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The 75th annual National Spelling Bee was held recently and 13-year-old Pratyush Buddiga of Colorado Springs, CO won it by spelling his name correctly. Just kidding. Actually he misspelled it, but since he managed to spell prospicience they gave him the trophy anyway. Prospicience, in case you can’t find it in your Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because, well, it’s not in there, means foresight. As in having the foresight to study the list of 4,000 words they commonly use. That’s words they use in spelling bees, not real life. Face it, nobody walks around saying words like prospicience and morigeration in public unless they enjoy having the crap kicked out of them.

Buddiga beat out contestants from every state except Vermont and Utah, which didn’t send anyone. That says a lot about those states though I’m not going to say what that is lest I get inundated by hate mail from a few zillion sap drained maple trees and Mormons. He walked away with $12,000, an engraved cup, a copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, $1000 U.S. Savings Bond, and a bunch of reference books which I’m sure he’ll proofread and send back with his corrections. He also got to be on TV since ESPN televised the finals. Yes, this means spelling bees are now an official sport, so you can expect to see one in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Of course being the first time it won’t have an event of its own, it will be part of the New Pentathlon, sandwiched in between the Frisbee Toss, the Playstation Marathon, the Hacky Sack Relay, and Downhill Speed Remote Control Clicking.

It’s nice to know that there are kids who think good spelling is important in life. After all, not every kid will grow up to be like Seattle Mariners pitcher Jeff Nelson, who auctioned off a bone chip from his elbow for $23,000. True he gave the money to charity, but that’s only because he doesn’t have enough time as it is to count the great big piles of sports bucks he’s raking in. The truth is, most children will end up having to work for a living, and spelling, like math, geography, and coming up with new excuses to take a sick day on the Friday before a three-day weekend will be an important skill to have.

"But we have spellcheckers now," you’re probably typing, hoping your computer knows that spellchecker is one word. True, but not only are computers so dumb that they don’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re, but today’s New and Improved Rebellious Hip Spellings™ completely elude them. For example, U2 isn’t just a band whose lead singer goes on State Department tours of Africa with the Treasury Secretary, it’s also the approved reply to the compliment, "U r 1 hella kewl grrl!"

Yes, it’s spelling for the Hooked on Phonics Generation. It’s quick! It’s easy! And it saves letters, which is not only energy efficient but also environmentally correct since you can recycle the unused letters in words that really need them, like intelligence, impression, and employment. Though in its defense, the new spelling has a royal lineage since Prince was one of the earliest proponents of it, having written songs including When 2 R in Love, I Would Die 4 U, and Tell Me How U Want 2 B Done. That’s Prince the musician, not Prince Charles, who may actually use words like prospicience and morigeration. And not get his butt kicked, though that’s only because his bodyguards are there to protect him.

Xtreme is another popular new spelling of a good old word. It started out as an adjective to describe really edgy, out there, fringe sports but is now so hip, cool, and underground that (True Fact alert!) you can get Xtreme Right Guard deodorant, Xtreme3 shaving razors, and X-treme Jell-O. Ads say it will "X-Cite Your Kids with X-treme Flavors" like green apple, wild berry, and--gasp!--watermelon. That’s the Jell-O, not the razor blades or deodorant. Maybe I’m a bit too old for their marketing, but watermelon Jell-O just sounds so-o-o-o X-treme. Yeah, right.

This raises a whole new problem--what’s the correct spelling of a made up word like Xtreme? Is it hyphenated or not? Is it correct to put numbers after it like a sequel? How about putting them be4 a word, like 2morrow, 1derful, or 4get, as in "4get it, this is 2 complicated 4 me"? This is important. After all, how can we expect our children to grow up to be president if they can’t spell? Okay, aside from having a father who was president before them, which would mean that we’ll only have Bushes, Carters, Fords, and Clintons in office from now on.

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More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It’s Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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