In a society where spell checkers and auto-corrects render people's spelling faculties a tad lackadaisical — and offer hilarious faux pas on occasion — only the fearless would dare put their language prowess, or lack thereof, on trial.
Consider this: Could you spell puissant, moiety, hessian, princox, scrutator or malacia, words that don't appear in some digital dictionaries, under pressure?
Following cocktails and amuse-gueules in the Julia Ideson Library's atrium, contestants and their groupies marched right up to the reading room and Tudor Gallery, ushered by 1920s jazzy riffs courtesy of the lively Leo Polk jazz quartet for dinner prepared by Jackson and Co.
In a setting that resembled a tableau right out of To Kill A Mockingbird, the Spanish Revival stylings of the bibliothèque were charmingly suited for Houston Center for Literacy's "21st Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee" Thursday, where a scholarly yet au courant assemblage of 250 converged in support of the nonprofit's vocation to make illiteracy a thing of the past.
Last year's defending champs, attorneys Matthew Behncke and Ryan Caughey of Susman Godfrey, relinquished their title to Houston Bar Association's wordsmiths Linda Marshall and Ben Wickert.
Forget Words with Friends. This orthography feud wasn't your stereotypical affair of proper Ps and Qs. Witty pronouncer Meredith Walker, co-creator and executive producer of Smart Girls at the Party, and Nic Phillips, dressed as a studious school principal of sorts, offered waggish clues as, "He wanted to be the flâneur of Houston society, but he lived with his mother — outside the Loop."
Teams including the Missing Vowels, The Bee-lievers and Spell-You-Later faired well during the first few rounds. But at the conclusion, last year's defending champs, attorneys Matthew Behncke and Ryan Caughey of Susman Godfrey, relinquished their title to Houston Bar Association's wordsmiths Linda Marshall and Ben Wickert.
The winning riddle? From French, enceinte, meaning pregnant.
Chairs Isabel and Danny David and Heather and Rob Safi honored Linsay and Jeremy Radcliffe's tireless commitment to the nonprofit's services that enable tutors like Steve McCarthy to help adults learners like Nicholas Beauregard, who hopes to enroll at Houston Community College to study culinary arts. Handwritten testimonials from other language learners reminded guests that Houston Center for Literacy changes people's lives.
This bee roused patrons to gather $155,000 and Wells Fargo to pledge $50,000 for HCL president and CEO Sheri Suarez Foreman's literacy awareness campaign.
Dotting I's and crossing the T's were Phoebe Tudor, Gracie Cavnar, Leisa Holland-Nelson and daughter Laura, Mark Sullivan, Peter Remington, Marita Fairbanks, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Sally Kolenda, Jen and Steve Dolman, Angie Wickert, William Griffin (who took a new position as region executive and managing director at U.S. Trust), Council Member Jerry Davis, Holly and Steve Radom, Molly Hubbard, Campbell Eitler and Susan Criner.