Friday, June 02, 2006

You never forget the words you missed...

I'm a spelling genius, I think mom and dad would agree on that. I've been reading since I was three years old (something my mother and grandmother love to flaunt) and I have always known how to spell and pronounce words easily, especially long and foreign words I have never seen before. I have the gift of being able to spell words I have only heard and not seen. I can also pronounce long and foreign words perfectly after only having read them one time. I'm just good with words. And because of that, I'm one who knows firsthand the thrill of winning a spelling bee.

When I was in the sixth grade at Miami Heights Elementary School in the fall 1980, I competed with other students in a written spelling competition in which I won first place. (I was actually beat up by a boy in my class after school that day because the kids who lost accused me of cheating. That was actually the final straw that forced my parents to move us out of there). From there I went to the Dade County Spelling Competition at Barry College in Miami. Students representing every school in Dade County were there. I remember after the initial written test I kept thinking back on the word "illegal" and whether or not I had spelled it right. I did in fact get it wrong because I didn't get to move up in the competition.

A few months later, in November 1980, while in the middle of my sixth grade year, my family moved to a very small, rural town in North Florida. And in the spring of 1981, I beat out all other students in the school for the privilege of competing in the county spelling bee. I won that county spelling bee and for a short time the hearts of many in my school because as it turns out, my school hadn't beaten the rival school in a spelling bee in many years. You can tell that in a county with only two schools, there's quite a rivalry even in something trivial like a spelling bee. Not only did I win that year, but I also beat them again the following year. And both times I traveled to Jacksonville to compete in the Florida Times-Union sponsored state competition.

At the first state competition I remember asking the judges for a definition of "flotsam" and use in a sentence, that didn't help. I took a deep breath and spelled out f-l-o-t-s-o-m, oops! And at the second competition a year later, my word was "meemies". I asked the judges to use it in a sentence and I will never forget the phrase "screeming meemies". What the hell does a thirteen year old know about screaming meemies?

As you can guess, I did not win either state competition. But at least I'll always know what those two words mean and how to spell them!

Can you believe all these years later, all that's left to remember of these competitions are the plaques and the words I missed? That's right, I couldn't tell you a single word I got right but I can tell you exactly which words I missed.


  1. so did you watch the show last night?

    You know they get a word list to study right?

    And 1980 was the year that the guy who reads the words out won the whole thing!

    Could've been you up there!

  2. What do you mean what does a 13 year old know about screaming meemies?! 13 is prime spelling age! Gotta get those references down, man! : ) (no kidding, though - that is the age approximately of the kids on the national televised spelling bee, isn't it?)

    I think I knew 'flotsam' by the age of 8... thank you Little Mermaid + closed captioning fixation.