We overheard a funny conversation between a flower and a bee the other day in the Wonderopolis garden:
Flower: Hey bee! Buzz off!
Flower: I said buzz off! You're bothering me!
Flower: Can't you talk? Why do you keep spelling everything?
Bee: Bee…cause…I'm a spelling bee!
If you've ever participated in a spelling bee, you already know that they don't have anything to do with the flying insects we call bees. Instead, they're competitions that pit spellers against one another in a contest to see who can spell the most words correctly.
No one knows for sure where the term “bee" came from, but some linguists believe the word may have come from the Old English word for “prayer." The word “bee" has been used to describe any kind of gathering for the purpose of doing some specific action.
For example, a quilting bee is a get-together for the purpose of quilting. Likewise, a spelling bee is a gathering for the purpose of spelling!
Historians believe spelling contests got their start from Noah Webster's spelling books, often called “The Blue-backed Speller." These books, first published in 1786, were a key part of elementary school curricula for over 50 years.
The United States National Spelling Bee was started by The Courier-Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. It was held for the first time in Washington, D.C., in 1925. The winner, Frank Neuhauser, got to meet President Calvin Coolidge.
Today, spelling bees are often held locally in schools every year all around the nation. Local winners may then compete in district-wide contests. Eventually winners compete on a city-, county- and state-wide basis until a select few winners advance to the national competition.
The National Spelling Bee has become very popular in recent years. How popular? So popular that you can now watch the National Spelling Bee on television on ESPN! The next time your teacher asks for volunteers for the school spelling bee, raise your hand and get involved. You never know when you might “bee" the next champion and see yourself live on television!