In DC, Even the Spelling Bee Draws Protestors

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The nation's capital always draws its share of protesters, picketing for causes ranging from health care reform to immigration policy.

But spelling bee protesters? They're out here, too.

Four peaceful protesters, some dressed in full-length black and yellow bee costumes, represented the American Literacy Council and the London-based Spelling Society and stood outside the Grand Hyatt on Thursday, where the Scripps National Spelling Bee is being held. Their message was short: Simplify the way we spell words.

Roberta Mahoney, 81, a former Fairfax County, Va. elementary school principal, said the current language obstructs 40 percent of the population from learning how to read, write and spell.

"Our alphabet has 425-plus ways of putting words together in illogical ways," Mahoney said.

The protesting cohort distributed pins to willing passers-by with their logo, "Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much."

According to literature distributed by the group, it makes more sense for "fruit" to be spelled as "froot," "slow" should be "slo," and "heifer" — a word spelled correctly during the first oral round of the bee Thursday by Texas competitor Ramesh Ghanta — should be "hefer."

Meanwhile, inside the hotel's Independence Ballroom, 273 spellers celebrated the complexity of the language in all its glory, correctly spelling words like zaibatsu, vibrissae and biauriculate.

While the protesters could make headway with cell phone texters who routinely swap "u" for "you" and "gr8" for "great," their message may be a harder sell for the Scripps crowd.

Mahoney had trouble gaining traction with at least one bee attendee. New Mexico resident Matthew Evans, 15, a former speller whose sister is participating in the bee this year, reasoned with her that if English spellings were changed, spelling bees would cease to exist.

"If a dictionary lists 'enough' as 'enuf,' the spelling bee goes by the dictionary, therefore all the spelling words are easier to spell, so the spelling bee is gone," Evans said.

"Well," Mahoney replied, "they could pick their own dictionary."


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