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Thursday, June 01, 2006
Don't Get Stung by the Spelling Bee
No disrespect to the kids, or to the idea of brains being tested instead of brawn. But, seriously, the National Spelling Bee on national TV? What are we watching here? A test of who has wasted the most time memorizing words so obscure that almost nobody outside of dictionary writers and crossword puzzle addicts will see them again in a lifetime. OK, fine, you still say it's kind of cute. But is it also fair? How about this example from an actual round today. One kid gets ersatz, which appears 16.9 million times in Google, but another kid's out after getting hit with attrahent, which appears just 771 times, mostly in dictionaries and proper names. Other Googol-frugal lulus: caulicle, 661 (kid got it wrong), tychopotamic, 477 (right!) and recumbentibus, 738 (you're outta here!). Other kids got words I've actully seen in print: whippoorwill, monoceros, bildungsroman, nasopharyngeal and realpolitik. (Just don't hold me to defining them.) By the way, just for comparison, the word the is found in 23 billion documents, cat in 638 million, "Paris Hilton" in 44 million documents, pictorials, spams, and buried coding of sites desperate for Google hits.