This, as many things are, is best introduced with a story.
For my sixth-grade area bee, where the top two spellers were sent to the regional bee, I learned every word on the School Spelling Bee Study List, as I knew that it contained the words that were going to be used for much of the bee. I knew every word on that list backward and forwards, and could drill through all 450 words with my dad in a matter of minutes. The bee did, in fact, use those words, but despite my mastery of the list, it was a word from that list that almost brought my demise. The word verdure was my word in a round where there were three spellers left, but instead of the correct \vərjər\ pronunciation, I was given the pronunciation \ver-¦zher\--as if the word was bergere, except it began with the letter V. I didn’t connect this at all with verdure because the pronunciation was so different from the one listed in Merriam-Webster that I had learned. The closest word I could think of that was on the study list was bourgeois. Needless to say, I was wrong. I would have been eliminated if I had not appealed on the grounds of mispronunciation, and although I was reinstated, it would have saved me (and several others in the same bee who found themselves in similar situations) a lot of trouble and stress.
Almost five years later, I’ve pronounced for a dozen or so local bees, and since I have experience both as a speller and as a pronouncer, I wanted to offer some of my advice to those who are going to be pronouncing a school or local bee for the first time this season. A competent pronouncer is the most important part of any bee--the bee simply cannot be well-run without one.
Let’s start with the pronouncer’s role, as outlined by the Scripps National Spelling Bee itself: The pronouncer strives to pronounce words according to the diacritical markings in Scripps National Spelling Bee word lists. This is your primary duty, and it is absolutely essential to the smooth running of the bee. However, it might be harder than it looks. It’s definitely not a good idea to go into the bee without having prepared yourself for pronouncing words correctly ahead of time. Here’s what you need to do: