Spelling be

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STILLATITIOUS? Felsenmeer? And marmah . . . , uh, marmoraceous? Big words and June combine to produce the milieu for the annual finals of the National Spelling Bee. Milieu, in fact, was this year's final word, and it made a winner out of eighth-grader Balu Natarajan, from Bowling Brook, Ill.

But the polysyllabic mouthfuls so many youngsters reeled off, letter by letter, made us cringe, we who dogear a dictionary in a fortnight trying to spell garden-variety words.

At least no one had to spell the lake in Webster, Mass.: Chargoggaggoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaug.

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Mapmakers spell it ``Webster,'' for some reason. It's said to be an Indian name meaning ``You fish on your side, we fish on our side, nobody fish in the middle.'' (Not a bad philosophy, actually: Are you listening, Shultz and Gromyko?)

Whatever they spelled, however they spelled it, in our book every contestant became a winner by making it to the finals in Washington.

Hatts off!

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