Thursday, May 30, 2013

MORNING AT THE BEE: This is very strange, having no spelling going on this morning. Why are the semifinal rounds in the afternoon, giving the kids minimal break time before the finals, rather than now?

Regardless, they've posted the semifinal computer test administered last night, with the following twelve hardcore spelling words:

  • uh-PAH-fuh-gee: It's like that thing of where there's a small hollow curvature at the top or bottom of the shaft of a column.
  • BOOM-slahng, BOOM-slang: Snake from Southern Africa.
  • krip-tahm-NEE-zhuh: It's like that thing of where you remember something only you don't realize you're remembering it and think you're being conscious of it for the first time.
  • dih-jehr-AH-tee: nerds
  • YOU-tuh-lee: It's like that thing of where your body is made up of a constant number of cells.
  • ji-ro-KAH-tuh-lid: worm (ji rhyming with eye, to be clear)
  • kah-fee-KLOTCH, koh-fee-KLUTCH: It's like that thing of where someone else takes the last cinnamon roll and you have to sit around and listen to other people talking too much.
  • mehr-tench-EE-uh, mehr-ten(t)-SEE-uh: also known as the Virginia cowslip, which I'm sure is a euphemism for something.
  • ah-no-mah-SEE-oh-luh-gee: study of grouped words
  • puh-hoo-tuh-KA-wuh: a curvaceous New Zealand tree.
  • te-KWIST-lah-TAY-kuhn: a particular language family deriving from Mexico.
The twelve vocab words were slightly less onerous -- I'll assume you can use dilettante, enigmatic, lionize, and sangroid in a sentence, but what about anacouluthon, gossalgia, hyalescent, keratectomy, sedulous, telluria, vitrine, and xylophagous?

Below the fold, Cliff has some thoughts on the semis field:

I've done some calculations for the spelling, with some interesting findings. Of the 42 semifinalists, or top 15% (if you are reading this, congratulations!!!), 37% are first-timers, 27% are seconds, 22% are three-peats, and 17% are four or five-peats. It seems like a nice distribution, with a lot of first and second-timers (a majority, it is true), but to put these numbers into context, only 7% of all the total 218 first-timers at the bee actually made the semifinals. 26% of second-timers advanced (almost 4 times more likely!) as well as an 69% of three-peaters. 100% of  four and five-peaters advanced (though the sample size for this group is very small, as usual). 
TL;DR: Experience matters a lot, but proportionally the largest difference this year is between first (7% advancing) and second timers (27%, larger by about a factor of 4).


  1. (Stefon) The Virginia Cowslip is that thing where a midget gets greased up like a pig and then runs around in a cow costume while you try to catch him. (/Stefon)

  2. Adam B.11:42 AM

    Katie Danis sing-spells her word:

  3. Glossalgia and xylophagous look hard at first glance but are actually not too bad. Anyone remember cephalgia ("headache"), the first word of the semis last year? It share the Greek -algia (pain) with glossalgia. On the test, that would at least narrow down the multiple choice options to something relating to pain. "Gloss-" here is just like "glossary," both ultimately coming from the classical -gloss meaning "tongue." Xylophagous can be broken down in a similar fashion with common words... xylem, macrophage, "wood-eating."

    But I agree that many of the other words are challenging. Words like anacoluthon and vitrine don't have many clues. At least they're in CWL though, so there's a good chance they've been studied.

    The spelling words here are all very tough. Thankfully, none of them are truly impossible like schizaffin or zortzico - all of them either follow language patterns or appear in at least one study guide or another. I would guess that the cutoff for the championship finals will be somewhere in the 60's.

  4. Sara Miller12:14 PM

    As much as I love on-stage on-camera spelling, I have to admit the Prelims and Semifinals tests make things fairer for the spellers. Before this year, assuming you got your Round 4 and 5 on stage words correct, you could either qualify or not qualify for the Primetime Finals based on a single word that you may or may not know (luck of the draw) from a Round 6 lawnmower round that annihilated more than half of the remaining spellers. This year, instead of the Round 6 lawnmower round and assuming you get your round 4 and 5 stage words correct, you qualify based on your knowledge of 12 spelling words and 14 vocabulary words, with the same words being given to all Semifinalists (except 2 of the vocab words). If I were a speller I'd prefer the test over the Round 6 lawnmower round, even though as a viewer I prefer the lawnmower round (evil laugh).

  5. Genevieve1:07 PM

    I'd like to see the computer test spelling and vocab words from the first day - the sample they posted that you could take struck me as too easy (I only got one wrong) for the purpose of winnowing the group down to under 50. I'm guessing the actual test was significantly harder. This one certainly is, but you'd expect that of a semifinal test. On the vocab semifinal, I think there are enough clues for a bunch of those words to get them from a multiple choice: the vitr- in vitrine comes up in other glass-related words, keratectomy has to be removal of something from the body, etc. But it depends on how alike the other choices were.
    Statistics question: how likely is it for a first-timer to make it to the finals?

  6. Devin McCullen1:15 PM

    You're assuming they don't just make Round 5 the lawnmower round instead.

  7. Adam B.1:25 PM

    Here it is:

    Relatively straightforward, esp. on the vocab.

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