Humor from on High

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Spelling Bee

Sorry for the long break, but I've been waiting for everyone I know to finish getting married so I can stop drinking. More on my sis's (<-that word is three-quarters s's -- rad) nuptials soon, but in the meantime here's a little treat for you...

Spelling Bee Finalist Eliminated on the Word “Girlfriend”

Christopher Heck, a finalist at last week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, was eliminated when he was unable to spell the word “girlfriend.” Bee champion David Tidmarsh then clinched the title by successfully spelling “autochthonous,” a word meaning “indigenous.”

Heck, 13, gamely tried to spell “girlfriend” for several minutes, asking its origin (English), definition (“a favored female companion or sweetheart”) and for it to be used in a sentence. Bee Master Michael Winchester provided Heck with the sentence: “You will never have a girlfriend,” prompting the boy to break into tears and run off the stage.

Heck’s mother, Bonnie, who homeschools her three children in the dining room of their Peoria, Illinois home, said this is not the first time her son has been tripped up by a seemingly simple word. “Last year in the Illinois state competition he was knocked out when he failed to spell ‘popularity’ correctly,” she said. “It was a word he had no concept of or experience with.”

Spelling Bee officials say it is an unwritten rule that Bee Masters do not ask spellers words that may have negative emotional connotations for the children. “It is our goal to not upset the children or remind them of their status as social outcasts,” said Beth Riley, director of the Spelling Bee. “That’s why you’ll never see words like ‘dork,’ ‘gayboy,’ ‘nerd,’ ‘wedgie,’ or ‘loser’ in a spelling bee. These kids hear those words enough on a day-to-day basis and don’t need to deal with hearing them in the one place their special talents are celebrated.”

Riley also stated that while such words may be simple for most people to spell, they can provide an enormous challenge to even the best child spellers. “You have to realize what these kids go through each day in school,” she said. “If you ask them to spell an easy word like ‘queerbate’ or ‘retard,’ a lot of them will freeze up because of all the emotional baggage they have tied to a word like that. They’re completely unable to spell it, and many of them will wet their pants upon hearing such words. I’ve seen it happen.”

But Heck said he was unable to spell “girlfriend” simply because the word is foreign to him and because girls think he is weird, not because he is taunted about it. “My mother homeschools me because she says I’m special and that the normal kids at public school would be a detriment to my educational well-being, so I don’t get ridiculed too much – except when my family takes its monthly trip to the shopping mall,” he said. “Then I get my share of abuse if I stray away from mother or father.”

Heck claims the Spelling Bee was only the second time he ever heard the word “girlfriend.” “I once heard it on television when I was staying at my cousin’s house while my mother was giving birth to my little sister, so I know what it means,” he said. “But that was the only time. We don’t have a television at my house because my parents say TV is for proletariat ignoramuses.”

Riley said the Bee Master Winchester has been reprimanded about his choice of context sentence for Heck’s word.” “Not only did he use a word that is a bit risky with most of these kids,” said Riley, “but the sentence he used to describe it was highly inappropriate. I can assure you it won’t happen again.”

“I apologized to Heck about making him cry,” said Winchester. “I didn’t mean to do it, I just couldn’t find the paper with the context sentence, so I simply said what came to my mind first. I looked up at that kid and all I could think was: ‘You will never have a girlfriend.’ I’m sorry he took it so personally.”

(via Sportspickle)


At 10:29 AM, Blogger Carmen said...

That is so sad, yet so true all at the same time. That mom needs to enroll her kid in some social activities. Geesh.


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