I’ll spell it, I’m an i-d-i-o-t

I’ve experienced this sort of nervous fear before.


• The first time I walked into a strip club.

Like walking into a haunted house, I honestly didn’t know what was going to jump out.

• My wife’s first ultrasound when she was pregnant with our son.

From the first home pregnancy test until that morning at the OB’s office, I was convinced we were having septuplets.

• The exact moment our son emerged from the birth canal and I could see that he had arms and legs and neither horns nor pincers nor a conjoined twin.

Clear back in seventh grade, I rode a friend’s dad’s bean sprayer one summer out near Scranton for some spending money.

I was screwing around and managed to take a shot of herbicide to the face — a mishap that I feared instantly altered my DNA forever, like in the opening credits of the old “Incredible Hulk” show with Bill Bixby when he’s subjecting himself to gamma radiation.

At any rate, I’m both a nervous ninny and a worry wart, which, recalling what Dean Wormer said in “Animal House,” is only a slightly better way to go through life than being fat, drunk and stupid.

I’ve been recruited to be the official pronouncer — is that even a word? — at this weekend’s spelling bee during the Bell Tower Festival, and that has me freaked out, to say the least.

When Roger Aegerter, of the Greene County Historical Society, came in a few weeks ago to seek my participation, he no doubt was thinking, “I’ll go get the local newspaper editor. He knows a lot about words.”

I accepted, but only for the same reason illiterate people don’t come right out and admit they can’t read.

It’s purely a matter of pride.

But now, with the annual spelling bee set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Greene County Community Center, the ugly truth is about to be revealed.

Yes, folks, for a man who makes a living as a writer, I have a shockingly limited grasp of the English language.

At my former newspaper in Ohio, I was actually part of a spelling bee team that won a charity spelling bee. Admittedly, though, my only contribution came in the first round, when I stepped up and spelled “comic.”

Afterward, it fell to me to write a caption to accompany a photo running in the paper about the newspaper’s spelling bee team victory.

I misspelled two words in the caption.

My wife, who briefly was an English major, revels in pointing out my limited vocabulary.

I always counter with, “I’m like an old bluesman in Mississippi who can’t read music.

“I just feel it.”

Whatever the case, it’s always good for a few laughs at home.

Like, for example, the time we were joking around and I blurted, with the straightest of faces, “You ‘insulin’ dog!”

I meant “insolent,” as in “showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect,” not “insulin,” as in what a diabetic needs.

I didn’t once vote for George W. Bush, but I can at least empathize with the guy.

Come Saturday, get ready to hear the equivalent of George W. Bush at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Aegerter on Tuesday dropped off a three-ring binder containing the words I’m supposed to pronounce.

It’s as bad as I feared.

Oh, I could give the first and second-graders a run for their money.

They get words like “mint” and “grass.”

I could dominate the middle schoolers like a Pakistani doctor’s son.

But looking at the words for the ninth graders and beyond, I can now see clearly at which point in life my career as a class clown began.


Don’t have a clue how to pronounce it.

And, to add insult to injury, I suspect it’s something from geometry.

In 10th grade, Dale Stephens (God rest his soul) once gave me an “F+” in geometry.

Not an F. An F+.

To paraphrase the Dos Equis guy, “I don’t always fail, but when I do, I fail with style.”

So, I wish this weekend’s spellers the best of luck in advance.

And I also apologize in advance.

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