The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Dismal Day: The Spelling Bee Story

I just read on the news where the word "Fustanella" sent one of this year's Spelling Bee favorites home after that much-dreaded ding of the bell. I only know that Fustanella is a skirt-like garment worn by men in the Balkans because I typed it into Google. Picturing myself as a young child trying to spell a word I've never heard of in my life is just plain scary.

It took me back to the days of the Greene County Spelling Bee. I never aspired to be in the spelling bee and stand in front of my friends and family at a crowded Collins Theater. I wanted to be on that stage performing in "Annie," not trying to find the origin of a word I would never use in everyday conversation.

But still, I somehow won the local spelling bee at my middle school. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that the vocabulary didn't stem out much from your basic farm animals.

My 6th grade boyfriend definitely let me know that he was missing the night's NWO wrestling showdown to watch me spell, and my parents bought popcorn with the assumption that they would be there for a while being entertained.

Twelve years later and I am still attesting the fairness of the spelling bee in rural Arkansas. If you are going to have kids spell fairly difficult words, get a moderator who actually uses proper enunciation.

In case anyone is wondering why there aren't any Arkansans in the national spelling bee finals, it's because their moderator probably had them spell "Fusterneller" instead of "Fustanella."

Ok, back to the story.

I'm standing up there, in a cute little dress with my hair in curls no doubt, and I step up to the mike.

Bubba Jo Jenkins leans his little microphone to his mouth and slowly draws out the word:


Gizmo? Why would gizmo be in a spelling competition? Isn't that like a name for a dog or something?

"Please repeat the word," I state, hoping I was misunderstanding him. His voice sounded like molasses to my ears and nothing was making sense or sinking in.


Ok, I guess that's what it is. I'm going for it.

"Gizmo. G-I-Z-M-O." That was easy enough. Way easy. How could I get lucky enough to have such an easy word?

It is then that I hear it: DING.

Ding? What? I got the word right. This is so not fair. I knew I should have just gotten up here and used the spotlight to sing "Tomorrow."

It is then that another moderator, a more English-speaking one, corrected me: "Dismal is spelled d-i-s-m-a-l."

When dismal sounds like gizmo, you know there is a problem.

I was defeated. Even though I didn't want to be there in the first place, I hate losing and I had definitely lost. Not only had I misspelled a word, I had spelled a completely different word. That's like double shame points right there.

As we're walking out of the theater, my dad--always very timely with his jokes--puts his arm around my shoulder and says, "Well, I'm sorry you had such a dismal experience tonight."

Funny, Dad...really funny.

Oddly enough, I am presently the designated speller in my circle of friends and family. I am as far away from artistic as you can get, but I somehow feel a sense of pride when an artistic friend is making a poster and yells, "Hey Ashton, spell 'Congratulations'!"

I'm glad that I was able to recover my dismal day on the stage and become a lover of words. Writing is my passion and it makes me happy. And there is absolutely nothing gizmo about that.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha..that was soo funny...i seriously thought he said gizmo don't feel too bad..I can't believe Ryan B. missed the NWO showdown for that. That was true love right there...haha

June 4, 2010 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Daddio said...

At least now-a-days they have "gizmos" that will tell you how to spell words like "dismal."

June 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM  

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