Thursday, January 19, 2012



That's the word that took me down in the junior high spelling bee during eighth grade, the year I had determined the state championship would be MIIIIINE! I was a crackerjack speller, but apparently not a biscuit speller because when I drew that word I stepped to the front of the room and proudly enunciated B-I-S-Q-U-I-T.

Then I spent the next half hour crying in the bathroom, victim of Bisquick advertising that apparently had stealthily etched itself into my brain wrinkles. The long hours I had spent poring over the Topeka Daily Capital word lists? All for naught. N-A-U-G-H-T.

Yesterday I was the pronouncer at Small Town's city spelling bee, perhaps my favorite community service role. I love seeing a third grader stretch to reach the microphone, then nail the word perfectly. I love saying "That is correct" when the fidgety sixth grader declares "Sphere. S-P-H-E-R-E. Sphere."

I love it so much that when the tiny youngster came to the microphone to say "Afraid. A-F-R-A-I-D. Afraid." I must have been thinking of how much I loved spelling bees instead of listening, because I said, "I'm sorry, that is incorrect."

Oh, yes, I did.

I only realized my error when the three judges sitting beside me practically whiplashed themselves turning to me with "Whaaaa...." expressions.

Little girl with the blonde hair and bedazzled pink BFF sweatshirt, I am so, so, so sorry. To make up for my gaffe (G-A-F-F-E), I'll write the first paragraph of the blog post you'll be finishing in 40 years:


That's the word that scarred me for life when an incompetent (or sadistic?) pronouncer erroneously called me out during the 2012 city spelling bee. I have never recovered from the humiliation, and I trace my life as a gun for hire to that moment, when I promised myself I would never be A-F-R-A-I-D again.


  1. Scrawny took me down in eighth grade. I got too excited that I KNEW this word and I would spell it and win the school spelling bee... that I spoke too quickly and forgot that damn W.

  2. Ha! Elise, every person I have asked today can remember exactly which word took them out of at least one spelling bee. Separate. Judgment. Hypocrite. Daisy.

  3. I never made it to the spelling bee in school (I can spell on paper but goof up every time I don't have paper and pencil). But, even when typing I misspell biscuit. My daughter laughs because even when I'm trying to do it right, I do it wrong. I too blame Bisquick.