Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Catholic School, Part 2

Welcome to the further adventures of Charles and Catholic school, circa 1955. Here is Part 1 in case you purposely skipped it and have reconsidered reading it.

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One of my best subjects was spelling (the other one was 16th century apologetics). Even in the third grade, I could spell the hard ones like inquisition, eviscerate, anathema, and excommunication. There were two exceptions, however: When the word was in Japanese, and whenever we had a spelling bee.

Every Friday afternoon Sister had a spelling bee—except during Lent, when we spent about sixteen hours in church for the Stations. The class would line up against the blackboard, which made it impossible to hide when you were standing there execution-style.

“Charles, spell ‘heretic’.”

Hallelujah! My best word! I could spell it backward: citereh. I could spell it standing on my head. I could spell it while walking on stilts, falling out of a tree, or swinging on the dining room chandelier.

“Heretic. h, a, i, r, y, t, i, c, k. Heretic.”

[Gleeful singsong from Sister] “IN-cor-RECT! TAKE your SEAT!”

Extending my string of first-round spelling bee losses to thirty-seven, I wondered if I was out of my mind. Hairy tick, for heaven’s sake. How enormously dumb. I was so disgusted I sent me to the cloakroom to save Sister the trouble.

Maybe it was bad juju: Twenty-nine kids against one, all praying like crazy to the patron saint of spelling bees:

“Calling St. Bovine the Udderless, come in St. Bovine, can you hear us? Please make Charles spell his word wrong, something enormously dumb. Thank you, over and out.”

Non-sense. The reason I made a mistake is because I made a mistake. I was a darn good speller (on paper), I knew I was a darn good speller (on paper), and when I grew up, the only place I would ever use my good spelling would be on paper.

Unless I had to spell the words in Japanese.


Wandering Coyote said...

Soooooo...I'm afraid to know what you were like with math!

Meg said...

Maybe Sister should have enunciated. Haha, eNUNciated. That wasn't even intentional.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Charlie! I never knew you went to Catholic school. Anyway, I went to Catholic school myself, but none of our teachers were nuns except for the Catholic Living subject. The spelling bee incident is hysterical!

Tiffin said...

Would it make you feel better to know I pronounced Adirondacks as Add-IRON-dacks in the school public speaking contest, Charlie? These moments burn themselves on our fragile wee psyches, don't they.

How much Japanese spelling did they give you in the Amurcan Catholic school system anyway?

Kim said...

Yes well humiliation in front of the entire 6th grade is why I still spell LIE-U-TENANT while pronouncing it out like I am still 12!

PI said...

Excuse me one moment please: Kim you are too young to know the G.I. Jive but one of the lines is :

If you are an L.I.E.U.T de dum deddum de dum deddumdum
Your sergeant gives you K. P. on the cute E.
De dums are the bits I can't remember/
Charlie: I think it was pure nerves - poor little love.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

All the more reason for you to do a video post sometime, Charlie! A spelling bee video post.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Whenever I ask my wife how to spell something she has to write it out on paper. Recently I noticed the top spelling bee contestants on TV news... the one little girl would write the word out on the palm of her hand with her finger before she answered. Something to be said for visualizing certain concepts.

St Jude said...

I once got asked to spell mrshippy in a spelling contest.. clearly I haven't improved.

Stinkypaw said...

I know what you mean, about being good on paper... ah the things nerves will make us do.

Actually Japanese words are easy, you spell what you hear, really it's simple!

Michael said...

Ahh, spelling bees. I wish I could find an online link to share with you for a bit I heard on the radio - some school somewhere is going to mark spelling attempts that phonetically approximate the word as correct.
Or, you could just read this piece, another signpost on the road to the Tower of Babel.