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Disgraced at the spelling bee


That’s the word that tripped us up. Set aside for now the fact that neither you nor I has ever heard the word, that only an internet search on — as my mother calls it — The Google, confirms that there’s even such a word in the English language. Just look at the eight letters and recognize the minefield of choices we had at our disposal last Saturday.

Banosic. Benausic. Benosic. Benosick. Banosick. Maybe even banosich.

Looking to my partners to my left and right, I saw only shrugs. If Tracy Agnew hasn’t heard the word, I thought, it’s probably not even in the seven-pound Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary that keeps my bookcase at work from floating away.

The tension was surprising. The moment was at hand. The timer said, “You have 30 seconds to spell the word.” I’ll bet he watches television news.

By the time the Suffolk News-Herald’s team was asked to spell “banausic” during the Suffolk Education Association’s inaugural Grown-Up Spelling Bee last week, we’d already been put through the wringer.

Vivacious. Gingivitis. Karaoke. Denouement. Rendezvous.

Our team, The Typographical Airers motored through those words without problems.

But we got hung up on “iridescent” and “homogeneous.” For the former, we were able to sting another team, the Dandy-Lions, though we should have passed the word to a group of ringers from Kilby Shores Elementary that went on to win the event by later spelling “finagle.” I’m pretty sure their last names were all “Webster” and “Oxford.” For “homogeneous,” we used our flyover lifeline to skip a turn.

Banausic. The white beard that was part of my Wite-Out costume (at least we won the costume contest!) was starting to itch, and Tracy’s red Papermate pen costume was hurting my eyes.

All that was running through my mind was her comment as we’d passed the trophy table on our way back to the stage after a break. She’d seen the individual trophies — cute little cartoon bees mounted on wooden bases — and nearly squealed with delight. “I HAVE to have one of those!”

No pressure. Banausic.


“That is incorrect,” said the judge, whose name I may one day randomly insert into the crime reports for “vicious assault of an editor’s ego.”

With that, we were done. Did the snickering I heard come from the school superintendent or the city manager? I’ll remember this when it’s time to write editorials about next year’s budget cycle.

And then we were spectators, watching — appropriately enough — three different teams of elementary school teachers jousting for the trophies.

And it all came down to “finagle.” One team missed it, and then Kil-Bee’s Revenge of the Words, all decked out to look like Steve Urkel from the sitcom “Family Matters,” stepped up and nailed it.

A bit of conferring from the judges about the rules of the game confirmed what everyone in the audience already knew: This team had come ready to spell and deserved the trophies, along with the glory of being the best adult spellers in Suffolk.

But we won’t get stung again. I’ve got a big dictionary, and I’m not afraid to use it.