Eugene Cho

how the spelling bee made me afraid of death

spellingbee

In honer of the 2008 2009 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee witch is going on wright now [June 2-4] in Washington DC, I give you two heelarious videose.

How did this simple contest that began in 1925 turn out to be a global phenomenon?  Just check out the TV coverage on the event including live prime time coverage on ABC and ESPN.

Truthe be told, I’m a goode speler myselfe.  I plazed therd place in the San Francysco Pubic Skool Speling Bee when I was in seventhe greade.

Two gerls beet me.  Who gave these gerls azzess to edukation.  I thoght the Bible said they should be quite and sumbit, stay home, make babyies, and make my diner.

And in case you’re curious what word tripped me, it was this damn word.  I was too scared to spell it correctly.  I spelled it:  THANATHOPHOBIA. I will never ever forget that word.  And I’m still scared of death.

Thanatophobia

the fear of death or dead things (e.g., corpses) as well as things associated with death (e.g., coffins). Necrophobia is derived from Greek nekros for “corpse” and -phob- for “fear“. Thanatophobia is derived from Thanatos (θάνατος: “death”), the personification of death. The usage differs, although in common speech the terms are used interchangeably. Thanatophobia is more specifically, but not limited to the fear of one’s own death or dying.  It is a subconscious production in the defense mechanism of the mind, which makes you avoid certain circumstances in life. Some symptoms are shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, dry mouth, shaking, feeling sick or queasy, psychological instability, and a feeling of dread.

Question:

Alright, spell [damn, I’m good] your beans.  If you were in the spelling bee, what word did you get outed on?  We’ll give some sort of prize for the biggest loser.  Or if you won your contest, what was the winning word?

And in case you’re wondering:  Of the 83 previous champions, the score is 43 girls and 40 boys.  Anyway, here are the two videos.  The first is my all-time favorite.  The guys faints.  No one helps him.  He gets up and spells the word correctly and goes back to his seat. Clutch!

And here’s a plug for a GREAT movie:  Akeelah and the Bee.  One of our family favorites. Great movie.  Inspiring.

AKEELAH AND THE BEE is the story of Akeelah Anderson, a precocious eleven-year-old girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother, She enters various spelling contests- tutored by Dr. Larabee; her principal and proud neighborhood residents. Her aptitude earns her an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Filed under: entertainment, family, , ,

34 Responses

  1. J. P. says:

    Don’t forget the documentary Spellbound, which follows eight students before and during the 1999 Bee.

    I was (and still am, I guess) a word freak, so my winning words in seventh grade were megalopolis and ottoman. Then, I misspelt delicious as deliscious in the city-wide round–nerves! In eighth grade, I got eliminated on the equally inane twelfth, spelling it phonetically as twelvth, again nerves. Arrrrgh! One thing’s for sure–I will NEVER forget the correct spelling of any of these words.

  2. J. P. says:

    p.s. here’s the trailer for Spellbound.

  3. hopewanders says:

    8th grade–won on acetylsalicyclic. 100$!

  4. eugenecho says:

    @hopewanders: what?!? wow. blake: if you’re reading this, she’s a keeper.

  5. J. P. says:

    @hopewanders, it’s actually acetylsalicylic (only three c’s)… and there were no cash prizes at my schools!

    I have to credit the awesome Speak & Spell toy for making words so much fun early on. Anyone else remember them?

  6. Airn says:

    Okay. That second video had me in TEARS!!!😀 I lost in 4th grade: garbage. WORST FEELING EVER.

    I just started reading your blog (found it through the Maria Chapman post) and I’m looking forward to visiting Quest on my trip to San Fran!

  7. goldfearsnofire says:

    Hey Eugene, I just wanted you to know that you spelled the word “which” wrong in your first sentence. Pretty embarrassing. I did my undergrad in English, and I´m an English teacher now, so I know how to spell good..and stuff

    ….like, and such as.

    Hope you are well. I often find myself anticipating my return to Seattle and to my home at Quest, but as for now, am thrilled to be living the adventure that the Lord has been leading me on here in Germany! God is very good around the globe, and I am so thankful for the opportunity experience his love, blessing, and redemption in a new context…pretty cool.

    So, I wish you a good few weeks in Seattle, and also safe travels as you prepare for your Sabbatical. Enjoy it! best, drew kreeger

  8. Rachael says:

    our school just had their spelling bee yesterday. I teach nonEnglish speakers and had two kids in my class make it to the finals! We watched Akeelah afterwards. It was inspiring for them as well. They had never seen anything like that before. They enjoyed watching your YouTube highlights, thanks!

  9. Randall says:

    @J.P. I had a speak and spell. I loved it but I still suck at spelling. Probably because I used to type four-letter words into the Speak and Spell just to hear it’s TTS voice swear in that awesome computer voice.

