The Scripps National Spelling Bee was broadcast a few nights ago on the Ion network, drawing a staggering 14 viewers not including nursing-home residents unable to reach the remote.

And I don’t know about you, but I was spellbound.

The winner was a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Saint Petersburg, Bruhat Soma, who attacked 30 words in 90 seconds and became the best speller in the English language. His winning word was “abseil,” a mountaineering term.

Bruhat received $50,000 in cash prizes, and had to beat away the ladies with a Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

I was not a good speller in school. Every year we had a spelling bee and I always bombed. One particular spelling bee sticks out in my mind. My losing word was “purple.”

I never forgot that day. Namely, because nobody let me forget. Other kids were eliminated from the spelling bee with hard words like “onerous,” “munificence,” and “honorificabilitudinitatibus.”

My word was purple.

I knew how to spell purple, of course. Everyone knows how to spell this word. Even many forms of inanimate fungal life know how to spell purple. But in my defense, I was nervous.

And in the heat of the moment, when powerful stage lights are shining on you; when the whole school is assembled in the gymnasium, staring at your face; when Arnold Williamson is making flatulent noises with his hands, that’s a lot of pressure.

Also, my main problem spelling “purple” was that I couldn’t remember whether this word ended in -EL or -LE.

I’ve always had a problem with the stupid -EL, -LE-, -AL rule. Even now, this spelling rule confuses the hele out of me.

And before you write me off as a dork, I looked up this unique spelling rule on a respected grammar website, and here’s what they said:

“…If the letter before the suffix (the ending) is a small or “wee” letter (ACEMNORSUVWXZ) then the ending is usually –EL or –AL. But if the letter is a tall or “deep” letter (BDFGHJKLPTY) then the ending is normally –LE. But watch out, because a single T can break this rule! Also, look for other rule-breaker letters such as, P, K, O, W, X, F, 7, &, and the cosine…”

It’s a wonder we ever beat the Russians to the moon.

When I misspelled the word, everyone laughed at me. And I mean REALLY laughed. One person was laughing so hard he was beating the floor. Which I thought was very rude of our principal.

I walked offstage and I was crying. I felt like the stupidest child to ever live. And I’ll never forget Miss Burns, who was standing in the wings, backstage.

She tucked me into a big hug against her massive bosom. And Miss Burns just pet my hair and said, “Making a mistake is better than faking perfection. Don’t ever forget that.”

And I never did. In fact, I’ve learned so much from mistakes in my life, I’m thinking of making a few more today.

So anyway, I’d like to wish Bruhat Soma a hearty congratulations on winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I’m so excited for him my face is turning purpal.

1 comment

  1. stephenpe - June 3, 2024 12:00 pm

    To levle with you. Some of the smartest peopel I ever met were poor spellers. More than a coupel.


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