Spelling bees, a long-awaited confession and several numnahs

GateHouse – Congratulations to Sameer Mishra, the 13-year-old from West Lafayette, Ind., (which has a SCORCHING inferiority complex regarding Regular Lafayette), on his victory this weekend in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Mishra, by all accounts, was a gracious and entertaining champion, keeping judges and audiences entertained with witty one-liners while routinely knocking back words like “guerdon” and “numnah.”

Both of those words, like all spelling bee words, were absolutely made up for the competition and don’t remotely exist in real life. Let me know, however, if you’ve ever been relaxing in a coffee shop and overheard someone at the next table saying, “Yeah, Bill, I really got a bad guerdon in the numnah right now, and my opificer says I need to have that brankursine removed by cryptarithm before the empyrean gets inflamed and itchy.” (It may happen for all I know, but I go to the dumb-people coffee shops, because the other ones seriously make my alcarraza go all sheitel.)

At least this is what I’m reading. I didn’t actually watch the bee on TV, because although I am a tremendously, tremendously boring individual, I haven’t yet made the big move to Watching Spelling Bees On TV. Especially since that was the night I had to wipe down the Indiana Jones costume I wore to the midnight showing last week. (Actually, I’m sure I probably spent that time on Friday night arguing with my 4-year-old about which sink provided the water he needed for bedtime. Apparently the bathroom sink is the bee’s knees of tap-waterdom, and the kitchen sink produces a foul, undrinkable gunk-sludge that displeases the little man’s highly advanced water palate.)

Anyway, as I say, congratulations, Mr. Mishra. And while we’re on the subject, in my own fifth grade year I would have absolutely demolished you. I reigned during that time as the Undisputed King Of All Things Spelling In All Of Upland Elementary’s Fifth Grade Class. I was highly disappointed to discover this does nothing for making girls want to eat lunch with you, especially when you’re wearing a set of plastic-brown glasses that were thick enough to see through time, and braces that make it seem like your mouth is the site of some massive federal copper-reclamation project. (Note to all fifth-graders reading this column: First of all, newspapers are for old people, go back to your Wii. Second of all, do not endeavor to be smart in school; just learn to draw real well or play a musical instrument and be detached and mysterious, it just works way better in the long run.)

Anyway, again, Mr. Mishra, I am using the occasion of your well-deserved triumph to talk about myself, which is something that I do a lot and really endears you to people. But I need to get off my chest a deep, dark, mildewy secret that I’ve been holding ever since the spring of 1985: I really, really like “Rock Me Amadeus.” Oh, and also, in the fifth grade, I absolutely and without remorse threw the Upland Elementary class spelling bee, because I was tired of being the nerd spelling kid.

But the thing is, I didn’t just throw it, I threw it REALLY BADLY. You know how in the fifth grade, you are terrible at everything, especially trying to convince authority figures of things? Yeah. I don’t remember how it happened, nor what word I used to enact my nefarious scheme, but I do remember sitting back for a few rounds, waiting for my moment to strike, and then, when it finally came time to fake-drop the ball and fake-knock myself out of competition, I did it in such an idiotic, blubbery way that the only people who couldn’t have seen the cold hard truth of what was going on would have had to be blind. Or Hillary Clinton.

I remember my teacher looking like she almost felt bad about my loser attempt to lose. Like, “If you’d have just asked, we’d have sent you to the library to play chess or whatever it is you people do.” And the worst part was, after that fiasco, it turns out I was still the nerd spelling kid, I just didn’t have a cool ribbon.

So again, Mr. Mishra, all congratulations to you, and I hope your prosopopoeia is tralatitious, but know that many years ago, in a town just a few scant cornfields away from this mysterious “West Lafayette,” there was a challenger who could have bested you, had his étagère been the slightest bit secernented.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

2 responses to “Spelling bees, a long-awaited confession and several numnahs

  • Mom

    You threw a spelling bee??????????????????
    LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL.

    If I remember right, that would have been the only thing happening in that “town” a few cornfields east of Lafayette:)

    Like

  • Hoosier Gal

    From a Native: Technically, West Lafayette is the home to Purdue University – a well respected university known for it’s engineering and agricultural programs. So, one could assume that many more intelligent folks would be living in West Lafayette.
    So, I’m suggesting that West Lafayette doesn’t really have that inferiority complex that you mention in your post.

    (please take my comments as tongue-in-cheek. after all, I’m from (Regular) Lafayette – so what does that say about me?)

    Like

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