Sociocracy at Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee

A first for “sociocracy.” You know you have made it onto the red carpet or some carpet when your name appears in a national spelling bee.

In the 72nd Annual Bee held in May of 1999, fourteen-year-old Benjamin R. Locklair, an eighth-grader at Columbia Middle School in Grovetown near Augusta, Georgia, successfully spelled “croustade” and “sociocracy.”

The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee

Scripps National Spelling Bee LogoThe National Spelling Bee was started by a collaboration of nine newspapers in 1925. In 1941, the EW Scripps Company took over sponsorship which has held annual contests every year except 1943-1945, during WW II.

The program experienced steady growth between the 1920s and the 1970s, and between 1980 and 1990 the number of participants doubled. Live coverage of the finals began in 1947 and they now appear on ESPN.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Home Page

Origin of the Term Spelling Bee

The term spelling bee, is a language puzzles never satisfactorily explained. It refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.) usually to help one person or family. The earliest example in print is spinning bee from 1769. Others are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827), and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee first appeared in print in 1875, but had probably been in use for several years.
Many assume “bee” came from the insect, inspired by the similarity between quilting and apple bees and the industrious, social nature of beehives. It is probable, however, that bee has a different source.  The Middle English word bene means “a prayer” or “a favor.” In England, a dialect form of this word, been or bean, referred to “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task.” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary).
It seems probable that bee is a shortened form of been, perhaps encouraged by the look of the bees. No one knows for sure.

Hill, Raven. “Henry teen makes cut, advances in spelling bee.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 June 1999: B2. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 26 July 2012.

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