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California Speller Is Letter Perfect in Win

Lawyer David Riddle doesn't miss a word on his way to taking the U.S. senior title.

June 19, 2005|From Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — California lawyer David Riddle was anything but paralyzed Saturday as he correctly spelled 14 words -- culminating with "ptosis," or limpness of a limb or eyelid caused by paralysis -- to win the National Senior Spelling Bee.

The bee's 2 1/2 -hour oral round allowed two misspelled words before competitors had to bow out, but Riddle didn't misspell a single word in out-spelling 15 other competitors, all over age 50.

In addition to "ptosis," he also aced "myrmidons" (people who carry out orders unquestioningly), "oligophagous" (eating only a few specific kinds of food) and "mulligatawny" (a soup usually made of chicken stock and seasoned with curry). Riddle won $100 for first prize; second place was worth $50, and third place $25.

"They got increasingly difficult. But they were words that I was familiar with, so I felt lucky about that," said Riddle, 52, who is from Pacific Grove, near Monterey, and is an attorney for military members at the Defense Language Institute.

Riddle won the Oregon state spelling bee in Aurora earlier this year. This was his first try at the senior national title, but he won't be allowed to compete in the bee again now that he's won.

"This is fun stuff. It's too bad I can't be back," he said.

The runner-up at last year's National Senior Spelling Bee finished second again.

Bill Long, a law professor at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., missed "connoisseur" and "terpsichorean" (anything having to do with dancing) and finally "cappelletti" (stuffed pasta in the shape of tiny hats).

He tied for second with LaRae Lawson, 61, a proofreader and former medical transcriptionist from Stockton, forcing a runoff round. Lawson misspelled "ctenophore" (a type of marine animal resembling jellyfish) and Long correctly spelled "logorrhea" (excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness).

Long prepared for the bee by studying all the eligible words in the 1,459-page Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition. After competing at the Oregon state bee -- and hearing that Riddle was going to compete in Cheyenne -- he suspected that Riddle was going to be the one to beat to win the national title.

"David is a wonderful speller. So it was a good competition," Long said.

Lawson had never competed in a spelling bee before.

"I'm glad that David won't be back, because I will be back," she said.

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