  10. Ann says:

    @goldfearsnofire,

    I think Eugene spelled it incorrectly intentinonally.

  11. jimfox says:

    7th grade… I uhhhh… I got kicked out in the first round on “adamant.” The worst part? I was a huge Adam Ant fan… oh, the humiliation.

  12. joanne says:

    oh wow… this is funny!

  13. dmowen says:

    I didn’t see Akeelah and the Bee, but Spellbound was a pretty good/entertaining documentary. I got knocked out of the bee in maybe 5th or 6th grade because I couldn’t spell “scissors”.

  14. Ashley says:

    For folks who enjoyed the movie SPELLBOUND, you might also enjoy a movie called WORDPLAY, a documentary about crossword puzzles and their evolution. Very, very cool stuff, and lots of cameos by people and celebs you probably like (Jon Stewart, etc). Check it out!

  15. John Scott says:

    “Chocolate is O sooo good.” That’s my mantra after I lost the school spelling bee by spelling ‘choclate’ (it was down to 4th grade me & a 5th grade girl). Argh…

    Akeelah and the Bee was a fantastic movie!

  16. JB says:

    Clerk (not clerck) and Soldier (not solder). First round both times. Then I gave up. Spell Check changed my life.

  17. eugenecho says:

    @JB: i hate to say this but thus far, your #1 on the biggest loser list.

  18. hopewanders says:

    hahaha…apparently, my spelling skills have taken a hit since 8th grade.

  19. Linda says:

    In 5th grade, after about 6 of my classmates incorrectly spelled “likelihood” for the chance to compete in the schoolwide spelling bee, I was about as excited as the girl in the 2nd video because my turn was coming and I KNEW how to spell it! So as it got to my turn, my mind was on two things: excitement at knowing how to spell a word no one else could, and wondering why consecutive people continued to attempt to spell the word the same incorrect way the previous person just did. In any case, those thoughts along with nerves caused me to blabber “l-i-c-k-l-i-h-o-o-d” and I’ve never forgiven myself.

  20. Andrea says:

    The fact that I don’t remember any spelling bees in school says it all.

  21. ryanbd says:

    @eugene – sometime you have to go to iTunes and drop 1.99 each on ESPN’s “Cheap Seats” episodes “1994 Spelling Bee” & “1997 Spelling” – they cover the Bees from your videos. Sooooooo funny. It’s kind of like “Myster Science Theater 3000” meets Sportscenter.

  22. Erika says:

    Guardian. fourth grade. It was down to two of us and I was sure I would win . I can still see my mom’s face… from a bright, hopeful smile to a serious, ‘oh no’ look. But the “G…A…” was already out of my mouth. Too late!

  23. Stephanie says:

    5th grade. We were in the library. I was in the final 3. The word was “Breathe.” I proceeded to spell “B-R-E-A-T-H. Breathe.” Wrong.

    But it’s okay.. the girl who won the 5th grade spelling bee ran against me for class president our junior year, and I beat her. I counted it as victory for my little 12 year old self.

  24. Steve says:

    “Who gave these gerls azzess to edukation.” I almost read “azzess” as something else… spelling counts!

  25. Rusty says:

    In the 7th grade I went on on emcee. Yeah, emcee. How ridiculous is that? I spelled it M.C.

  26. me says:

    @rusty: OMG. sorry. i just laughed so hard… thanks!

  27. gar says:

    anybody watch the spelling bee? the winning word was LAODICEAN!

    http://www.angryasianman.com/2009/05/new-spelling-bee-champion.html

    pastor e, you woulda rocked that word.

  28. Steve N says:

    4th grade loser – recommendation…I cannot read the word without my thoughts spelling it out.

    5th grade winner – pistachio…I wonder where Mom put the trophy of the golden bee perched atop its pedistel

    ….just checking if you’re spellcheckin’

  29. burkmomx4 says:

    my daughter was at the national bee this week. she didn’t make the semifinals.
    I got out in the first round of my city spelling bee in 5th grade on apiece. Forgot the i before e rule!

  30. There was a great episode in the first season of “Psych” about a spelling bee. It was pretty awesome and made me think of you, PE.🙂 http://amzn.to/dj0snJ

  31. Alex Oh says:

    I remember watching Rebecca Sealfon on T.V. when I was young. I remember another peculiar thing she did. She would answer with one letter, then cover her mouth, whisper a little bit, and then spell the next letter, then cover her mouth, whisper a little bit…and so on until she finished spelling the word.

  32. verseo says:

    I sometimes feel sorry for the contestants because they are so nervous and under so much pressure.

    Kudos to the winner, but for the loser…. I’m so sorry for the loss.

  33. Bryan says:

    spellings not my thing

    Can’t even spell burrido correctly, and I had like a million of em

  34. Joel says:

    Spellbound is my favorite movie of all time.

    I got out on “essential” in the regional spelling bee in 2nd grade.

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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