York’s Not Your Average Spelling Bee challenges players

Spell anthropomorphism. How about subterranean? Those were just two of the words team members in York’s inaugural Not Your Average Spelling Bee, in support of the United Way, were asked to spell.

Last Thursday’s spelling bee, organized by the Office of University Events & Community Relations (UECR), was a pan-University event that attracted students, faculty and staff in support of York’s United Way fundraising campaign. The Not Your Average Spelling Bee raised $500 toward the United Way’s current campaign goal of $200,000. For $12, participants and members of the audience received a buffet lunch with proceeds going to the United Way.

“For an inaugural event, we are very pleased with the funds raised and also for the support from departments and offices throughout the University. It was good fun and all for a great cause and we look forward to hosting this annually,” said Sylvia Zingrone, UECR executive director.

Above: York University faculty and staff compete in the first Not Your Average Spelling Bee

“It was so much fun,” said Selwyn McSween, senior adviser, case resolution, in the Centre for Human Rights and a member of the Rights R Us team. “Even the people who did not succeed were having so much fun.”

Not Your Average Spelling Bee combined elements of both a traditional spelling bee and the popular television game show "Jeopardy".

Right: Selwyn McSween spells a word at the Not Your Average Spelling Bee

Team members chose words from the following categories: Grade 8 Spelling Champs, with words from CanWest’s Canspell National Spelling Bee; I Love Science; Latin Words & Phrases; All About the Arts; Let’s Eat, words and phrases associated with food and dining; Text Me, text message phrases that the spellers had to decipher; and Read the Fine Print, which included words found in legal and business affairs.

The Rights R Us team, from the Centre for Human Rights, won the spelling bee with 300 points. “It was a very big surprise,” said McSween. “We didn’t really plan to win. We came to have fun and to be good civic players, but I’m happy that we won. Now we have another symbol to mark our team’s spirit.”

In addition, there were teams from the Faculty of Education, Marketing & Communications, the Registrar’s Office and the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost. Triskaidekaphobia, meaning a fear of the number 13, was the final word participants had to spell.

Left: Alice Pitt (left), moderator of the spelling bee with members of the winning team Rights R Us – Noël Badiou, Selwyn McSween, Darren Edwards and Zahida Kothdiwala

Some of the other words the spelling bee participants tackled included crystallization, aficionado, insolvency, baba ghanouj, auxiliary, isosceles, langoustine, aesthetic, exculpatory, prima facie and aneurysm. 

Each member of the winning team will receive a personalized and framed certificate of recognition and the winning team’s name will be engraved on a plaque in UECR, which, as Zingrone noted, hopes to make the Not Your Average Spelling Bee an annual event in support of the United Way.