Life Randy Hilfman Spells Defeat
I skipped Bumbershoot on Monday night to congregate with the hardened orthographers at the third Seattle Spelling Bee. After last month’s poor showing, I had little hope of returning to the form that won me second place in the first bee. Then I pulled off my greatest feat of spelling to date:
The Oxford English Dictionary definies “cicisbeism” as “The practice of attending a married woman as cicisbeo.” With adorable though misleading chastity, the OED claims that a cicisbeo is a woman’s “recognized gallant.” At any rate, my correct spelling elicited the evening’s biggest round of applause. More importantly, it extended my lead over the hitherto unbeatable Randy Hilfman.
The notoriously difficult third round had eliminated all comers aside from me. Only three contestants out of twenty managed a single correct word. Alas, Randy earned a spot among those three in grand fashion: he spelled his first two words correctly to pull into a tie for the lead. Then he made short work of “enceinte” (a French word meaning “pregnant”) to claim his third consecutive title.
Had I managed to spell “nannofossil,” I’d have had a chance. If Randy Hilfman weren’t among the more pleasant people I’ve ever met, my wrath would have been justified. All I could do was drop my jaw and remember what losing pitcher Don Hendley said after Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game: “It’s no disgrace to get beat by class.”