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Word Nerds Studying for AARP National Spelling Bee

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 By Lori AbbottContact
May 29, 2009

Some call themselves "word nerds," others prefer the term "wordsmith." They're all gearing up for the 2009 AARP National Spelling Bee. Early birds from all over the country have already signed up.

Kate Karp in Long Beach has booked her trip to Wyoming. She says her love of spelling is part of a lifetime of learning, and she has even announced at spelling bees for students. While some spellers actually read the dictionary to prepare, Karp's study routine focuses on common spelling errors.

"I'll look at certain parts of our language that are confusing, for example, the 'a-b-l-e' and 'i-b-l-e' suffixes."

Karp made it to the finals last year.

Joe Dickmann, Richmond Heights, MO., has gathered together study lists, including some he received when helping his kids in spelling bees when they were younger. He and his wife, Carolyn, are competing. They often spend evenings passing the dictionary back and forth.

"It's so hit-and-miss. You could study 10,000 words and none of those would be in the bee, and then the one after where you stopped could be the one you get."

Carolyn Dickmann says, just knowing the English language is not enough, because all kinds of foreign words pop up during competition.

"The ones that really bug me are the Gaelic ones, because they don't sound anything like they look."

All words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary are fair game. The bee takes place on June 20 and is open to everyone age 50 and older. More information is available at

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