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Thursday, June 03, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Spelling-bee protesters 'thru with through'

By Seattle Times news services

MATTHEW CAVANAUGH / GETTY IMAGES
John Ausick, of Park County, Mont., competes yesterday in the national spelling bee in Wash-ington, D.C.
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WASHINGTON — Protesters delivered a message yesterday to the national spelling bee: Enuf is enuf!

Members of the American Literacy Society picketed the 77th annual spelling bee, which is sponsored every year by Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard.

The protesters' complaints: English spelling is illogical, and the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that they say contribute to dyslexia, high illiteracy and harder lives for immigrants.

"We advocate the modernization of English spelling," said Pete Boardman, 58, of Groton, N.Y. The Cornell University bus driver admitted to being a terrible speller.

Protester Elizabeth Kuizenga, 56, is such a good speller that she teaches English as a second language in San Francisco. She said she got involved in the protest after seeing how much time was wasted teaching spelling in her class.

Bee spokesman Mark Kroeger said good spelling comes from knowing the story behind a word — what language it comes from, what it means.

"For these kids who understand the root words, who understand the etymology, it's totally logical," he said.

The protesters contend that the illogical spelling of English words makes dyslexia more difficult to overcome and helps explain studies that suggest one in five Americans are functionally illiterate.

"If these people were able to read and write with a simplified spelling system, they would be able to fill out a job application, stay employed and stay out of prison," said Sanford Silverman, 86. The retired accountant was handing out copies of his book, "Spelling for the 21st Century: The Case for Spelling Reform."

Carrying signs reading "I'm thru with through," "Spelling shuud be lojical," and "Spell different difrent," the protesters drew chuckles from bee contestants.

"I can't believe people are picketing against something this ridiculous," said contestant Steven Maheshwary, 14, of Houston.
 
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By day's end yesterday, 46 of the original 265 spellers remained for today's championship. The participants are competing for a top package of $17,000 in cash and other prizes.

Some of the stumpers yesterday were "phyllotaxy," "triboluminescence," "ziphioid" and "dacquoise."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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