So, what does the acronym PRASE stand for?

After three years in the running, the “B”ee Team finally proved that it was better than “just above average” at the annual United Way Spelling Bee yesterday.

The irrepressible Alison Collins-Mrakas, flitting around in a yellow cap and tiny wings, was the only finalist who wasn’t stumped by the superword – deoxyribonucleic. The other three, all the best spellers on their teams, were more inclined towards something like dioxiribonucleic. “How did you know how to spell that word, Alison?” asked an awed fellow competitor after the champion “B”ee team posed for a photo. “I have a master’s degree in environmental science!” she said.

Left: From left, Bee organizer Carolyn McDougall, Bee moderator (and Vice-President University Relations) Jennifer Sloan, “B”ee Team Elizabeth Monier-Williams, Alison Collins-Mrakas, Donna Smith and Joan Broussard, and Bee MC Yvette Munro 

The spelling bee and lunch bring to an end this year’s United Way campaign at York, which raised about $150,000 through pledges and special events.

Four four-member teams competed this year, slightly fewer than last. Whatever their education, competitors went for the hard stuff first. As in the TV game show “Jeopardy”, they could choose from a range of categories and values from 100 to 500 points. Jeff Ball, a member of The Communicators and the first to go, picked Name That Tune for 500. He spelled syncopation without skipping a beat.

Time flew as competitors whipped through words like concerto, perjury and paradigm and stumbled on malfeasance, erythromycin and Farquharson in six categories: Name That Tune (musical terms), Kant Spell (philosophical terms), Law & Order (legal terms), I Get Around (transportation terms), U Are Here (campus places), What’s Up Doc (medical terms) and the dreaded York University Acronyms (The “B”ee Team’s Donna Smith owned this category where others feared to go).

Right: Jeff Ball of The Communicators sets the bar 

After the first round, the best speller from each team was asked to spell a word on paper and bet the team’s points. The “B”ee Team, led by Donna Smith from the Vice-President Research & Innovation office, emerged the champions and took home a plaque. In second place were the AKADEMIX, led by Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt and representing the Vice-President Academic & Provost office. In third place were the DivAS (Advancement Spellers), led by Lindsay Reid with members from the Alumni Office and the York University Foundation. And keeping up their tradition of bringing up the rear were The Communicators, led by Martha Tancock from the University Relations Division.

This year’s words are listed below from hard to hardest in each category. Competitors stumbled on the ones in bold. 

Name That Tune: concerto, synthesizer, mariachi, syncopation
Kant Spell: paradigm, antithesis, syllogism, existentialism, epistemological
Law & Order: perjury, accomplice, capricious, penitentiary, malfeasance
I Get Around: commuter, pedestrian, Giambrone, Sherbourne, agglomeration
U Are Here: Boyer, Steacie, Maloca, McLaughlin, Farquharson
What’s Up Doc: abscess, appendicitis, diarrhea, erythromycin
YUA (York University Acronyms – what they stand for): HNES, PRASE, WHMIS, ABEL

Think this was a breeze? Bee their next yeer and proove it!

Left: Alison Collins-Mrakas, champion finalist in her bee thinking cap