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DICTIONARY PECULIARITIES DERAIL TOP SPELLER

Microsoft Word doesn't like the words "grok," "bodhran" and "werowance," and neither does Patrick J. Delaney.

Type those words into the world's most popular word processing software, and it will tell you they're spelling errors. Alas, they are not, as Patrick -- The Buffalo News' representative in the 76th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee -- discovered to his chagrin Wednesday.

Patrick spelled those three words wrong, along with 11 others, in the bee's second-round 25-question spelling test.

Spellers who got 10 or fewer of those words wrong moved on to today's third round. But Patrick, representing Buffalo at the national bee for the second year in a row, knew he was in trouble as soon as he saw the test.

"I studied a lot, but I just didn't know a lot of those words on the test," said Patrick, 14, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School in Depew.

And why would he? Pervicacious, aubergine and pareiasaur sound like names in a French law firm rather than words in an English dictionary, yet there they were in the test along with other apparent typos. Together they spelled doom for 91 spellers.

With his mother, Marianne Delaney, looking on, Patrick made it easily through Round 1, spelling "affenpinscher" slowly and correctly. But then came that written test.

You'd think he was prepared. Patrick said he studied for about an hour a day for months to get ready for the bee. But he made it through only one-third of a 22,000-word study guide, so the spelling gods found some words that eluded him.

Somehow, though, 84 spellers passed the written test, and they will compete for the national spelling title today.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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