Walk the Walk at Next Week's 'Chronicle'-Fadó Adult Spelling Bee

Ah, the Chronicle-Fadó Adult Spelling Bee. This Austin Public Library fundraiser comes around every fall, and the Chronicle proofreaders scramble to compile a new list of words tricky enough to stump the eerily smart hordes who show up and whose spelling abilities always belie the incredible amount of beer they’re drinking.

Even more strange than the size of the bee's audience and its general level of revelry and mayhem – I remember last year in particular watching a guy and two girls who, when they weren’t cheering, were joyously ballroom-dancing with each other at the back of the crowd – is the frenetic energy of all the people in charge as they run back and forth between the stage and their stacks of Merriam-Webster's.

This year's bee is Thursday, October 26 at Fadó with registration from 4:30pm-6. For more ...

Last year was the most bizarre year yet, as Inside Edition was in town to cover the bee – yes, they were doing a news story on spelling bees – which involved the news segment’s host participating as a contestant. She went out pretty quickly, and she was totally sober.

The exciting thing this year is that we have a new star pronouncer, Geoff Thevenot. Now, the pronouncer’s job isn’t easy – the words that are the hardest to spell are generally even harder to say, especially out loud, into a microphone, with 25 glory-hungry, drunk spellers staring you down. But Thevenot is a two-time Chronicle/Fadó spelling bee champion, so he can probably handle the pressure better than just about anybody. And having scored his current copy-editing job as a result of his first win (some people he met at the bar that night suggested he apply with their company), he understands what could be at stake for the evening’s contenders.

Of course, pronunciation can only go so far. Asked what advice he has for this year’s participants, Thevenot replied, “Know a lot of words and get lucky!” Once you’re past the initial rounds, he noted, “It's possible to make educated guesses based on your knowledge of how words are built, but some of them you either happen to know or you don't. You have to hope you don't get something really beastly like 'euphausiid,' 'rhabdocoele,' or 'aniseikonia.'"

Lest any potential contenders out there find his words daunting, here's a helpful list of Thevenot stats that might help you prepare when you’re taking breaks from reading the dictionary:

Geoff’s winning words: bimillenary, eristic
Geoff’s other talents: Scrabble (He was the runner-up in the U.S. Open Scrabble Championship last August, prompting an internal e-mail around the Chronicle office that began with: “This dude won our spelling bee twice!!”)
Geoff’s winning drink: Amstel Light
Geoff’s favorite spelling-bee prizes: Surprisingly, not Fadó’s “pint a day for a year” grand prize, since he doesn’t live near Downtown. Instead, he says, “The gift certificates to restaurants were nice, as were the various word-related gadgets.”

So there you have it: the legendary Chronicle/Fadó Adult Spelling Bee. Beloved by the Austin Public Library, Inside Edition, Thevenot, the country's second-best Scrabble player, and three ballroom dancers.

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Geoff Thevenot

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