In a state where consonants and vowels aren’t just misused, they’re physically assaulted, it was a hopeful moment to learn that a Garden Stater had won the national spelling bee this past week in Washington, D.C. Thirteen-year-old Katharine Close became the first New Jersey resident to claim the title, defeating 274 other top spellers after her breezy spelling of the word “ursprache,” which, unless you’re live in a household of Germanic language scholars, isn’t exactly a kitchen table term. Ms. Close dusted a 14-year-old Canadian to claim the title. Once again, Canada had to take the backseat on stage. (And if Canada was involved, why wasn’t this called an international spelling bee instead of the 79th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee?)
Perhaps parents should buy their youngsters a dictionary–clearly a wise investment–instead of grooming their offspring with singing lessons for that coveted “American Idol” moment. My hope is that young Katharine will remain in her home state and pass her wisdom of the English language along to her fellow Garden Staters, those neighbors who say “fuhgheduhboutit” (yes, we have heard that one repeatedly in the neighborhood diner) and “cawfee.” I saw someone once spell “noise” as “noice.” There are some folks, no doubt, who feel they only need to spell their own names correctly to get by in this world. Spelling is an art, but one we should all master. Maybe Governor Corzine should consider mailing dictionaries to all residents who misspell any words on any kind of documents, licensing forms or taxes, for example.
So thank you, Katharine Close. Thank you for being New Jersey’s beacon of hope. I think the last time New Jersey made national news like this was when Governor McGreevey announced he was a “gay” American. You’ve brought us back up a notch. Those nights spent with a desk lamp and Webster’s paid off for us all.