Yesterday we watched in amazement as 14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde, an 8th grader from New Orleans, spelled her way to win the 2021 Scripps Spelling Bee. The winning word was Murraya (phonetically pronounced “muh-ree-yuh”) which is defined as “a genus belonging to the Rutaceae family, a citrus family of flowering plants.” I never heard of it, let alone ever had an occasion to pronounce it. I would have found myself sitting down at the event long before this introduction of this word, so kudos to Zaila and all of the other young super spellers. But did you ever wonder what spelling has to do with bees?
According to the internet, the word bee historically has been used to describe a get-together for communal work, like a husking bee or a quilting bee. The word bee probably comes from dialectal been or bean, meaning “help given by neighbors.”
Spelling bees originated in the United States in the 1800s as a way to motivate students to learn standardized spelling and were organized locally through towns and schools. The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925 in Washington D.C. and since then the activity has expanded to other countries and other age groups. However, no matter how large or elaborate the event becomes, the heart of every spelling bee is a celebration of scholarship and community.
The Library’s Community Spelling Bee returns on October 1. We invite you to “bee” a part of it—-form a team, be a sponsor or come to the event and cheer on the spellers. It’s a great event that help supports a great community service and a wonderful way to reconnect with your friends and neighbors. See you at the Bee!