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Posted at 03:12 PM ET, 05/30/2012

Mitt Romney’s ‘Amercia’ vs. the Scripps National Spelling Bee


AMURRICA! (Mary Altaffer - Associated Press)

Oxon Hill, MD –

Word: Amercia.

Language of Origin: Dubious.

Use in a sentence? According to his smartphone app, Mitt Romney wants to create “a better Amercia.”

Use in another sentence? “I LOVE AMERCIA SO MCUH!”

Definition: Stupid mistake by an app developer that we are probably putting too much effort into mocking.

Are there any alternate pronunciations? “Aaargh.”

Spelling is an outdated, pointless, patrician pursuit.

Until it’s not.

Most of us cannot spell. That is why we have phones.

So the Scripps National Spelling Bee is usually an exercise in pointlessly abstruse knowledge.

I could not spell “meiji” or “fantoccini” or whatever those strange sub-tropical creatures are that keep rearing their heads in the bee. “Coati”? “Echt”? The only sentence I could manage for most of these is “Echt! Get that coati out of my garage!”

“I can’t go into the office today, I have a bad case of paranomasia.”

If we were completely honest about our relationship to words, we would admit that as a nation the only way we can tell if a word has been misspelled is if a thin red line appears beneath it. And even then! Why bang our heads against the tough ones? Simple words are better. Even Congress has given up on the sesquipedalians and now contents itself with speaking at a 10th-grade level. And that’s still higher than most of us can catch.

But there are certain exceptions. POTATO is one. No, Dan Quayle, there is nothing on the end! Go back to third grade!

AMERICA is another.

Most of us could not spell “phraseology” if our lives depended on it. In fact, most of us could not spell “potato” if our lives depended on it. When your life depends on things like that, it is apt to make you nervous and bewildered and give you the urge to put extraneous A’s everywhere.

But just let someone running for office gets an easy word wrong. Then we leap at him. P-O-T-A-T-O-E? A child can spell that! Bring out the dogs!

And AMERCIA is especially embarrassing.

Never apologize for AMERICA! has been a motto of the campaign. But for Amercia, you have to apologize.

Maybe it was harder than it looked. I went to the spelling bee to find out.

“Spell America,” I asked contestants Kayla Sheffield and Caitlin Hillery. Kayla rattled it off instantly. “A-M-E-R-I-C-A.”

“That’s not what I’ve been hearing lately,” I said.

“Really?” They glanced at each other, aghast.

I explained that Mitt Romney’s new app had offered an alternate spelling. Perhaps, I tried to imply by my manner, he knew something we didn’t. After all, he had attended a prestigious high school whose name sounded like an ocean fruit beverage. Perhaps all this spelling nonsense was outdated and ridiculous. These days you don’t have to be right as long as you’re loud.

“You probably would get more people to vote for you if you can spell,” Caitlin said.

Even now.

“It’s kinda awkward to go around changing the name of the nation,” Kayla chimed in.

“How about POTATO?” I asked.

They laughed.

Update May 31, 5:11 PM: As often happens when one writes about spelling or grammar, I misspelled a word in the original version of this post. Caitlin Hillery, who correctly spelled “fantoccini” in Round Three of competition, has informed me that I put too few C’s in on the first go-round. It is fixed now, I hope.

By  |  03:12 PM ET, 05/30/2012

Tags:  spelling

 
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