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The annual Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off today, and every year there seems to be more and more public attention paid to this preeminent spectacle of word-nerdery. As in the past two years, tomorrow's semifinal and final rounds are being broadcast live on national television (semifinals on ESPN from 11 am to 2 pm, finals on ABC from 8 to 10 pm). It's always exciting to see middle-schoolers battle it out for the spelling crown, in a competition rife with dramatic "thrill of victory" and "agony of defeat" moments (most memorably depicted in the suspenseful documentary Spellbound). Adults can only marvel at the preternatural abilities of the young finalists to spell super-obscure words that most of us have seldom — if ever — come across. Where do they get those words, anyway?  Continue reading...
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A couple of weeks ago we ran the first part of our fascinating conversation with Professor Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan, an expert in the history of English and a member of the American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel. Here is part two of our interview -- a jaw-dropper for anyone interested in language -- where we focus on gender, spelling and much more:  Continue reading...
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English has some peculiar ways of spelling words, but happily there is often a method to its madness. This month in the Lounge we explore, with the help of the Visual Thesaurus, some of the least among us, at least in so far as number of letters is concerned.  Continue reading...
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"American spelling is plainly better than English spelling, and in the long run it seems sure to prevail." Well, that's one man's opinion. But where did all the differences begin? We take a look back this month in the Lounge.  Continue reading...
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Dept. of Word Lists

Spelling Bee Words

When spell-check can't help you: The Scripps National Spelling Bee publishes a consolidated list of 23,413 unique words. Here are a few, ahem, vexing examples. Okay, spellers -- on your mark, get set, go:

FierinessFrangipane
IntussusceptLanai
PharisaicTussock
UgliUmbelliferous
UmpirageVallecula
VaticinateVicennial
ViomycinWampumpeag
WassailerWeald
Whitsunday Yautia
ZoonosisZygote

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