“My favourite word is ‘onomatopoeia’”
Ben Mamott, who attends Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Selective Campus, is in love with the English language. He's a spelling bee legend - in the recent NSW Premier's 13th Spelling Bee Challenge, he made the top seven seniors out of 136,000 students from more than 940 public schools. The competition was established in 2004 as a fun and educational way for primary school students to engage in spelling and to promote improved literacy.
Brainy Ben came unstuck with the word 'concordance' - but in the run up, he managed to spell words that many may struggle with, such as 'gluttonous', 'fissure', 'euthanasia', 'secondment' and 'biennial'.
"My family has sort of influenced my writing and spelling," the 12-year-old tells Peninsula Living. "My grandfather was a sub-editor for The Australian, which is very cool. That's probably where most of my talent has come from. But my parents have encouraged me to learn how to spell a wide variety of words.”
Ben claims he's always been fascinated by words, especially big ones, admitting, "I love long, complicated words such as 'antidisestablishmentarianism', 'tonsillitis' and 'differentiation'.
“My favourite word is 'onomatopoeia', but I can't explain why, which is very annoying. Words such as these always challenge me, and I love them because exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body.
"Some words I used to always get caught out on,' he adds, "but this just encourages me to learn them. I think that spelling a word wrong makes you more determined to get it right the next time."
Words that Ben does stumble on are ones that sound the same but are spelled differently, such as the dreaded stationary and stationery.
"I loathe them,' he says."These ones constantly trick me and probably a ton of other budding spellers."
The wordsmith, who wants to be involved in sport and science/technology when he leaves school, first realised he was good at spelling when he was in Year 3 at Neutral Bay Public School.
“We had a Years 3 and 4 spelling bee and my teacher, parents and friends all encouraged me to participate in it he explains. “When I finished third place overall, I realised I really had a knack for spelling.”
When he's not reading books by Rick Riordan or the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, Ben can be found playing soccer for Northbridge FC.
"I'm crazy about it,” he says. "I'm keen on becoming a soccer referee and am about to do a course to be one for young kids. If I could meet anyone in the world, it would be [German professional soccer player] Marco Reus.
"I'm crazy about it,” he says."I'm keen on becoming a soccer referee and am about to do a course to be one for young kids. If I could meet anyone in the world, it would be [German professional soccer player] Marco Reus.
He inspires me… I'd ask him about all his football experiences... and get him to sign everything I own!" Because of Ben's top spelling skills, can he spell supercallfragilisticexplalidocious?
“I have not watched The Sound of Music,” he laughs.
So, could he spell it without cheating?