Saturday, October 28, 2017

Can you spell it?

When it’s October, it’s BizBee time, so that means I get to pronounce the words in the Alaska Literacy Program’s annual adult spelling bee. Friday was an exciting night of tragic misspellings, surprise saves, and astounding turns in the action. Teams of spellers took over Anchorage’s social scene and made it a night to remember. What? You don’t believe this? Well, then you weren’t there.

It started off tame enough; all teams made it through the first round. But very, very quickly, things went very, very wrong. In Round 2, the ALP Board’s “ALPabets” forgot their innate abilities and lost their innate direction. Suffering from proximity, the very next team, Advance Supply Chain “Spellerifics” – Leaders in Literacy and a rookie team – debated mootable but lost their voice. (Unlike the Arctic Entries “Spellephants,” who continued to shriek like elephants throughout the night.)

But the contagion of Round 2 did not stop there. Providence Health & Services – the “Health Literacy Heroes” – must have eaten some bad quiche; no super powers could save them. Not even being a Distinguished Leader in Literacy.

Disaster continued into Round 3 as the “Dewey Decimators” of Anchorage Public Library hung themselves with lariat. The UAA Center for Human Development – the “Incred-Abilities” decked out in hero disguise – just couldn’t dance their way out of odori.; and First National Bank Alaska, a Distinguished Leader in Literacy, suffered from an extravaganza of syllables and “A’s.”

Round 3 and already six teams down! Would this be a 45-minute BizBee?

Things started to get interesting in Round 4 as the Unitarian Universalists “In Fred’s Name” (honoring long-time ALP volunteer Fred Hillman) passed the snowstorm of purga to the ALP Volunteers. (BizBee rules: you can do that with a $100 donation to literacy.) The Volunteers in turn passed it on to the ACLU’s “Ye Olde Autocorreck.”

The ACLU team, sensing defeat, appealed to their supporters in the audience for $100 to help them buy a Word Pass … to no avail. Resigned to their fate, they accepted purga and faced the storm in Round 5. Wait, was there time for a last-minute reprieve? With donations of $200 now in hand, could they still pass the word? Our three judges, the Killer Bees of Walt Featherly, Sharon Richards, and Gretchen Bersch, ruled that out, and “Ye Olde Autocorreck” was lost in the snowstorm.

Things hummed along until Round 7, when the Werd Nerd pronouncer decided to spice things up by jumping ahead to word #267. “Oh, no! Not 267!” wailed the Mensa team of supporters in the audience (a joke the Werd Nerd continues to love). As it turned out, the Russians were responsible for word #267; they sent in the commissar to silence the “Spellephants” of Arctic Entries. (And by the end of the night, the Mensa crew would win the Team Spirit Award.)
The rookie team from Holistic Hands, the “We Can Spell It” Rosie the Riveters, were served schnecke, and the audience held their breath as they spelled it … correctly. As spellers and officials marveled, a Rosie told us – in German! – that her family eats schnecke for Thanksgiving! It was a magnificent BizBee moment.
Unfortunately, the wild hartebeest gored the ALP Volunteers – sponsored by ConocoPhillips as Distinguished Leaders in Literacy – and they fell down in Round 7.

Heroes were still dropping. In Round 8, the sheriff arrested last year’s champions, the Mensa “ComMENSAlists, with shrieval.

In Round 9, the “SpellMASTERs” of ServiceMASTER diverted the mudflow of lahar to the Rosies, but the dogs got them with Weimaraner in Round 10.

It was now a spell-off between “Fred’s” Unitarian Universalists and the Rosies. The Rosies had the knowledge of jnana, but the Fred’s had the uitlander’s help. It was neck and neck near the finish. But finally – in Round 14, the orichalcum pipe fell on the head of the Unitarians.

Wait, wait, wait! They’re still alive! They produced the TeamSaver – the secret, one-of-a-kind, Get-out-of-Jail-free card for having sold the most raffle tickets. The Unitarians were back in the game!

…only to be blinded in the very next round with periphacitis. The “We Can Spell It” Rosies had one chance to spell the championship word before mushroom poisoning might claim them: mycetismus … and the 2017 champions were decided! Rookies to champions in one night!


  1. Someday I want to finally experience a BizBee in person. Could I assist you by being a guest pronouncer of all German words? "schnecke" is easy! The event always seems like such a blast... thanks for the summary, and congrats to the Rosies!

  2. You can tell the time zones; the Europeans are first in to comment!


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