spelling bee

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Apr 14 06:05:28 UTC 2013

The concept (and probably the practice) anticipated the label by some time:

"Perhaps [the teaching of orthography] is best done by Pairing the
Scholars, two of those nearest equal in their Spelling to be put
together; let these strive for victory each propounding ten words
each day for the other to be spelt. He that spells truly most of
the other's Words; he that is Victor most Days in a Month, to
btain a prize, a pretty neat Book of some Kind useful in their
future Studies."
B. Franklin, "Sketch of an English School," 1751 http://goo.gl/Yjon9

> From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Re: spelling bee
> Date: April 13, 2013 7:56:42 AM PDT
> At 4/12/2013 10:49 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> 1831 _Jamestown (N.Y.) Journal_ 26 Jan. 4/4 (GenealogyBank) A big
>> spelling match is announced in Covington, Ohio, at the High School,
>> when the lad that stands longest on the floor and spells the biggest
>> words without scratching his head is to receive a fine present.
> I believe the rule about not scratching one's head was later
> rescinded.  And spelling bees are no longer like dance endurance
> contests -- contestants are now allowed to sit while waiting out the
> performances of their competitors.
> But a rumored new rule -- in addition to spelling the word,
> contestants will have to know how to define it.
> Joel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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