How Do You Spell QUIRE?

spelling beeI am a fantastic speller. Always have been.

I acquired this gift without ever asking for it; it’s just part of me.

My brother, who is a horrendous speller (or as he would spell, a whorendus one), claims spelling is a genetic tick. I disagree. I believe that the number of books you read equates how many words you can spell correctly.

Many others (who can’t spell) claim it’s not a requirement in this day of digital spellchecks.

I’d like to inquire: how many times has spell check messed them up?

Whatever, I’m pleased to attend my 3rd grade granddaughter’s spelling bee. When I was her age, no one squired me to a spelling bee. As far as I know, none existed in New Jersey. Perhaps I would have had a chance to earn one trophy in my young age. I certainly had no luck with soccer or swimming or hockey.

Here in New England, the entire school district participates in a Spelling Bee, from 2nd grade to 12th. Last year, Sophie and her team of two other 2nd graders won first place for their grade. She earns the title of Sophie, Spelling Esquire, in my mind.

So, I have high hopes for this year.spelling bee

All of six of us in the family (parents and both sets of grandparents) sit together in the high school lecture hall – the location for the 3rd grade Spelling Bee. Sophie and her two team members name themselves “Beauty and the Bees.” They each wear black clothing with yellow trim, headbands with bee-like antennas that pop up, and funny sunglasses that look like bee eyes. But once the Bee begins, those are discarded.

Seven teams of three students each prepare their individual white boards to write out their team answers.

The words begin simply:

Decide    Protect    Finger    Enjoy     Simple    Joyful    Complex

By the third round, two teams are disqualified.  The words get more difficult:

Event     Blouse     Flannel    Certificate    Balk

spelling beeBy round six, only Sophie’s team and one other remain.

The word that Beauty and the Bees must spell: CHOIR (“She sang in the choir.”)

The girls confer, their little antennae hitting each other’s heads as Sophie writes the answer on their white board.

Q  U  I  R  E

While the room gasps, Sophie’s other grandmother whispers to me, “If her parents took her to church, she’d have won.”

We laugh and give a thumbs up to our precious only grandgirl. She widens her eyes and lifts her brows to indicate that really, why wouldn’t choir be spelled QUIRE?

Why, indeed?


111 thoughts on “How Do You Spell QUIRE?

  1. Oh no, fell at the final hurdle. Though they could have rightly claimed that ‘quire’ is in the dictionary.

    Though they may exist here in Britain I’ve not come across Spelling Bees. I do remember confusing ‘angle’ with ‘angel’ but that was a while back now 🙂 A quire of angles maybe?

    • Love your sense of humor (or humour as the British spell it, I believe). I will always think of a quire of angles during Christmas time now…
      I just looked up quire in the ‘dictionary’ (otherwise known as Google). A 20th of a ream of paper. Now, I need the Oxford English Dictionary to figure out how a medieval word (quire began with medieval manuscripts) got into words like require and acquire.
      Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Good for her! A quire is 25 sheets of writing paper. They should have got a point for it. Did they use the word in a sentence? I have been an avid reader all my life but am a horrible speller. Although I did do well in a couple of spelling bees when younger. There are certain words I always spell wrong,

    • So fabulous to see you here – I just raced over to your site and loved your recent post and your question.
      You ask a good question here; I should have mentioned that after stating the word to be spelled, the judge put the word in a sentence. In this case, “She sang in the choir.” Thus, the right word was not spelled correctly. BUT Sophie now knows how to spell both words: quire and choir. 🙂

  3. Bzzzzzzz!🐝.
    Oh Bee Pie , this is so sweet! How can you save these grand baby Blogs to present to them when they’re all grown up.? What a treasured gift it would be. I love your writing, especially those about our 3 honey bees ! 🐝🐝🐝

  4. Aw…what a sweetheart! I don’t recall ever having spelling bees, but in the third grade, I won “best speller.” I had gotten 100% on every weekly spelling test. I think “quire” was a trick word!

