Metro Morning

'The Spelling Bae' adds beer and Internet slang to traditional spelling bees

If colouring books for adults can become successful, what other children's activities can be made into adult versions? How about spelling bees?

Can you use it in a sentence, please?

Looking up words to give contestants at the Spelling Bae, a monthly event hosted by Eli Burnstein at The Ossington. (The Spelling Bae/Facebook)

If colouring books for adults can become successful, what other children's activities can be made into adult versions?

How about spelling bees?

Eli Burnstein organizes the Spelling Bae, a grown up spelling bee at a pub on Ossington that combines our love of trivia-style competition with the beauty of language and, of course, alcohol. It's a chance to indulge in the sound of words, learn something about them through their definitions, and engage in the language we use every day.

"Bae," of course, is Millennial-speak for a romantic partner or loved one. That's important to the spelling bee as Burnstein tries to incorporate newer language with traditional spelling.

It goes like this: at the beginning of the night, the bar's confident spellers sign up to receive a number. After drinks are bought and seats are found, Burnstein calls out the numbers, the person with the corresponding number arrives at the front of the bar and spells a word that Burnstein reads aloud.

"You feel a sense of pressure as a participant, that's for sure," Burnstein told Metro Morning of the game. "It takes you out of your comfort zone."

But besides the beverages, the same rules apply as a normal spelling bee: you can ask for usage, definition, and you will be eliminated if you get the word wrong.

The night began as an obligation that Burnstein took on. Years ago, his friends invited him to a spelling bee at the Annex bar The Green Room. The rules were, if you win, you host the next one.

He got the word "triptych" and spelled it correctly. He hosted the next spelling bee, and had fun doing it. Eventually he took over all hosting duties, and introduced The Spelling Bae last year.

"Online, it's easy to see what we've lost in language over time — the formality, the 'correct' usage of English," he said. "But you might miss out on what we've actually gained. Language is always evolving, and there's so much linguistic evolution online.This spelling bee is a way to celebrate our language, both new words and old."

The most impressive word he's ever seen someone spell is chthonic, which means concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld.

"There can be tense moments and great moments of triumph. Witnessing all of that human emotion is a great way to spend your night," he said.

The Spelling Bae takes the first Tuesday of every month at The Ossington, starting at 8pm.


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