Adult contestants celebrate ‘lost art’ of spelling

Word on the Street Halifax held its second annual spelling bee for adults

Three (spelling bee) heads are better than one for the Provincial Library Edukated Spellerz. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
The correct spelling by team 3 R's: "readin, ritin and roundhouse kicks." (Photo: Alison Chiang)
Bedazzled Bee's Knees ladies think about their spelling. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
Goldilocks and the Three Spellers take a little breather from the competition. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
The source of all correctly spelled words: Oxford dictionary. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
Colleen Ritchie types up the correct spelling for participants. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
So close! Only off by another 's' for team Alphabelles. (Photo: Alsion Chiang)
Team Canon Fodder celebrate their victory with event organizer Colleen Ritchie. (Photo: Alison Chiang)

Age doesn’t necessarily bring wordy wisdom because some folks still spell refrigerator with a “d.”  Imagine having 45 seconds to spell a word and the judges telling the audience, “heckling is encouraged.”

Welcome to Word on the Street Halifax’s second annual spelling bee for adults.

About 70 people filled Murphy’s Cable Wharf restaurant Friday evening, some in matching costumes and team T-shirts, all vying for the title of spelling champions.

For judge, Neville MacKay, the idea of an adult spelling bee was very interesting.

“I thought it would all be filthy words and dynamic…it’s hysterical how some people are so intensely involved in the matter,” MacKay said.

There were 12 teams at this year’s spelling bee contest.  Teams were made up of three to four members and each team had to win their round in order to advance to the finals. Teams could be saved by a “buzz,” a $100 donation from the audience.

Judges Jen Ryan and Neville MacKay have a little break between competitions. (Photo: Alison Chiang)
Judges Jenn Ryan and Neville MacKay have a little break between competitions. (Photo: Alison Chiang)

“(The) English language has been so bastardized over the last few years and simplified and dumbie-down to the point where it’s annoying,” said MacKay, owner of My Mother’s Bloomers flowershop.

Yet, he feels reading can be enjoyable and the more we participate, the more we can activate.  He predicts that although there may be a sense of urgency to keep up with technology, reading is making a comeback.  “You’ll see a shift back to the written word,” he said.

Although they didn’t advance, Goldilocks and the Three Spellers stuck out with their matching bear ears, stuffed teddy bear and porridge bowls.

The three ladies on this team, all employees of Woozles, a children’s bookstore in Halifax, said they had a fun experience.

“(The event) highlights the importance of reading and literacy and how reading and writing can be fun” said Lisa Doucet.

“It’s nice to incorporate the dictionary and focus on spelling,” said Mollie Cronin, a Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and University of King’s College student.

“We live in such a spellcheck world and you need to spell things, it’s become a lost art,” added teammate Katherine Crooks.

Colleen Ritchie, the event organizer and executive director of Word on the Street Halifax, said the spelling bee was a way to supplement revenue for Word on the Street Halifax, the annual celebration of  Canadian literature, literacy and reading, held in cities across Canada.

She said she wanted to connect the spelling bee to “literacy, and a fun, competitive pub night.”

The registration fee for the second annual spelling bee was $400 per team ($100 per person) and Ritchie said many people raised money through personal fundraising such as bake sales.

The Bedazzled Bee's Knees Ladies raised $900 for Word on the Street Halifax festival.
The Bedazzled Bee’s Knees Ladies raised $900 for Word on the Street Halifax festival. (Photo: Alison Chiang)

Word on the Street Halifax attracts 12,000 people every year and will be entering its nineteenth year in September.  The evening’s spelling bee raised between $5,000,-$6,000 and next year’s goal is $10,000 said Ritchie.

Team Alphabelles came in second, losing by an “s.”   All four ladies felt sure about their final spelling word against the team from Nova Scotia’s Department of Education.

“It almost seemed too easy,” said team member Elisabeth Kleven.

Eventual winners, Canon Fodder, were also last year’s champions.  The team said they are all avid readers who didn’t prepare extensively for the competition.

“I didn’t know it would be such a thrilling experience,” said Dorothy Allen after receiving her team’s trophy cup.

Spelling has always been cool according to Allen.   “There are lot of people out there who love language, who love reading,” she said.

Unlike the runners-up, the winners were nervous about spelling the night’s winning word —sassafras.  A deciduous North American tree with aromatic leaves and bark. The leaves are infused to make tea or ground into filé.





One thought on “Adult contestants celebrate ‘lost art’ of spelling

  1. The 2014 Spelling Bee for Adults will be in early March. We would love to have teams from each Halifax university involved. Faculty, student associations, university radio or newspaper teams…all are welcome.

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