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At This Year's National Spelling Bee, 'Serrefine' Spells Champion

Also: A Burmese listener asks about the actor and comedian Jim Carrey. And the music of Miranda Lambert, recently honored by the Academy of Country Music with its award for new female vocalist. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question from a listener about Jim Carrey…

Play music from Miranda Lambert…

And report about a national spelling contest.

National Spelling Bee


Every year, the best young English language spellers from around the world gather in Washington, D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. They spell complex words that most English speakers have never even heard of. Last week, more than two hundred eighty children gathered to compete in this event. It was the largest group of spellers in the eighty-year history of the bee. Faith Lapidus tells us more.


The national spelling bee takes place over two intense days of competition in a large hotel meeting room. The spellers sit together in front of several judges. Each speller stands when it is his or her turn. When the judge calls out the word, spellers can ask for help. They can ask for the definition of the word or for it to be used in a sentence. They can also ask which language the word came from. This can often help them decide how it is spelled.

Students who spell the word correctly remain in the competition. But if the speller makes a mistake, a bell rings and the child must leave the group.

The spellers are very supportive of one another. They show their happiness when a speller gets a word right. The Canadians especially added to the spirit of the event by waving flags and cheering even louder for all Canadian spellers.

Many people thought that Samir Patel would be the winner this year. This thirteen-year-old boy from Texas has competed in the spelling bee five times. This is the last year he can compete. But his spelling bee career ended with the word "clevis." Samir later said that he should have taken more time to think about the word but instead made a stupid mistake.

Two boys, a Canadian and an American, made it to the last part of the competition. Both Evan O'Dorney and Nate Gartke were able to spell difficult words like "videlicet" and "Zoilus." But Evan won the competition with the word “serrefine," a kind of tool used in medical operations.

After the event, the thirteen-year-old from California talked to reporters. He said he does not really like spelling. He likes math and music more. Spelling, Evan said, is just memorization. His advice to spellers is to study the dictionary. And, he said he always eats a tuna fish sandwich the night before competing.

Jim Carrey


Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Tharr Naing wants to know more about the actor and funny man Jim Carrey.

Jim Carrey’s skill for comedy came early. As a boy, he was given time at the end of each school day to perform for his class. Carrey says he also sent a letter requesting a part on a popular American television comedy show when he was just ten years old.

Jim Carrey was born in nineteen sixty-two in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He was a good student until his teen years when his family experienced financial problems and had to move to Toronto, Canada. Jim worked in a factory every day after school and his grades suffered as a result.

Carrey moved to Los Angeles, California in nineteen seventy-nine. He worked with the famous comedian Rodney Dangerfield. And he began to make appearances on the Late Night with David Letterman television show.

His first major movie was “Earth Girls Are Easy,” in nineteen eighty-eight. He played the part of a funny creature from another planet. He was involved in the development of a new television comedy show, “In Living Color.” It gave Carrey his first chance to show the whole country his unusual characters.

Carrey’s first huge movie success was starring in the film “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” in nineteen ninety-four. Critics hated the movie. But Jim Carrey’s very physical comedy was a hit with moviegoers. The movie earned more than seventy million dollars in the United States alone. A follow-up movie came out the next year. "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" earned more than one hundred million dollars.

Jim made two other very successful films in nineteen ninety-four: “Dumb and Dumber” and “The Mask.” In nineteen ninety-five he was offered twenty million dollars to star in “The Cable Guy.” It was the highest amount of money ever offered to a comedy actor. The movie came out the following year and did not do great business. But Jim Carrey’s power in Hollywood remained.

In the years since, Carrey has shown that he can do more than comedy. He has starred in several critically praised dramatic movies. These include “The Truman Show” and “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Jim Carrey won Golden Globe Awards as Best Actor for both films.

Miranda Lambert


The Academy of Country Music presented its yearly awards last month in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner of the New Female Vocalist award was singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert. Katherine Cole tells us about her.


Miranda Lambert has been singing professionally since she was in high school in the state of Texas. In two thousand three, she finished third in the Nashville Star television talent show. Her performance there led to a recording contract. Her first major album was released in two thousand four, when she was twenty-one years old. She wrote or helped write ten of the eleven songs on the album, called “Kerosene.” The first single was “Me and Charlie Talking.”


Miranda Lambert says her latest album is better than “Kerosene.” She says “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” shows the effects of two years of personal and professional growth. She sang the first hit from the new album on the Country Music Association awards show. It is “Famous in a Small Town.”


Miranda Lambert says her songs talk about real things -- things that have happened to her, family members and friends. Critics say the songs on her new album mix the pain and power of heartbreak. We leave you now with the title song from Miranda Lambert’s new album, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Dana Demange, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

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