    • Congrats, Jill. Perhaps getting a best speller award inspired you to write stories, and then to become a published romance writer! I like to think so.
      Yes, ‘quire’ was pretty tricky. I think the judges were getting tired, because the two teams that were left standing kept on getting the spelling answers correct. Everyone (but the spellers) were getting tired and hungry. 🙂

  5. I, too, was the best speller growing up and always got 100% on spelling tests! However, my oldest sister, who read more than me, was a horrible speller. hmmmm.
    Our spelling bees weren’t half as fun as your adorable granddaughters, Pam.

    • I like the fact that my granddaughter’s NE school puts some fun and creativity into their Spelling Bees. No good speller wants to be thought of as a ‘nerd’ or boring. (Which is what I was called often when I could spell any word another kid threw at me.)
      Perhaps your sister thinks, like my brother does, that good spelling is a genetic piece of good luck. 🙂 xo

  6. As you showed in your post “quire” seems to be the root of many different words. I will bet at one time it was a latin word and your granddaughter should ask for a rematch. Don’t they use the words in a sentence for the spellers?

    • Hi Bernadette! I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that the judge said the word and then put it in a sentence. In this case, it was “She sang in the choir.” Therefore, quire was not the correct spelling. BUT, I sure am learning more about the word QUIRE!!! These are the times I wish I had the Oxford English Dictionary so I could see how the root word (which was used originally to describe medieval manuscripts) turned into words like reQUIRE. :-0

  7. This brings back memories of my third grade spelling bee, in which I lost because I misspelled the word “sincerely.” I have never, ever spelled it wrong since. Way to go for your granddaughter and her team!!

    • That’s one good outcome of misspelling a word: we never forget how to spell it again. I pride myself on good spelling, but I’ll NEVER forget writing an acceptance letter to the university that granted me a scholarship for grad school. On my first day there I visited the admit office, and the secretary chastised me, “You’re striving for a Masters in English, and yet you misspelled a word in your acceptance letter.” Yup. the word was ….Sincerely, ——-. To this day I claim it was a typo, but no matter, I am quite sensitive about that word. ;-0

    • Eight-year-old Sophie and I just had a long conversation about what quire means (a fraction of a ream of paper? a medieval manuscript? – she looked quite puzzled). It will take a while before she ‘gets’ the meaning of the same-sounding word, but you’re right; she will always spell choir correctly from now on.

    • Patricia – that’s probably what I was most impressed with at the Spelling Bee – the amount of family participation: parents, grandparents, siblings. Really special to see. xo

  8. Why NOT?? LOL! And why do they call them Spelling BEE’S??? I have never understood this notion. I am a pretty good speller also and I absolutely equate that to reading. It also explains a larger vocabulary. I love learning new words. My new one for this week was oubliette. I had no clue what it was but another blogger friend used it quite eloquently in a beautiful, albeit sad, poem. I went right away to Google …what did we do before Google? OH right! An actual Dictionary! I have one around here somewhere… ha ha! 😉

  9. What a great story–Beauty and the Bees have a terrific sense of humor and team spirit. I’m sure they will get back their championship next year and definitely won’t forget how to spell “choir!” And love your clever use of “quire” too. . .

  10. What a great story–Beauty and the Bees have a terrific sense of humor and team spirit. I’m sure they will get back their championship next year and definitely won’t forget how to spell “choir!” And love your clever use of “quire” too. . . sammee44

    • Thanks for appreciating my attempt to use QUIRE in different ways. It was the kind of word challenge I really enjoy. And yes, Beauty and the Bees enjoyed their spelling challenge, thanks to their sense of humor. They didn’t get too upset about losing – after all, they got to wear those cool bee antennae! 🙂

  11. This story made me smile- the bee spelling quire of three are precious. And my goodness- she would have known if only “she’s been taken to church.” That statement would have rankled my emotions more than a little bit.

  12. Lovely story Pam, thanks for sharing it in such a unique way by highlighting the word ‘quire.’
    People who don’t have a natural access to English language and have to learn it to compete with the world say… ‘English is a funny language’ and have many examples to quote. One of them is – ‘go’ and ‘do’ are pronounced differently!
    No gloating but I am proud of my spelling strength though we didn’t have any such opportunities to embellish them as children. I don’t know who should get the credit for my good spellings. I think reading carefully and slowly makes the difference.

    • English IS a funny language! I’m lucky that I was raised speaking it, because I don’t know that I’d ever be able to figure it out as a second language. And many people can’t figure it out as their first language! 😳 Happy spelling to you! 💚

    • OK, I’ll be honest and admit it. I had to look up neologism. And now that is one of my favorite words! We writers definitely should be able to make up any word we want in our stories. My word for that idea is…fantabulous. 🤓

  13. I hope the team got honorable mention for the clever costumes. As a consolation prize, they all deserve to see “Beauty and the Beast.”

    “How many 3rd graders ever heard of the word “quire”? Case closed.

    • I celebrated Sophie second-place win by taking her to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday, Marian. We sang through it and laughed and decided that spelling bees are pretty darn fun. 🐝😇

  14. Love their team name, team costume and their team spirit.
    And, being completely on Sophie’s side, maybe she was “singing in a quire of paper”!

    • Clever, Donna! Sophie and I have had several discussions about the spelling of choir, or quire.. She does not understand where choir came from why quire doesn’t make a lot more sense. Who can disagree with her? 😜

  15. Love it!! 🙂 Bless them, what a shame. And hey – I’ve learned something…quire is a word, as many of your commenters have informed me. Having taught English as a foreign language for years, the spelling in our language has often caused frustration and hilarity. Some of it is soooo illogical! I mean honestly – cough? How about a new kind of spelling bee where you have to spell the words correctly phonetically… kɒf!
    Blessings on you and your beautiful little bee… Hugs, Harula xx

  16. Such a creative, heartwarming post, Pam! I smiled all the way through 🙂 Your granddaughter’s team was so cute in the way they spelt choir. They actually spelt an actual word that is a hard word and probably not a word that many of us might be familiar with! They probably also might know more than a few hard words, all up their sleeves…. 😉 “quire” certainly is heard more than we think… As someone who is a writer and loves words and playing around with words, I loved how you weaved that throughout this post. Very, very creative 😀

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Mabel. I agree – those of us who love words and love playing around with them, melding/molding them into lustrous stories, tend to enjoy word games no end. 🙂

  17. This is a great story, Pam. I loved your writing of it, with the highlighted quires; and enjoyed seeing the photos and especially the words they had to spell. I was the spelling champ for my grade school, long ago in the sixth grade, and I still remember the word that I missed at the county competition: threshold. I have never misspelled it since that day. lol.

    • Whoa – threshold is a tough one for college students, much less a 6th grader! That spelling bee may have taken you over the threshold of learning to love words, and eventually, spreading them around artfully (with photos) into a blog. ❤

  18. Your post was fun and so cute.
    The spelling bee judge was not fair—choir is having to do the dishes. Quire is a group of people who sing together. What is the matter with this world!? 🙂

    I’m not a good speller. I have to really think to spell cat . . . just sayin’ 🙂

  19. Brilliantly fun read, Pam!

    It gave me the heebie-jeebies, though, thinking back to the number of spelling bees I was forced to enter in my youth. No fun antennae and glasses, I assure you. Sure, I won them … but I never enjoyed them. Aside from the pressure, I wound up just feeling sad for all the kids who weren’t winning.

    Your granddaughter’s final faux pas reminds me of when Charlie Brown made it to the spelling bee tournament. If you have four minutes, I highly recommend watching it (perhaps again), right to his final word: Charlie Brown: Spelling Bee. And if your granddaughter has never seen it, she might appreciate it as well!

    • Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen that Charlie Brown video in YEARS – thank you for inserting the perfect spelling bee example here. Interesting to hear about your memories of the pressure of the Bee in your life (I’m not at all surprised that you had empathy for those who lost). I think if you had attended my granddaughter’s school, it would have been a lot more fun, what with the “teamwork” and costumes. 🙂

  20. Once, while helping my daughter prepare for a spelling bee, I pronounced a word wrong. She stayed in almost until the end. Then she was asked to spell the word I’d mispronounced, and she missed it. Oh, the shame of being the cause of my daughter’s spelling bee loss!

