Word for Word #15 The A-B-Cs of spelling bees

Oct 11, 2017

Sometimes English spelling seems designed to bamboozle. How did we end up with all these inconsistencies, quirky flourishes, and spellings that bear no resemblance to pronunciation? In search of an answer, the editors dig into the history of English spelling - including attempts to reform it - and hint at the secret work they do for spelling bees today. Plus, we check in with the adorable contestants of the Great Australian Spelling Bee TV series, two years on; and Adrik Kemp collects favourite words from the Sydney Story Factory.

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Favourite words

Thanks to the Sydney Story Factory for their favourite words: superpowers, discombobulated, volcano, splendiferous, kindness, Batman, marvellous, internet

Additional links

Read more on the topics and people featured in this week's episode:

Spelling and standardization in English: Historical Overview

Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet

A Call for Spelling Standardization (or Is That Standardisation?)


On the Macquarie Dictionary blog:


Spelling matters



Word for Word is produced by Kate Sherington for Macquarie Dictionary and Pan Macmillan Australia.

Many thanks to Mica, Harrison and Grace; to the NSW Premier's Spelling Bee; and to EndemolShine and Network Ten.

Thanks also to the Sydney Story Factory. Read more about the good work they do.

All sound effects and clips are public domain, royalty-free, or used by permission, with the exception of Vacuum cleaner from DJ Burnham via FreeSound; Lightning from LG via FreeSound; Sheep from Sound Mary via FreeSound; Air raid siren via James Abdul Rahman via FreeSound.

Music used in this episode is by Broke For Free, available from the Free Music Archive and used by permission of the artist. Find more music by Broke for Free including The Gold Lining; and If.

Our logo is by Amy Sherington.

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