second place, the standings were as follows:

1st place: Garrett Miller
2nd place: Molly Nichols
3rd place: John Cossette

All three of the finalists went home with some pretty nice prizes, provided by Campus Activities. These included a $300 airline ticket voucher, $150 in Schillers, and a $50 Target gift card. Not relying on your Word spell checker really pays off!