December 2014
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Monday, December 22, 2014

State News: Word Nerds Studying for AARP National Spelling Bee

Some call themselves “word nerds,” others prefer the term “wordsmith.” They’re people gearing up for the 2009 AARP National Spelling Bee. Early birds from all over the country have already signed up, including Pam Leininger of Durango, who competed in the bee for the first time last year. Like many other serious spellers, she said, her preparation involves studying the dictionary for up to eight hours a day for months.

“You know, I’ve always considered myself a really good speller, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was until I started doing the dictionary — and just finding so much there that fascinated me.”

Joe Dickmann, in Richmond Heights, Mo., has gathered together study lists, some he received when helping his kids in spelling bees when they were younger. He and his wife Carolyn are competing, and often spend evenings passing the dictionary back and forth.

“It’s so hit-and-miss. You could study 10,000 words and none of those would be in the bee, and then the one after where you stopped could be the one you get,” Dickmann said.

Just knowing the English language isn’t enough, added Dickmann, because all kinds of foreign words pop up during competition.

“The ones that really bug me are the Gaelic ones, because they don’t sound anything like they look.”

All words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary are fair game. The bee begins June 20 and is open to word lovers age 50 and older. More information about the bee is available at

— Colorado News Connection

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