Saturday, June 03, 2006

What is the definition?

I just finished watching on my DVR the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was aired Live for the first time in Primetime on ABC. Last year I believe they showed the taped version on ESPN. People argued that it isn't a sport, but hell, I saw more sweat on these contestants than I did watching the Winter Olympic's Curling Finals. Anyway, forgetting that all these contestants were probably kids I would have made fun of in junior high, mostly because of my jealousy toward their gigantic brains, they really impressed me. But most surprising was the choice of the words used for these final rounds. The first one I found intriguing was knaidel. Yup, the dumpling my grandma used to put in her chicken soup. This word is derived from Hebrew.

A mere three words later the word gematrial came up. Certainly the contestant Kavya Shivashankar never learned advanced Gemara or he would have known that the correct spelling is also from Hebrew and not spelled gematriol.

Four words later Saryn Hooks came to the mic. Her word, are you ready for this, was hechsher. Hechsher is the formal granting of certification, usually by an authorized rabbi, that a product is certified as kosher. Are you f-ing kidding me?! Its a shame the Lubavitcher from South Carolina that was in this year's bee didn't make it to the final round. She would have had clear sailing. Saryn, my personal favorite, correctly spelled the word but the judges had it down as being spelled hechscher. With a sch at the end. So they dinged the little bell and the surprised Saryn dejectedly sat down with her folks. After the next commercial the head judge Mary Brooks made an annoucement that Saryn had in fact spelled the word correctly. Their sch spelling was a mistake. Phew! I felt like if I wasn't able to spell that word correctly I couldn't be an Orthodox Jew. Thank goodness they were mistaken and Saryn and I were both correct. 2 rounds and 17 words later the final Hebrew word made its appearance in the bee. The word was yizkor, the prayer or prayer service held in memory of the dead. This was easily handled by some Indian dude. Lets hear it for dictionary memorization!

The spelling bee was finally won by Kerry Close of New Jersey. A surprisingly non-nerdy girl. Her finally word was Ursprache. What the hell does that mean? I can't wait til next year. I have a feeling I'll be seeing many Chinese kids carrying around Hebrew prayerbooks boning for next year's bee. If they're smart at least they will...

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