    • Ohhhhhhhhhh, I’m mortified for you!! I mispronounce words constantly, and have since a child. My excuse (and I think it’s a good one, and probably yours also), is that I began to read so early in my life – books that were years ahead of me – that I just tried to figure out phonetically how to say them. And we all know how badly that can go.
      I hope your daughter forgave you. :-0

  21. Fabulous post. Winning isn’t everything. She’ll never forget how to spell choir now. (What a ridiculous spelling, by the way! I guess it’s in the morphology.)

    • Okay, Norah – I finally looked it up – why is QUIRE spelled CHOIR?? 🙂 And here it is: “The ultimate root of “choir/quire” is the Latin “chorus,” meaning “company of dancers,” “singers in church,” or the place or area reserved for singers in a church. “Choir” came to English through the Old French form “cuer,” which in Middle English became “quere.” This slowly became “quire” by about the 15th century. The word retained most of the meanings of the Latin “chorus,” which entered English itself in the 16th century, but “quire” was used primarily in religious contexts while “chorus” tended to more secular use. “Quire” was also used to mean the specific part of the church or cathedral reserved for the singers.
      The “quire” spelling stayed in place until the end of the 17th century, when the spelling “choir” (which the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) deliciously terms “fictitious”) was adopted. The rationale was to “Latinize” the word by analogy to “chorus,” but because the pronunciation “quire” was so deeply rooted in popular usage, the result was a word (“choir”) that bore absolutely no resemblance to the way it is said. According to the OED entry on the two words, the spelling “quire” is still used in the “English Prayer-book” (presumably the Anglican Book of Common Prayer), but the OED entry is from 1889, and that may no longer be true. That Westminster still uses the spelling “quire” is interesting, since most citations in the OED after 1708 spell it “choir.”

      • I agree with your bottom line! I was thinking that all the time I was reading your explanation. She should ask for a reassessment and send in what you found out. Thank you for looking it up and letting me know. I thought it must have something to do with chorus and choral. Happy Easter!

  22. Yes, I like the spelling of quire…. choir is a silly spelling… Sophie is right!! 😀 I don’t know how they do these spelling bee competitions, I would have never dared, I was a lot like your brother, appalling at spelling when I was a kid, got picked on a lot for my inability to spell correctly. I do seem to have recovered from that, but I have an illness that effects memory to some degree… some days it’s okay, other days not so sharp. Oh, sometimes the simplest word is just not there and I need the spell check badly! I remember as a child having difficulty remembering the spelling of biscuit. My mother said, it was a stupid spelling, best to read it as it sounds from actual the spelling. It was funny, and not as it is actually said, I never forgot how to spell it again. Cookie would have been easier to spell, but we didn’t use that word in the UK for biscuits back in the 70’s… what a shame! 😀

    • Your comments are just making my day, Suzy. Whenever I visit England, I get a kick out of how dessert is “pudding” and a cookie is a “biscuit.” Of course, the English choose the terms first. Perhaps Americans realized that biscuit is just a ridiculous spelling for a sweet morsel. 🙂 I agree with what your mom said. The word ‘biscuit’ would stump a lot of spellers in a Bee!

      • It is a ridiculous spelling… it shouldn’t allowed!! 😀 Interesting thing about pudding, not everyone in the UK calls dessert pudding… just to complicate things! I grew up calling desserts we had as part of our evening meal ‘a sweet’ I didn’t get into calling them desserts until I was in my late teens. Not sure what changed that, possibly reading magazines, or food programmes on TV maybe. Pudding always meant to me, a certain type of warm cake like dessert, served with custard, or a steak and kidney pudding, which is savoury and more like a pie. I have noticed friends from further north in the country, call all desserts puddings. They never use the word dessert. It’s a small island, but the words and phrases for just about anything varies way too much… it’s quite mad, and must be very confusing for anyone trying to learn the language!! 🤔

  23. I used to be quite good at spelling until I became an ESL teacher and had to spell on command. It’s kind of like a performance piece now. Thankfully, sometimes the smartboard corrects me.

    • Ohhh, I like the idea of spelling as a “performance piece.” Fun/funny. Over a year, several new words are created in our English language anyway – at times you just might be ahead of the crowd in one of your spellings. 🙂

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