What does ursprache to that mean? I have no idea. I also have no idea how to spell it. But someone does, notably Kerry Close, the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion of 2006. I posted that list last week in honor of National Scripps Spelling Bee Day. After researching the winning words for the last 75 years or so, the good news is that, despite the title of a book I read in Borders recently, The Dumbest Generation, the Scripps offers some hope that the author of that book may be incorrect. Some members of this generation are far from moronic, imbecilic, witless, dense, duncical, doltish, obtuse, or puerile. However you spell any of those.
The list I posted last week was the list of winning words since 2ooo. I don’t know about you, but with the exception of the last one, I do not know how to spell any of these words or have the slightest idea what they mean. And I am a former English teacher with lots of cool sounding latin words in my degrees. The funny thing is, all those “smarter” generations of years gone by seem to have had it much easier. I mean, in 1940, the victor had to spell therapy. They couldn’t give that word to kids now–all of them can spell it. If they’re not in therapy their friends are. I guess it was more of an alien concept in 1940. Gladiolus? Knack? Cerise? Luxuriance? And my favorite from 1984–luge. It was an Olympic year, after all.
But honestly, up until the mid-nineties, I could spell most of the winning words. Then something happened. Like everything else, I suppose, spelling must have become a blood sport. Like everything else our kids do, the competition got kicked up, and those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, devote every breathing moment to it got left in the dust. Yes, like Olympic skaters and violin prodigies, competitive spellers spend hours a day at it and hire personal coaches. Something I’m guessing kids of other generations could not do, since they had to do silly things like work for the family or wanted to do silly things like play.
I suppose given a choice I’d prefer my child spend hours learning to spell than learning to play Sims 3, but perhaps neither one is the best possible option. So, this generation can spell words no other has managed. And they have a right to be proud of that. They need not stand for listening to how “in my day we really knew how to learn things.” They have gained a great deal of discipline, training, and problem-solving tools. But do you think maybe we’ve all lost something, too?