Just Try Spelling That!

Image from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" Broadway production
Poster for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Championship" Broadway production

How do you spell cymotrichous? Or stromuhr?  Or prospicience?

Easy for you to say, you’re reading it! But could you glance away and spell them? National spelling bee champs have won with just these words.

Or how about some Yupik words, from a recent and perhaps first-ever Yupik spelling bee: curaq (blueberry), maklak (bearded seal), Kuineq (main channel of a river).

Yes, spelling bees are challenging, and as the poster above –  created for the 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” – suggests, they are standard elements of Americana, tucked deep into our collective psyche thanks to those formative years in elementary and middle school when we competed. Can you remember the word that sent you to your seat?

The style and image on the poster also suggests that spelling bees are quaint remnants of a time when girls wore pigtails and jumpers to school. With the onslaught of instant messaging and texting, is spelling still relevant? And why a Yupik spelling bee? How fun is that!

We’ll explore those ideas, and challenge you to spell some crazy words, when Hometown Alaska plays host to  three spelling bee champs:

  • Taia Fagerstrom, 2012 Alaska state E.W. Scripps spelling bee champ
  • Mitchell Kairaiuak, Yupik Spelling Bee champ
  • Katie Tunuchuk, Cultural / SEL teacher, Alaska native Cultural Charter School
  • Toby Widdicombe, BizBee champ and UAA English professor



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)

HOST: Kathleen McCoy

LIVE broadcast: Wednesday, May 9, 2012. 2:00 – 3:00 pm (Alaska time)

REPEAT BROADCAST: Wednesday, May 9, 2012. 7:00 – 8:00 pm (Alaska time)

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