This past Saturday, February 18, 2017, my partner, her mother, and I arrived at Manuel’s Tavern for the annual Atlanta Orthographic Meet (spelling bee) at just before six.
I compete in this competition every year; I’ve been a runner-up, but I haven’t yet won. Here’s my post about last year’s meet.
This was our first visit to Manuel’s since its renovation last year, so I was eager to see the new place.
It isn’t all that much different.
Our friend Ed Hall beat us there, and had already reserved a four-top for us. We ordered supper; I got the veggie burger, which is now a house-made patty that was terrible. The old menu’s black bean burger was much better.
But we weren’t there for the food. After getting the usual preliminaries out of the way, the Committee launched into Round One just after 7 p.m. As usual, Round One consisted of common words that can be tricky to spell, plus topical words, one of which this year was right up front. I’d guess there were 200 people competing in the first round this year.
The Atlanta Orthographic Meet isn’t like the Scripps-Howard spelling bees, where contestants spell words aloud and are eliminated with their first miss. For this, the Committee sounds out the words, which we then attempt to spell on paper. Advancement is based on the total number of words spelled correctly.
Where I’ve misspelled words, I preserved my wrong spelling with a strikethrough and put the correct spelling next to it.
- disrhythmia dysrhythmia
- apochryphal apocryphal
Early in the day on Saturday I predicted that “emolument” would be the topical word this year. For the 2009 meet, one of the first-round words was “stimulus.”
I wrote “dysrhythmia” correctly before second-guessing myself. “Apocryphal” I simply missed; it looked more right to me with the additional “h.” Still, eighteen correct was good enough to advance to Round Two with fifteen other competitors, including Ed.
- minodiere minaudiere
- transhumence transhumance
- occuba aucuba
- chissop hyssop
- twall toile
When “adipocyte” was defined as “fat cell,” I knew how to spell it, since I already knew “adipose” is fat and “-cyte” is any type of cell.
“Transhumance” I’d spelled correctly, then second-guessed myself into the wrong spelling again. Which is okay, because I spelled “cadastral” correctly through pure good luck.
In this round some people, including Ed, let the Committee psych them out: when “loblolly” was read, it was defined very specifically as referring to a type of gruel, not the pine tree. I went ahead and spelled it just like the pine tree anyway and got it right. Ed deliberately spelled it differently, on cue from the Committee, and missed it.
With a total of 28 correct over the first two rounds, I made it to Round Three. So did Ed, whose score was running a word or two ahead of mine now.
- beccarel becquerel
- retticella reticella
- psoteriology soteriology
- entrepogh entrepôt
- wryton rhyton
- toromachy tauromachy
I got lucky again; every word I spelled correctly in Round Three was a guess. I now had 32 correctly spelled words out of the 45 so far presented, which was just enough to take me into Round 4—but only barely; I had the lowest score of the five who advanced to the final round. It was now very unlikely I could win.
- temesis tmesis
- guimé guillemet
- alii aalii
- felsynmere felsenmeer
- tip typp
Okay, I didn’t get any right in this round. I know the word “tmesis,” but I forgot there’s no letter between the “t” and the “m.”
And I maintain, as a former resident of Hawaii, that if the reader had pronounced “aalii” correctly (the Hawaiian language has no diphthongs), I’d have spelled it correctly.
This round should have ended the contest (Ed was in third place; congratulations, Ed!). But the two women who outscored him had the same score, so we went now into “sudden death” overtime. I was out of the running now, but I spelled along just for funsies.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round One
- geraint gerent
Both contestants misspelled this word (as did I, as you can see). A second round was required.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Two
I thought this word’s spelling was straightforward, but the two competitors missed it. They had to try again.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Three
I’m familiar with this word. The last two combatants apparently weren’t. Onward.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Four
- claimant clamant
What I spelled is a different word. “Clamant” is related to “clamor.” Still no winner.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Five
- cerack serac
Apparently no one at Manuel’s Tavern at the time knew how to spell this word. Another round.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Six
- chuff chough
I’d have been well chuffed, as the Brits say, if I’d spelled “chough” correctly. No doubt the two final spellers felt similarly.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Seven
Meaning the berry that’s all the rage in health food circles these days. The problem with this word was that everyone spelled it correctly, so there still was no winner.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Eight
- chiapeen chopine
Yes, obviously I was just throwing letters down at random. It’s just as well I was out of competition by this point. The battle continued for the last two spellers.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Nine
The way I spelled it above was the spelling the Committee wanted. However, as I recall, the two remaining women each spelled it a different other way, and all three are correct. Still no winner.
Sudden Death Spell-Off Round Ten
- capgnocchio catenaccio
This round didn’t yield a winner either, and “catenaccio” was the last of the words the Committee had prepared for this year. So, for the first time in the Atlanta Orthographic Meet’s forty-plus year history, a tie game was declared. Both women were declared First Place winners, and both will receive engraved beer steins at next year’s competition.
A good time was had by all. And next year, I’ll win!
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