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Everett library’s spelling bee calls for word lovers

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By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Columnist
Eleemosynary. It means charitable, supported by charity, or free.
Could you spell it if you heard it?
It's on a list Eileen Simmons calls "assassination words." Simmons, director of the Everett Public Library, needs such a list just in case. If too many smart spellers compete at the Spelldown next month, the thing could last all night.
"It can't go on forever," Simmons said Tuesday.
Three-person teams are studying word lists to get ready for the Spelldown: A Spelling Bee for Grown Ups. The third annual bee is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Everett Performing Arts Center. Proceeds from the Friends of Everett Public Library event support library programs. About $14,000 has been raised each year, including sponsor donations, Simmons said. Three-person teams pay $100, but the bee is free for audience members.
Anne Lambert was talked into joining a team two years ago by her friend Kinuko Noborikawa.
"I am a library and book fan, but didn't like the idea of getting up in front of people to spell," Lambert said. Nevertheless, she agreed to try it that first year.
With another team member, Therese Quinn, they represented the Communities of Color Coalition. They won the 2010 grand prize, a box of kitschy items from Archie McPhee & Co., a toy and novelty shop.
Last year, when Quinn wasn't available, Noborikawa and Lambert recruited another member and renamed their team the Spellaphobics. Again, they bested every other team.
There are still slots open for teams this year. Simmons hopes for 25 to 30 teams. Winners will get a higher class of prizes, glass pumpkins from the Schack Art Center.
The library's band, Johnny Diphthong and the Enunciators, will be back this year, and Everett attorney Vickie Norris will act as emcee. Judging will have an authentic look, with Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes and Judge J. Robert Leach of the state Court of Appeals taking on that duty.
Serious spellers may want to pore over hundreds of pages of words on the library's website that could come up in competition. The reigning champions insist they hardly studied.
"After we won that first year, people asked 'How much did you study?' We got together maybe two nights before," Noborikawa said. "We opened the dictionary -- and had cheese and crackers and wine."
Miss a word and you're not out for good. Teams, or friends of teams, can buy their way back into competition instead of being eliminated. The first buy-back is $50; by the fourth and final time it costs $300.
In years past, Trish Lyon's teams have come in second. The Monroe woman joined co-workers on the Court Jesters team in 2010. Last year, she talked her adult children into competing with her -- as the Cowardly Lyons.
Her son Josiah Lyon didn't like that name and asked for a change this year. "He brought it to my attention that Snoop Dogg is now Snoop Lion -- so we're the Snoop Lyons," she said. They'll wear jogging suits, not lion wigs.
She never made it to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but Lyon is a skilled speller. As a teen, she won a gold watch at a spelling bee.
At a previous Spelldown, she correctly spelled the word for a crown worn by ancient Egyptian kings: pschent. She and her daughter, Christina Lyon, have laughed about another word, aitch. "It means the letter H," she said.
Rebecca Vigil, a teacher at Everett's North Middle School, will be back this year with her Smarmy Schoolmarms team. "My costume is ready," she said.
Several of my brave Herald colleagues ("Buzz" writers, you know who you are) formed a Spelldown team two years ago. I'm not that nervy. Maybe you are.
"What fun -- smart and funny people compete," Lyon said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,
Spelling bee
The third annual Spelldown: A Spelling Bee for Grown Ups is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. There are openings for three-person teams. The event, a fundraiser for Friends of Everett Public Library, is free for audience members. Entry fee is $100 per team. For rules and entry forms: or email Eileen Simmons,
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