Nobody likes a smarta**.

After rereading one of my old stories (first published on 7Nov2003 by Opium Magazine and reproduced below), I dug this eMail exchange out of the archives:

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 06:59
From: Alan C. Baird
To: Merriam-Webster
Is it my imagination, or does your dictionary contain a misspelling (pointtillist=pointillist)?

Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 16:02
From: Maria Sansalone, Merriam-Webster Editorial Department
To: Alan C. Baird
You know what's even worse Alan? It's been in our print dictionary this way since at least 1981!


Opium MagazineBuzz Words [estimated reading time: 1:45]

At the ripe old age of thirteen, Buzz earned a trip to the 1964 National Spelling Bee, after winning a series of local competitions. However, he bombed out on the second word ("abbot") because his school bus stopped at Abbott Street every day. Even though his left brain knew the proper spelling decreed by Merriam-Webster's dictionary, his stubborn right brain insisted on calling up images of that treacherous street sign, standing a mere two feet outside the safety-glass bus window.

So our vanquished hero spent the remainder of the competition sitting in the audience, writing down every word and torturing himself with dreams of What Might Have Been. He'd even worked out a complex algorithm to predict which words would have been "his," and spelled each one of them correctly: "vicissitude," "diastema," and especially the dreaded "myxovirus." By his reckoning, he should have won the whole shootin' match . . . but Abbott Street had wrecked his budding career as WordBoy.

The next year, he entered local history books by becoming the first area youngster to win two Washington trips in a row. This time, he was relaxed, joking with fellow contestants while finishing 14th in the country, stumped only by "gneiss." He deemed the word to be an honorable Waterloo, even though it didn't sound that way (pronounced "nice"). But most importantly, he was delighted with his 1965 results, the trip, and life in general. Every few years, the regional newspaper still publishes a huge picture of him during the spring, in their annual Spelling Season Shrine.

Could he have won the national competition in that first year? Maybe. But if he'd survived 1964's second round, the same words would have been doled out to different contestants, during later rounds. Words that were spelled easily, in his "abbott" universe, might have been misspelled, in the alternative "abbot" scheme of things. For example, his fancy algorithm couldn't really predict if little Susie would be able to deal with "escharotic" in AbbotWorld, when she was only required to spell "escapist" in AbbottWorld. Thus, Buzz's subsequent word list would end up slightly altered--which means he certainly *didn't* know it all.

Although he often acted that way.

Still does, as his friends will eagerly tell you.

However, sweet revenge was exacted from his old nemesis (Merriam-Webster) during the late fall of 1999, when he pointed out "pointtillist" . . . a misspelling which had appeared in their dictionaries for nearly two decades.

As you might guess, he's still bragging about that.


pointtillist, should be pointillist

Dad/Mom/Nerd/Rep. Brad Morse (R-MA)/Flag

June, 1964: Dad/Mom/Nerd/Rep. Brad Morse (R-MA)/Flag.

The Lowell Sun (MA) newspaper used to sponsor an annual spelling competition among the local schools.
For a couple of years in the mid-Sixties, I hogged the competition limelight.
National Spelling BeeThe Sun wasted a ton of ink on me, and sent me to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. Twice.
They bought me clothes, gave me cash, flew Mom and me to DC, and put us up in a 5-star hotel for a week.
They really made me feel like a Big-Shot Celebrity.
While I was in Our Nation's Capital, I just wanted to study. What a nerd.
But the National Spelling Bee organization had set up a bunch of tours for us nerds.
And the Sun's DC correspondent had the thankless task of following me around, snapping pictures and writing puff pieces.
A staggering number of those pictures and puff pieces were published on the Sun's front page.
So I guess the local congressman got wind of a possible photo op, and decided to horn in.
But he was also kind enough to give me a tour and introduce me to many famous lawmakers.
He even pulled some strings and got the Architect of the Capitol to send me that flag.
He really made me feel like a Big-Shot Celebrity.
Then Mister Big-Shot Celebrity started competing in the National Spelling Bee, and fell flat on his face...
Other pix: 2, 3, 4, Ben Bernanke & Me.

Facebook fan pages: 1964 ~ 1965
Facebook group: National Spelling Bee Contestants, 1964 & 1965

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