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Words on the Web

Rickettsial, bouillabaisse, erythema, jalousie.

These words and others spelled doom for some contestants last spring in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Infrequently used and containing exceptions to spelling rules, such words are likely to trip up students who have never read them in a sentence or heard them pronounced.

But a new study tool can help spelling bee hopefuls master even the most formidable of phonemes.

Through the spelling bee's site on the World Wide Web, students can view hundreds of possible contest words, their origins and definitions, and their usage in a sentence.

Visitors to the Web site can even hear the official pronunciation of the words from Alex J. Cameron, the spelling bee's official pronouncer since 1981.

"A fair number of participants in the national spelling bee program are children whose parents are foreign born. They struggle with the language but have a strong desire to help their children study," said Paige Pipkin, the spokeswoman for the spelling bee.

"The need was out there for both native and non-native speakers to have a resource for the correct pronunciations and definitions of some very difficult words," Ms. Pipkin said.

By downloading the Audio Paideia software from the site, students can listen to the official spelling bee tapes. To access the free version, students must have an audio-capable computer, at least a 14.4 kbps modem, and an Internet connection.

The site also includes study tips, like Carolyn's Corner, a feature offered by former English teacher Carolyn Andrews. Ms. Andrews explains the roots of words and spelling rules. She also advises students on how to stay calm on stage and the best approaches for difficult words.

What are her credentials for writing such prescriptions? Her son, Ned, won the contest in 1994, on his third try.

The site is at


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