Reading & Literacy

Can You Repeat That? National S-p-e-l-l-i-n-g Bee Begins

By Erik W. Robelen — June 01, 2011 2 min read
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Gladiolus. Esquamulose. Cambist. Elucubrate. Stromuhr.

Any of these words ring a bell? If not, you might want to study up a little before signing up for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 84th annual bee is in full swing this week. (What all those words have in common, by the way, is they were the winning words for previous champions in the spelling bee).

The written portion of the national competition, Round One, was yesterday. Today and tomorrow, all 275 participants will be onstage at a hotel just outside Washington to demonstrate their spelling prowess. They include U.S. students from across the nation, as well as some competitors from other nations, including Canada, China, Japan, and New Zealand. The participants come from winners of local spelling bees.

The spellers range in age from 8 to 15, with this year’s youngest being Ethan Cullen Ruggeri of Locust Grove, Va.

The competition officially began yesterday with the written Round One test. Spellers sat in assigned seats at classroom-style tables while the pronouncer, Dr. Jacques Bailly, served up 25 words. This morning, the competition resumes with Rounds Two and Three of the preliminaries, with each speller on stage twice. There are no eliminations for misspelling in these rounds. Instead, the spellers earn three points for each correctly spelled word.

The bee offers more than $85,000 in cash and prizes for participants, including a $30,000 cash prize and engraved trophy for the champion. The semifinals and finals will be aired on ESPN tomorrow (10am to 1pm, and 8:30pm to 10pm Eastern).

For the latest on the Spelling Bee, you can follow the Twitter feed.

Finally, here a few fun tidbits about this year’s group. Even though it’s a spelling bee, math was most frequently cited as a favorite subject among this year’s competitors. Also, here’s some fodder for the age-old nature v. nurture debate: 24 spellers have at least one relative who has competed in previous national finals. And, favorite words among this year’s spellers include: tchotchke, weissnichtwo, and (good luck pronouncing, much less spelling this one) pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

Update: (June 3, 7:45am)

And the winner is? Sukanya Roy of South Abington Township, Pa. Here’s the Associated Press story describing the “five-speller showdown” at the end.

And the word that brought Sukanya to victory? Cymotrichous. I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I’ve never seen (or heard) that word before in my life.

Photo: Caleb Matthew Miller, 11, from Monroe, La., spells a word on his hand during the Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 1 in National Harbor, Md. --Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.