Monday, December 31, 2007

Is it too late to protest the results of a middle school spelling bee that took place in...1985? The statute of limitations on protests has to be at least 25 years, right?

I was in 8th grade. We were down to 5 people left in the competition out of...60 or so (three representatives of each of the diocesan schools within the city limits). It was my turn. The word I was given was "backfisch".

Now had our coach, Sister I-forget-her-name-because-I-have-blocked-her-from-my-mind had used the booklet we were given for our prep sessions, I probably would have gotten the word. But no, she used the classroom dictionary. Middle school classroom dictionaries aren't known for being comprehensive.

Anyway, I left out the "c" and got the word wrong. I got really curious about the word, and I looked it up in the unabridged dictionary in the school library. It wasn't there. Then I looked it up in two different unabridged dictionaries in the local branch of the public library. Wasn't there. When I was in high school and allowed to go to Oakland to the big Carnegie Library, I looked it up in every unabridged dictionary I could find in the reference section. The librarian must have thought I was nuts. I never did find it.

So I got it in my head to look it up on the internet today, because hey, what is the internet for but looking up obscure spelling bee words from 23 years ago while avoiding doing actual work for a proposal that is due in 3 days? And do you know what I discovered? The word is 1920's era German slang that never actually caught on in English. In fact, the only example of English usage I can find is from Nabokov's Lolita.

So I think I have grounds for a protest. Of course, the newspaper that sponsored the spelling bee no longer exists. And the nun who judged it is dead. And my school doesn't exist anymore, either. But those are mere details.

What do you think internet? Should I start an online campaign to have the city Catholic schools round of the Pittsburgh Press Spelling Bee from 1985 replayed? I bet I could kick those scrawny geeks butts now.


Tim said...

What an outrage! You deserve recompense for 23 years of suffering.... with interest. I know some attorneys who would take your case. :)

Happy New Year!!

tomzgrrl said...

Maybe I can get the results reversed from my 2nd grade spelling bee, which I lost only because the teacher pronouned "she'll" strangely and I couldn't figure out what word she meant.

What does backfisch mean?

Sheryl said...

According to the nun who was the official judge and pronouncer, it means a shy or backwards girl. According to the internet, it means just an adolescent girl. The word originally (in German) meant a fried fish. I don't get that either.