Awards & Events

No Help from Spell Check

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BOARDMAN, Ohio — The team of Mahoning Valley Young Professionals who won last year’s adult spelling bee triumphed again Thursday — in sudden death.

The four members of the EIEIO team — Kim Urig, Michael Kovach, Gwen Brown and Amber Beall — spelled “kohlrabi” correctly after the Fast Five team missed the Germanic word with Italian roots for a vegetable also called turnip cabbage. It is a member of the mustard family.

But then, the EIEIO team would be expected to know how to spell the word: All have ties to farming with Kovach the owner of a beef farm and Urig, the captain, having grown up on a farm.

The Young Professionals held its third annual spelling bee at the Magic Tree Pub & Brewery to raise funds to help members defray the expenses they incur in the course of “professional development,” the club president, attorney Josh Hiznay, explained. Among the expenses subsidized are fees members pay to sit for licenses — CPA and teaching exams — and related travel expenses.

The vice president of the Young Professionals, Bob McGovern, a forecasting analyst at First Energy, brought a list of 200 words, many of them proper names, from the some of the most obscure and arcane sources. And those were just the American English words.

The Fast Five, however, had no trouble with the British spellings of words such as organization: Replace the “z” with an “s.”

McGovern relied heavily on foreign words — especially from the French used infrequently, most often in academic writing — and several foods with foreign names.

EIEIO feasted on the latter. Their opponents heard “andouille,” a spicy smoked sausage, “camembert,” a soft cheese, “Cointreau,” an orange-flavored liqueur, “tomatillo,” an edible yellow to purple viscid fruit native to Mexico, and suffered indigestion.

McGovern had a fondness for back-formations such as “chicane” (from chicanery), recent portmanteau coinages, such as “athleisure” and “mediquette,” and from computer games: “leetspeak,” “machinima” and some recent social science slang such as “broscience.”

Where in the first two rounds, the contestants consulted among themselves and wrote their answers on whiteboards, the last round required one member of a team to spell the word aloud.

Were a word misspelled, the other team was given the opportunity to spell it correctly. If the team did, it got the points.

The 10-word round began with EIEIO going first, spelling “Cumberbatch” (as in the actor Benedict) correctly.

Fast Five then spelled ”knackered,” a Britishism, correctly but the judges misheard its response. The judges’ mistake was quickly corrected.

Both sides spelled their last words correctly, “hieroglyphic” and “verisimilitude,” causing a tie at 42 points each.

Both misspelled “oeuvre” and “daguerreotype” before EIEIO got “transmediality.”

“Kohlrabi” went to Fast Five. No one was familiar with the vegetable. They took a stab but weren’t close.

Urig spelled it correctly, earning the win for EIEIO.

Afterward, the substitute elementary school teacher said, her team did not practice for last night’s bee. In preparation for the 2014 bee, Urig, Kovach, Brown and Beall culled dictionaries for lists of words and quizzed each other. This year it wasn’t overconfidence, Urig said, but a lack of time.

Pictured: Top Left: Josh Hiznay, president, Mahoning Valley Young Professionals, with team EIEIO. Top row, from left, Amber Beall and Kim Urig. Bottom row, Michael Kovach and Gwen Brown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.