That's the word that spelled my downfall in the 1989 Lakeview Elementary Spelling Bee. Some say my ignorance of alcoholic beverages should have been celebrated, not punished. OK, nobody says that. I assume by now, fourth graders are spelling words like Chlamydia and menage a trois.

I've sat stationery these last 17 years, knowing there are four better spellers than me. In Denville, New Jersey. Born around 1979. Who attended public school. And weren't sick during the preliminaries. I can accept that. But if I were compelled to justify my intelligence, I could always turn to the thriving adult spelling circuit.

Perhaps the most famous competition is Brooklyn's Williamsburg Spelling Bee, held every other Monday at Pete's Candy Store. So famous, in fact, they even have a blog. Hosts Jennifer Dziura and Bobby Blue are a little more lenient than our grade school Language Arts teachers. You get three strikes before you're out. And while I'm not sure alcohol improves spelling prowess, the liquid courage increases turnout. (If you're a TimesSelect member, you can read their Thursday Styles profile from last year.)

In addition to providing grown-ups an opportunity for redemption, adult bees have also been successful fundraisers. In Maplewood, NJ, $17,000 was raised to fund a tutoring program that had been cut by the school district. Want to hold your own? Scripps Howard has posted "official" adult spelling bee rules.

To keep things interesting, I've intentionally misspelled one word in this entry. A virtual high-five to the first person who spots it. No points will be awarded for pointing out any words unintentionally misspelled.

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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