Back in the nineties, when I was in high school, I participated in the spelling bees sponsored by Sandy Sansing (a local car dealer whose alliterative name I appreciated).
I remember when the bees were held at the Cordova Mall and one of the boys was asked how to spell ‘minstrel.’ I will never forget the gobsmacked look on his face.
When he asked the judges to use it in a sentence (i.e. a stalling tactic for when your mind goes blank), and he figured out they weren’t referring to ‘menstrual,’ it was like he’d been waiting to exhale.
I remember being given a booklet of words to study, which my dad would grill me on every night. He will always remember the word that tripped him up was chiaroscuro; ironically, I never learned to master that one (thank you, spellchecker).
I don’t remember what my waterloo was, but I realized that my proficiency in seven-letter (or fewer) words (my dad rarely beat me in Scrabble) would only get me so far.
Being more of a visual person (probably due to my unilateral hearing loss) made such an auditory activity more challenging, because I couldn’t write the word down and see if it “looked right.”
Even though I never went farther than Cordova Mall, I always had fun, and I realize it wasn’t because the bees themselves were so fun, but because of all the hours my dad and I spent together, playing what I think of now as the pre-games to the “Spelling Olympics.”