‘God saw I was dog' and ‘Dennis sinned' — Look at these sentences carefully and after a while, it is likely that you will notice that they have something in common.
Read each of them aloud in reverse separately and you would be pretty much saying the same thing. If the world of words, tales of their origin, the evolution of their usage, and the nuances of their spelling has fascinated you, IIT-Madras was the place to be on Sunday.
Language enthusiasts, including many school and college children made a beeline at Saarang 2012 for the finals of India Spell Bee.
And expertise in the spelling of the word was just one of the aspects tested. For instance, a question for the audience at event was, “The origins of what lies in an ancient European law that says you can't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb,” to which an audience member excitedly answered, ‘The phrase rule of the thumb.'
“The SMS world is ripping apart the beauty of the English language. There are many of us who can't work without spell check,” says Anjan Mishra, a consultant who was there in the audience. The regular suspects in every spelling bee – ‘Serendipity,' ‘Supercilious,' ‘ concomitant' were spelled out by the participants in no time but certain tough ones such as leitmotif (A melodic passage or phrase, especially in opera), or Dauphin (A French title) took the participants by surprise.
Since writing was not allowed, some tried finger writing, while some heard the word, repeatedly asked for the meaning and the pronunciation, collected their thoughts and very slowly, spelled it letter by letter. And on the rare occasion when the participants were unable to spell a word such as ‘Pharmacopeia', Prashant Vasudevan, from the audience came to rescue. “Well, I don't even know the meaning. I must have read it somewhere and the word got stuck,” says the JEE topper on campus.
“The key is reading as much as you can, and then you consciously start preparing because spellings start interesting you so much,” said Nisha Rajan, one of the participants.
Also present was Shishir Hathwar, who holds the record for spelling 50 randomly picked words backwards in 1 minute and 22.53 seconds. An electronics engineer from Bangalore, 25-year-old Hathwar also demonstrated his skill, taking words from the audience and spelling them in reverse without pause, without hesitation and without a single mistake. “Don't give me legal or biology terms though,” he said, grinning.
“We have had many literary events in the past but this is the first time we are holding a spelling bee,” said Chetan Shenoy, event coordinator, also a student of IIT-Madras. Surprisingly, in an event meant for all students, of the 16 finalists, 14 were school children. Veena Venkataraman of P.S.B.B, Neha Majumdar of the Asian College of Journalism and Ashwini Rajan of Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram were declared winners.
Keywords: spelling bee