There’s very little reason why a fifth-grader should know how to spell “phosphorus.”
But for 10-year-old Harrison County student Matthew Simpson, that comes as little comfort.
Matthew, a student at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, became the runner-up in the Mississippi Spelling Bee on Tuesday, after advancing through 38 rounds that spanned four hours.
Matthew proved to be adept in the finals by spelling words seasoned reporters and English teachers often use spellcheck for, such as “hoick,” which means to lift or pull abruptly with effort, and “asana,” defined as one of many yoga postures.
But his mother, Janet Simpson, said Matthew is berating himself for misspelling the last word.
Phosphorus was the word that tripped Matthew up.
“He knew immediately afterward what the correct spelling of phosphorus is,” Simpson said. Matthew spelled the word P-H-O-S-P-H-O-R-O-U-S.
“Why, did I put an extra O in?” his mother recalls him asking.
Simpson said Matthew has always exhibited a flair for letters, words and how they are arranged.
“You know how most boys 3 or 4 carry around a matchbox car or truck?” she said. “He carried a bag of magnetic letters.”
Matthew informed teachers of the correct way to spell alligator at the age of 3, she said.
Now, if the winner of the bee, 12-year-old Soyeon Park, a sixth-grade student from Armstrong Middle School in Starkville, can’t make it to the national finals in Washington, Matthew will take her place. If not, there’s always next year.
The Mississippi Association of Educators has sponsored the spelling bee for the past eight years.