The National Spelling Bee and the words at the center of your life

Friday, May 30, 2008

As children compete in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee, what are the important words in your life? Has a word been in a hinge in your career or your personal life? Which words have tripped you up? Share your story online, call our SpinVox line 1-877-8-MY-TAKE (1-877-869-8253) or email

Comments [15]

Paige H

Okay,there is one word that drives me absolutely certifiably insane--"friend." It annoys me to tears, because I can never remember if it's spelled Freind or friend! And guess what--I can spell almost any other word in the English languauge!

Jan. 17 2009 09:44 AM
A.K. Pertilla

Two spelling stories come to mind: I remember my friend Sam's explanation (in 2nd grade) of how to remember the difference between spelling "desert" and "dessert": when you're in a desert you want to get through it as quickly as possible, so it only has one s; while you want dessert to stretch out for as long as possible, so you spell it with two s's.

In 3rd grade, I lost a class spelling bee because while I spelled the word "February" correctly, my teacher ruled that I had pronounced it incorrectly-- I think I must not have pronounced the first "r". I found that loss particularly galling (which may be why I remember it 23 years later) because that's the month when I was born.

Jun. 01 2008 11:04 PM

I was my Bronx jr. high school's spelling champ (getting my name in a looooong list in the Herald-Tribune -- yes, it was a long time ago!) and went to the District Spelling Bee, where I was promptly eliminated by the word "assist". I was so nervous, I thought they said (and I correctly spelled) "cyst".

As as adult, my biggest linguistic challenge is knowing when to use "effect" vs. "affect". Which is a definite disadvantage when I'm the office mgr. of a mental health center and transcribe psychological evaluations. Fortunately, the clinicians are very supportive and exaggerate their pronunciation ("eeeeffect", "aaaffect") to increase my chances of getting it right.

May. 31 2008 12:34 AM

One word which causes me trouble, and has only recently begun to "trip me up", is the word "Takeaway". Occasionally I would baulk at the mention of it after having had a bad takeaway curry or Chinese meal, but now when I hear it, I suffer from almost instant symptoms of tension, headache, and nausea. Strangely, this is most intense between the hours of six and seven in the morning, Monday to Friday. Can anyone explain this unpleasant phenomenon to me?

May. 30 2008 10:19 AM
Gary Mott

John & Adaora, I'm a Producer at WGBH Radio Boston. Words that trip? I immediately thought of "aficionado" - and then you said it tripped you up, too, John.

I was announcing a 'WGBH in Second Life' live classical performance on Tuesday, and it got me again - aficionado.

How do we articulate media professionals get past this paranoia?

Your show is great, keep it up.

May. 30 2008 09:41 AM
Muriel Gluck Huntington

Good Morning!
Years ago in December--in the fever of the Holiday Shopping rush in our wonderful bath & fragrance shop in Middlebury, Vermont my sister Jude asked me to assist a customer putting together a gift basket--specifically searching for the scent Tahati ( as in the Island of...) and I said "I'd love to show you the items we carry with that delightful scent... tahini "( my mispronunciation... or blooper--that is sesame paste--imagine scrubbing up with THAT!!). We are still laughing about that one!

May. 30 2008 09:38 AM
Andrea Katz

When I was a senior in high school (1982) I used the word “horrific” in a term paper. When the paper was returned to me, the word “horrific” was circled in red and the note next to it said “not a word.” Because I’d found the word in a text that I did not cite in my footnotes, I was afraid to bring it to the attention of the teacher and just let the matter drop. Since then, whenever I hear the word “horrific,” mostly on NPR, I smile to myself, grit my teeth and think about my teacher, Mr. Maxwell from North Farmington HS in Michigan.

May. 30 2008 09:36 AM
Stephanie Stein

Good Morning All,

Three embarrassing word faux pas (spelling???????):

When I was a sixth grader in a public school in Queens, NY, my teacher would assign a portion of the NY Times to a student to read and summarize. It was my turn, and I read and reported on a storm, that left a lot of "deb-ris" I said. And yes, the teacher unceremoniously corrected me. I always remember this and feel compelled to tell my daughter the story every time the word debris comes up.

I once wrote in an essay, for that same teacher, the word, "colourful," and she wrote across my paper, "You are not British."

And, ah, yes, last, but most certainly not least, I was once quoting from a character in a book (again, in class), whose name I pronounced, "Pen-a-lope," (the ending rhymed with cantaloupe).

May. 30 2008 09:28 AM
Stephanie Stein

[[Comment moderated. Duplicate entry]]

May. 30 2008 09:27 AM
Edward Gross

I've repeatedly had difficulty with
judgment (judgement?)
knowledgeable (knowledgable?)

and I've often been embarassed by
embarrassed or is it embarassed?

May. 30 2008 09:16 AM
Lisa Hughes

Differentiation and differentiate are two words that are a mouthful of syllables that trip me up. There seem to be no other word which captures the same meaning, especially in a marketing discussion or presentation.

May. 30 2008 08:42 AM
Neil Hecht

I wonder if we need to change the Wikipedia entry on LIBOR to add the pronounciation of "LEE bore" to the far more common "LIE bore"?

May. 30 2008 08:39 AM

The word that I hear all the time and it urks me to no end... when people say axed in stead of asked .... It reminds my of my communication professor who always reminded us ( a class of foreigners) that if you axed somebody they could not answer you ....

May. 30 2008 08:07 AM

Every time I read the word "misled" in a book I get stuck, thinking, "what does myzild mean?"

Also my British colleagues and British business literature use the word "bespoke" to mean anything from "custom solution" to "something wrong with the product." I have no idea what it actually means and suspect the people in England don't either.

May. 30 2008 07:05 AM
tom jones

The word that really caused me trouble was a Japanese word.

I was trying to impress a Japanese girl with my 'great' Japanese skills.

She was putting on big shoes. The Japanese word is 'kutsu'. Notice the first part is "ku".

I used the word 'ketsu'. Unfortunately that word is a slang word for 'rear end'.

So instead of saying that she had big shoes. I said she had a big butt.

As you can see, it wasn't a good way to impress a girl

May. 30 2008 06:29 AM

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