Would you be daring enough to stand up in front of all of your work colleagues and participate in a spelling bee? Likely not. It's probably a good idea to keep your reliance on spellcheck a secret between you and your computer.
But a spelling bee is exactly what was buzzing last night at New York City's Standard Hotel, where heavyweight authors including Jonathan Ames, Rosanne Cash (yep, the famed musician is a writer, too!), Elissa Schappell, Bruce Feiler, Patricia Marx and more congregated to prove their literary mettle by spelling words that were barely pronounceable, let alone spell-able.
The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses hosted the event, and the organization's executive director Jeffrey Lependorf kicked off the evening by introducing the competition's judge, the Oxford English Dictionary's editor-at-large Jesse Sheidlower. ("Our judge who's already judging you," Lependorf said of the man who actually wrote the book on The F Word.)
After a brief summation of the rules — "audible reactions from crowd could impact next speller," Sheidlower said — the contestants got down to business.
First there were objurgating, charnel, timbale, and bolshevize before Schappell and Ames faltered on sacrilegious. The competition continued with succotash, ambidextrous, tierce, gluttonously, and barouche. At one point speller Sara Nelson said, "Does anybody know this word?!" (Sheidlower replied, "Yes.")
The spellers started dropping like flies, and soon it was just down to Cash and Marx. They spelled cadre and cordial before Patty went down. Cash gave the last word a try: "I-s-c-h-i-u-m!" And she was crowned winner (literally, as seen in the photo above). "I've played Carnegie Hall," Cash said. "I wasn't that nervous."