Spelling, back in the day

I was always a pretty good speller. I would see the word once, in my school book or a library book, and somehow it was burned in my memory.

The next time I needed to dredge it up, there it would be in all its correct letter-for-letter glory, on the little screen in my brain. What can I tell you. Just lucky I guess. Okay, don’t throw anything at me! I know, it’s an insufferable trait! Well anyway, one day…

I was in Grade Eight at good ol’ West Hill High School. So this must’ve been, say, 1958 or ’59. Yes, I’m that old.

Anyway, I see a sign in the hall on a bulletin board, and what did it say?


All grades welcome!

Come try your luck!

Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., Room 112

Okay, so I made up that last line – who can remember days and times, right?

Of course I had to take up this challenge. I was such a good speller, why, I even had a good chance of winning the whole thing! So I made sure to go to Room 112 at the appointed day and time.

I open the door and peek in. The classroom’s full – of noisy, older kids! I don’t see a single student in there who looks around my age, not even, say, anyone from Grade Nine.

Oh geez. This is not good. The words will probably all be way too hard for me! I shouldn’t’ve c-

“Oh, sure, yes, I’ll… I’ll take a seat…” Good grief. I look around, and I don’t even see anyone I know! And they’re all staring at me and – they look like they’re smirking. I think I’m gonna get up and maybe throw up and l-”

Oh no, it’s starting. I can’t leave now. If only I could stop shaking. Okay, she’s saying they’re gonna just go up and down the rows, taking turns. We – oh no! We have to go right up to the front of the room and face everyone? And spell with everyone staring at us?! Ohhhhh…

Phew! Okay, I got that first one. Yay!! Professor, not such a hard word. Hoo boy. Maybe it’ll all be like this. Yes! I’ll have a shot after all! I feel better now. Almost my turn again. Gee it goes fast. Okay here I go.

Huh? Excuse me?? Tomain??

“Uh, can you please repeat the word?”

No? Ugh. What the heck does that even mean?!

“Tomain. T. O. M. A. I. N. Tomain.”

No… I didn’t think so. What does it even mean, though?!!! I’m such a good speller, but I never even heard of that word! I’ll look it up for sure when I get home. No fair, giving us a word we don’t even know!


But I haven’t forgotten ptomaine poisoning ever since.


15 thoughts on “Spelling, back in the day

  1. This brought back memories of my first spelling bee, in fourth grade. The word I went down on was “gondolier,” which I had also NEVER heard of! I know exactly how you felt! And in sixth grade, I became the runner-up instead of the winner because I had somehow never noticed that Independence was spelled with an E in that last syllable rather than an A. Believe me, I have never forgotten it since!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Don’t ever tell him I told you, you know over this PRIVATE internet we have here, but my husband once lost a spelling bee when he was very, very young on the word “Shampoo.” Brave little guy lost by spelling it like a winner: C-h-a-m-p-o-o. 🙂

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  3. This had my laughing out loud, especially because I have heard the malady “ptomaine poisoning” on the news many times, but I have NEVER seen the word written out. I will be 62 in a few weeks and to have never known that word began with a “p” is amazing. I have always prided myself on a good vocabulary, and my mom used to quiz me when I was knee high to a grasshopper as you’ll see in this link I’m attaching. I was searching for a post that I wrote about spelling bee that I was in with five other legal secretaries at our Firm. We had two teams, three in each, and we studied the dictionary and had the lawyers throw out legal jargon (not Latin though) for a month before the spelling bee and our missed on the word “recidivism” and I don’t recall what the other team missed on. It was fun. My boss and his brothers were taught to memorize a page out of the “Oxford English Dictionary” and he has the collection in his office, and still tries to learn new words every day – he is into quirky or unusual words. My post is over-long, and I’m not the wordsmith my boss is, but: https://lindaschaubblog.net/2015/02/11/alphabet-soup/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops I missed seeing this comment. I *told* you I got a bit overwhelmed with stuff recently. 😀 So yeah, I of course had never seen the word written out, either. I had *heard* it but that’s no help when it comes to spelling it correctly! Hm, I would’ve known ‘recidivism’ but this is a toughie: ‘sacrilegious.’ Agree? Cuz the urge is to spell it like ‘religious.’ I’m gonna go read your link now. thanks for your patience!!!!! xox

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      1. I get behind too sometimes and lately my house looks like it … I was enjoying all those nice weather days, and spending more time here on WordPress than attending to other things … oops. Still trying to find a happy medium because for almost five years, I had just a handful of e-mail subscribers and only two commented. Then one passed away. Suddenly in November I started getting followers and more interaction, so got behind due to reading/commenting. I’m enjoying a few days off work as my boss is away. I’m still minding the store while he is gone, but have more time to wander from my work site during the day. I have to organize all my blogging info. I archive my photos and posts and am behind on doing that and have ideas for future posts and/or headlines, quotes, etc. squirreled away and have to organize them.

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        1. Good for you, tackling the organizing!! I’m SO bad at that. I mean, ok once I get going, it’s the getting started that I keep putting off. Don’t respond her, ok? Save for email, thanks!

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