“Autochthonous” won the National Spelling Bee for 14-year-old David Tidmarsh of South Bend, Indiana. It means indigenous. He’d previously spelled “arete,” “sophrosyne,” “sumpsimus,” and “serpiginous.”
Akshay Buddiga, a 13-year-old from Colorado Springs, collapsed on stage, then got up and nailed “alopecoid.” That means like a fox. He came in second.
This year’s bee was picketed. Seven members of the American Literacy Society carried signs reading: “I’m thru with through,” “Spelling shuud be lojical,” and “Spell different difrent.”
The protesters’ complaint: English spelling is illogical. And the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that lead to dyslexia, high illiteracy, and harder lives for immigrants.
As Matt Rosenberg says: “Thay hv uh guh poyn. Aftral, solongzwe kenunstan chutha, s’probm?”
Update: Corsair the Rational Pirate links to a sad story about Ashley White, the black girl from Washington, D.C. who was one of the spelling bee contestants featured in the wonderful movie Spellbound. An unwed mother, White had given up her college plans until Pam Jones, a woman who saw the movie, helped her apply to Howard University.
Like her grandmother, mother and several aunts and cousins before her, White was a teenage mother. And despite her love for her daughter, Dashayla, then about 2 months old, she was deeply disappointed in herself.
“I was always someone who wanted to be different — who wanted to work harder, who wanted to achieve more, who wanted to succeed,” she said. Instead, “I was basically repeating my family history of teenaged pregnancy. I felt like a failure because everyone had such high expectations for me and thought that I would be the one who would break the cycle.”
. . . (White) watched “Spellbound” again and was struck, she said, by the determined girl she had been. “I was strong. I had a lot of self-confidence. I was hungry for education and to be victorious,” she said. “From that instant, I changed. . . . I realized that the me being discouraged — that wasn’t me.”
She took six courses at Howard last semester and made the dean’s list with a 3.8 average — studying for finals in the homeless shelter while caring for Dashayla and waging a telephone campaign to find housing. With a few pieces of furniture donated by SOME (So Others Might Eat), White moved into her one-bedroom apartment in Southeast last week.
She has already assumed $6,000 in student loans and expects to have tens of thousands of dollars in debt before she graduates — which she fully intends to do despite formidable odds. According to a 1996 study, 1.5 percent of teenage mothers receive their college degrees by the time they are 30.
“In order to achieve something, you have to have the commitment. You have to say, ‘I’m going to take the time and focus on this one thing and I’m going to get something out of it,’ ” she said.
Perhaps it’s not a sad story, after all.