Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SCHUHPLATTLER:  Right now in National Harbor, Maryland, the first groups from among 281 incredibly talented children are sitting down for a four-part spelling and vocabulary test which will help determine their fates at the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and for the twelfth year we will be trying to cover all of the joy, agita, and triumph. If you're not a regular here, welcome aboard; if you only come here this one week per-year, welcome back.

For newcomers trying to get their bearings, here's a short list of things we do and don't like about The Bee:

  • Smart kids being awesome. Smart kids being awesome.
  • That part late in the Bee when we get to words of Finnish, Mayan, Welsh, Afrikaans, and Egyptian origins.
  • Jamaican and Canadian spellers, except the 2008 Canadian Bloodbath round which was really unfortunate.
  • Foodie words, because it's the only time in the competition many grownups feel smart.
  • Dr. Jacque Bailly 
  • Sardoodledom.
  • When Bee veterans, coaches, and parents come here and share their wisdom and experience. 
Don't Like
  • Use of computerized competition to impose artificial elimination checkpoints for tv purposes, especially, in the cutoff from Thursday afternoon to Thursday night.
  • Interviewing kids in the middle of the competition
  • Interviewing kids right after they've been eliminated
  • Cutesy filler pieces which demean how hard these kids work
  • The fact that the bulk of the first hour of primetime will be dominated by filler, and not spelling.
  • Yiddish words capable of multiple correct spellings (otherwise known as The Marsha Special), and capable of igniting Bee controversy.
  • Amateur psychoanalysis of the kids and their parents. As I've written before, which is as close to a mission statement as we've got:
"What we won't do is mock the kids, or presume we can learn anything meaningful about them or their parents based on the brief slices we see on tv. As my favorite line from Frost/Nixon goes, 'The first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies, it diminishes. Great, complex ideas, tranches of time. Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot.' We will try to be modest about what we believe we're seeing; the only thing we can know for sure is whether the word is spelled correctly, and what we learn from former spellers thereafter."
Or, as Shonda explained last year: "What I love about the Bee is its celebration of intelligence.  The Bee at its best is a dance party for braininess, a nerdgasm for smarty-pants. The Bee is home for those of us who maybe can not throw a ball or run without our inhalers. The Bee is a place for people who like to read, who enjoy math, who love science and art and geography and words, words, words.  The Bee is for people who have plans that do not include being a Real Housewife of Anything. The Bee is the only way our people will ever be on ESPN. And that makes the Bee awesome. The Bee is a celebration."

Come celebrate with us this week.


  1. meco19998:58 AM

    There's a former NSB speller from 2005 named Jacob Devine who writes a really great blog about the Bee (http://completespeller.blogspot.com). He says he reads ALOTTFMA and would like to do a guest post here. Could he please?

  2. Adam B.9:27 AM

    Absolutely. Have him email me at acbonin (at) hotmail dot com.

  3. BeeFan10:22 AM

    Agree with everything above except about the Yiddish words. They're OK, and as for multiple spellings, Chinese can be just as bad with a mixture of Pinyin, Wade-Giles, Harvard or just randomly phonetic spellings that have been frozen in Webster's over the years. How else can you trip up spellers of this caliber?

  4. You forgot awesome spelling bloggers. Another thing we like about the spelling bee.

  5. Amber Born10:52 AM

    Is there any possibility I could write a guest post as well?

  6. Adam B.11:04 AM


  7. Sara Miller11:09 AM

    Even Japanese can be tricky with random phonetic spellings in Websters, such as "soogee" several years ago. Normally you'd think "suji" with Japanese.

  8. Christy in Philly12:54 PM

    Really looking forward to participation of Bee-alums! I love this week!

  9. Not named Fred1:13 PM

    I managed to inconveniently schedule my big move (from the Northeast to Florida) for this week, so I won't get to enjoy the bee as much as I normally would. But since my flight Friday morning is super early, I got a hotel room near the airport, which means Thu. night I'll at least be able to watch the finals. (Wonder if they'd put them on in the hotel bar?)

  10. Marsha1:42 PM

    I appreciate the shout out. I promise to get over-incensed at least once during the bee.

    Welcome back Shonda and all the spelling royalty!

  11. Genevieve2:01 PM

    That's my favorite moment of the Bee..... (the song snippet that doesn't get played nearly as much from 23rd Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee)

  12. Amber Born2:40 PM

    Thanks! I'll send it to that email.

  13. Woo, I'm ready for Bee Week! I've upgraded my cable just so I can watch on ESPN. Here's hoping that the softball world series won't run over into our coverage this year.

  14. julen5:54 PM

    So excited! Love this time of year. Our local contest went 2 1/2 hours longer than scheduled this year (I felt there should have been a snack break around Hour 3 - 1:30pm) ; those kids were really slogging at the end), and the two kids battling it out were awesome.

  15. Adam C.6:25 PM

    The whole family is looking forward to it. As usual, I love to see what Bee alums have to say. Not sure how much I can follow along live until the finals, but I'll be checking ESPN3 and the Bee site as often as I can.

  16. BeeFan8:22 PM

    I wonder if the Bee organizers are considering a real killer round (or two) Thursday afternoon so they get down to 12 without using the vocabulary test.

  17. meco19999:42 PM

    Are you going to downgrade your cable right after the Bee? :) I've thought about going cable-less and just upgrading for Bee Week and the Summer and Winter Olympics, but it seems a bit of a hassle.

  18. meco19999:45 PM

    Round 6 is usually the "lawnmower round." *evil grin*

  19. It's not a hassle from a technical standpoint, but the dude from Time Warner was hassling me this year to get a new converter box or some such thing for the occasion. I told him that I was going back down to the lower tier in a few day, but it took me a few tries before he stopped going to the script.

    I'll be out the activation fee plus whatever prorated increment for which I get billed. But I figure this is like my pay-per-view event. ;)

  20. meco19999:24 AM

    Ouch, I forgot about the activation fees! How much is that for you?

  21. Dave S1:18 PM

    Also don't like when they include kid fainting in their wacky moments from the Bee montage.