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Onomatopoeia

2 August 2015

In a title such as “Tap Tap, Boom Boom” the word in the title sound like the sounds that they make.  What is the word for the kind of word that mimics a sound?

“Oh no!”  I exclaimed.  I knew what word Bob, the librarian wanted, but instead I spelled:  “Tap T-A-P Tap.”  The judges, including library Director Mary Hastler, understood that I was kidding and allowed me another chance, though they could as well have passed to the next person.

“Onomatopoeia.”

Answering the question correctly was only the beginning.  The key was to spell it. 

I spelled it.  Incorrectly.

The next five contestants tried.  No one spelled it correctly.  I had messed up the middle part “mato” but later contestants got that right, partly because they asked the reader to pronounce it multiple times and he became clearer with each iteration.  However no one after me got the “poeia” part right – even though I had done so.  But of course they did not know that I had been correct in that part of the word.  Somehow sometime I just memorized that pat of the word.  The funny thing is that as Khiyali later told me “Onomatopoeia” was featured on “Teen Kids News,” a program that she watched today.  Had I watched it with her I might have gotten the word right.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I would have had a better finish in the spelling bee because I was the first person given that word.  So if I had gotten it right, they would have moved on to another word for the next person.  Oddly enough the spelling list included words like “tome’ and “strayed” along with more complex words like aristocracy and derogatory and even the high schoolers had to spell fahrenheit and conscience.

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Youghiogheny River. Photo: Michael Mccumber

Since no one spelled onomatopoeia correctly, no one was eliminated and all six of us came back to continue the spelling bee.   I don’t remember the next word that someone missed.   The word that stumped three of us, including me was Youghiogheny, which is the name of a river in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.   That left two contestants. We thought it was over when one of them misspelled cataclysmic … but then the other one did too and the contest continued. Voluptuous was the word that finished the bee and the winning speller was Janet Parker, stained glass artist and owner of Paned Expressions.

I don’t know if the name of the Youghiogheny river is by any chance onomatopoeic but I had actually not heard of this river and so was not at all expecting to be able to spell the name correctly.  Onomatopoeia on the other hand is one I should have gotten.  As it happened, Janet Parker later told me that she knew Yughiogheny “because it’s also the name of a stained glass manufacturer, located on that river.”  (The Yughiogheny Opalescent Glass Company.  Sounds like the name of a musical theatre show!)

After the spelling bee, Khiyali and I roamed around the farm fair, made a “soul collage” at one of the artisan’s stalls, saw all the prize-winning farm produce, baked goods, pickles, art and needlework and talked to a farmer about the grains they grew.  Though I had been excited by the prospect of being able to eat local grains, it turned out they sold their oats, rye and barley by the truckload out of state and no one sold it in local grocery stores.

On another note, the picklers encouraged us to enter the contest next year, and Khiyali told them about avakayi.

Edited to Add:

Press release from the Harford County Public Library here.

Announcement by Harford County Public Schools

The annual Literary Spelling Bee at the Harford County Farm Fair, hosted by the Harford County Public Library, was an…

Posted by Harford County Public Schools on Monday, August 10, 2015

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