Student bests teacher in word challenge

Sunday, September 29, 2002

SAGINAW, Mich. -- Psst! There's a word in the English language that doesn't contain a vowel, and Tyler Mayle found it.

The fifth-grader at Chester Miller Elementary School here answered a challenge posed by reading teacher Brenda Bell: find a word consisting only of consonants.

Tyler and his stepfather, Gregory Westphal, began their quest by consulting the Yahoo! search engine. That led them to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines "Psst" as an interjection "expressing a hiss, often to attract attention."

Tyler also won the $50 prize Bell has offered for about 15 years to the first student to come up with an all-consonant word. Foreign words and abbreviations don't qualify.

"I've been trying to teach the children that you can't write a word without a vowel," Bell told The Saginaw News this week. "All these years, they couldn't find one. I issued the challenge every year because I knew it didn't exist -- until now."

Bell and her student didn't see eye-to-eye on the cash prize.

"I told him that I'm a poor schoolteacher," said Bell, who has made the first of 25 weekly payments of $2 to Tyler. "It's enough for Slurpee money for every week."

Tyler was nonchalant: "I wanted the $50, but it's not a lot of money. Three hundred dollars is a lot of money."

--From wire reports

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