Spelling Bee in the age of texting

The comments on the eight winners of the 2019 American Spelling Bee competitions in a recent article in The New York Times varied from admiration, congratulations, even disdain. One reader reacting to the said article called the Spelling Bee challenge “anachronistic,” and that it tests “one of the simplest measures of cognition.”

Another commenter congratulated the hardworking children, and fondly reminisced over a time when language skills were valued before the digital world took over. Others disagreed, saying that learning languages and spelling correctly are not really important anymore, what with spell checks and apps like Grammarly.

Several others suggested that a ‘Vocabulary Bee’ would be more relevant. The fact that most winners have ancestors of Indian origin was not overlooked. Some commenters even went on to say that Indian parents force this burdensome path on their children.

My take is simple. There’s much thinking and logic in spelling correctly. If I were given the word “anachronistic” to spell and I was stumped, I would ask for the origin of the word.

Of course, it would be Greek, and Chronos means time. I would find out the part of speech, figure out the prefix, and string it all together. It is not a regurgitation exercise or a lower cognitive function. The spelling also includes vocabulary and making connections.

I agree with all the congratulatory messages for the hardworking children, and I hope someday they are worthy of attention to find a place amidst the Kardashians. For those who find this competition irrelevant in today’s digital world, I have a small story, specially written for your pleasure.

One early morning, a friend sent me one chuckle-worthy picture via WhatsApp. It is the ‘Periodic Table’ for today’s digital acronyms. This creative piece has gone viral on several social media platforms.

For those who feast on them and emojis alike, here’s my humble dedication of a text story between two friends. ‘Google’ the ‘Periodic Table of Texting,’ and decode the following conversation if you are from an older school.

Ron: FF, RUOK?

Jon: ;-(

Ron: Y?

Jon: Cos BM &Y, NINJA

Ron: T+

Jon: CRBT

Ron: CWOT 2 B ;-(

Jon: EZ 4 U, not 4 me

Ron: BTDT, KIR kid,

T2MO

Jon: TY, for SB me

Ron: NAP. NGU!

Jon: TY

Ron: NBD, TB, OK?

PLO

Jon: XOXO

A week later, some good news.

Jon: FF

Ron: Sup?

Jon: No more NINJA!

Ron: XLNT! Cos T+

Jon: SETE

Ron: MBN, NJOY!

Jon: <3 job!

TY 4 UR support! MTF, SIT

Ron: GR8! KIR kid! LTR!

Jon: XOXO!

 

And for those needing some expansion, HWGA… (Here We Go Again)

Ron: FF, RUOK? (Friend forever, are you ok?)

Jon: ;-( (sad face emoji)

Ron: Y? (Why?)

Jon: BM &Y, cos NINJA (Between me and you, it’s because I have no income, no job/assets)

Ron: T+ (Think positively)

Jon: CRBT (I am crying really big tears)

Ron: CWOT 2 B ;-( (Complete waste of time to be disheartened)

Jon: EZ 4 U, not 4 me (It’s easy for you to be that way, but not for me)

Ron: BTDT, KIR kid, (I’ve been there done that, so keep it real kid)

T2MO (It’s time to move on)

Jon: TY for SB me (Thank you for standing by me)

Ron: NAP. NGU! (Not a problem, never give up!)

Jon: TY (Thank you)

Ron: NBD, TB, OK? (No big deal, text back, ok?)

PLO (Peace, love, out!)

Jon: XOXO (hugs and kisses)

A week later, some good news.

Jon: FF (Friend forever)

Ron: Sup? (What’s up?)

Jon: No more NINJA! (I found a job, have some money and assets)

Ron: XLNT! Cos T+ (Excellent, because you thought positively)

Jon: SETE (Smiling ear to ear, so happy now!)

Ron: MBN NJOY! (Must be nice. Enjoy!)

Jon: <3 job! (I love my job)

TY 4 UR support! MTF, SIT (Thank you for your support, more to follow, I will give you details, so stay in touch)

Ron: GR8! KIR kid! LTR! (Great, keep it real kid, see you later!)

There, I tried to fit in, this product of an older time. If you love the origin of languages and enjoy finding clues in words or learning new languages, then the worth of this competition is clear.

Through spelling clues, one can learn about a whole culture. An example of a lake in Switzerland called by several names by Swiss/ Germans, French, and Italian would respectively be Luzern, Lucerne, Lucerna. Pronunciation is different and so is the spelling. It takes a lot of thought to be a Spelling Bee beyond mere memorization.

To those who disagree, I will use the expanded acronym in conclusion: Peace, Love, Out!

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