COLUMBIA — "Bolshevik," "cravat" and "vampire" are some of the words that appear in the Slavic section of the Scripps National Spelling Bee "Spell It" study booklet. And 9-year-old Dylan Valleroy, a fourth-grader at Parkade Elementary School, is trying to practice these — and many, many more — in preparation for the Columbia Tribune Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday afternoon.
Dylan uses many techniques to remember word spellings. Sometimes he breaks them down. As an example, he said he remembers "harpoon" as "har" plus "spoon minus the s." Other times, he remembers how to spell a word based on its root language; many French words end in vowels, he said.
Ever wondered where the term "bee" came from? According to the official Scripps National Bee Web site and Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, the term refers to a neighborly group gathering that involves a specific activity or purpose. There is record of spinning bees in the 1700s. Other bees helped construct buildings, make quilts or clear land.
Sometimes, he just remembers words he has seen before in books or elsewhere. He won the Parkade spelling bee on the word "supreme," which he had seen before on a box of Girl Scout cookies.
Other words are difficult, even for spellers with a few more years on them. Ever heard of a '"pfeffernuss" or a "menhaden?"
“There’s so many words — it’s kind of hard to remember them all and how to remember all the techniques,” Dylan said. “A lot of these words sound like something, but they’re spelled entirely different. So, that’s what’s tricky about that.”
Dylan qualified to be the single Parkade representative in his school bee in January. He will join 56 other regional students, age 15 and younger, at the regional bee. This will be his first time there, and he said he hopes to do well.
"It feels good to represent," Dylan said.
The regional bee is at Christian Fellowship Church. Columbia's champion will win a ticket to the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.