6:56 am (West Coast time): I recently gave up coffee. So I have a cup of green tea by my side. I’m dressed for the event: sweatpants and a ponytail. I have warmed up my fingers. My keyboard is ready for typing. I am staring at ESPN impatiently waiting for 7 am. And I am a little more excited than is normal for a grown woman about to watch a bunch of children spell words. But I don’t care. It’s the best day of the year – Bee Day! Let the Scripps National Spelling Bee begin…
7:00/10 am: I am delighted by ESPN’s video montage of former local Bee contestants talking about their spelling experiences, some old and some young, none of whom can say the tongue twister “Scripps National Spelling Bee”. It’s charming.
It’s finally ON! 41 spellers will be competing. They don’t do any fancy commentating. Instead they go right to the spelling! Snigdha Nandipati is up first. Her word is “meridienne” and she gets it right! She likes collecting coins and reading mystery novels. I love her geeky cheer.
The hot hardcore speller that everyone is watching is Canadian Laura Newcombe. She’s up second and she spells “isochronal” in a bossy confident way that makes me want to applaud. Spell like you mean it, take no prisoners and make no apologies. I dig Laura.
Veronica Penny and David Phan. Their words are “boutade” and "deuteragonist” respectively. Deuteragonist is, obviously, the actor taking the part of second importance in a classical Greek drama. We all knew that. They both take a long time to sound out and ask questions (origin, use it in a sentence) but they get their words right.
"Duchesse" (a very small cream puff filled with sweet or savory filling used as a dessert or served with cocktails) is spelled by 5th grader Dhivya Murugan.
Grace Remmer tied for 9th last year. I remember her well. She’s got long hair and glasses, a weary confidence and she asks about Greek roots just because she can. Her word is “anaphylaxis” and spelling it is no big deal.
Commercial. During which I will take a moment to note that BBC (Bossy But Cute) Jacques Bailly is back, pronouncing words, cuter and bossier than ever. BBC Bailly was the 1980 Spelling Bee champ and now he serves as the official pronouncer of the Bee. He’s been pronouncing words since 2003 and no one does it better.
7:25: In the comments section of this post, Samir Patel (genius speller and one of my personal favorites) says that he guarantees that all these spellers want is for this day to be over. That feels incredibly true and incredibly sad. But boy is Pranay Sivakumar adorably cute, tiny and confident and spelling "excrescential" like he owns it.
Jamaica is back and spelling! Hanif Brown, Jr. Serious, deadly serious, frighteningly serious. He stares straight ahead. He spells “mansuetude” and marches back to his seat.
We have lost our first speller!! Emily Keaton goes down! She’s got great, lush hair curving over her face, a lovely Southern lilt and a killer smile. But it doesn’t matter. She is taken down by “sciamachy” which means “a fighting with a shadow; a mock or futile combat as with an imaginary foe”. The Spelling Bee is her sciamachy.
7:40/10:40 am: We lose local boy Sam Osheroff from Maryland on the word “nuque” and he looks devastated.
Surjo Bandyopadhyay asks BBC Bailly: “May I have all the information on this word that you can give me?” He gets a laugh and then Bailly gives him a huge amount of information and Surjo spells “lysozyme” easily.
I am fascinated by the parents of the Spellers. Some seems lost, befuddled by the single-minded brilliance of their offspring that brings them to the Bee. These parents don’t quite understand why their kid isn’t outside playing or pretending to be Hanna Montana or whatever. They never banked on a geek in the family. Some seem thrilled and amazed, all “my kid is so awesome even if I have no idea what that word is he/she is spelling!” These parents are my favorites. I love their exuberance and their joy. My least favorite parents? The ones who behave as if this is THEIR Bee, as if winning means everything, as if this Bee is all they have worked for. I worry about their children. And I fully admit that I’d likely be one of these Tracy Flick-ian parents myself. Which is why I keep my tiny human far, far from the Bee World.
7:52/10:52 am: Jenny Solheim is a 2nd generation Bee. Her mother was in the 1972 and 1974 Scripps Bee. Jenny does not look happy to be here. But maybe Jenny is just thinking very hard about her difficult word “exsculpate”.
Dakota Jones has been spelling hardcore words since he was 2 years old. Truly. They show us video to prove it. He’s cute as a button and speaks too loudly which makes me love him. He spells “whirlicote” and heads back to his seat.
Apparently, I am a “turophile” – a fancier of cheese. Prakash Mishra spells it easily.
Sunny Levine is back! She’s from Akron Ohio. I like Sunny because she loves Scrabble and wants a career in medicine. But she goes down on “lithotrity”…
BBC Bailly just referred to The Jeffersons in using a word in a sentence. I kid you not.
Nicholas Rushlow is a four time Bee speller. He also plays the violin, collect Legos and Star Wars stuff, swims competitively and also loves Scrabble (I am betting all these kids love Scrabble). He spells “devoir” and heads to his seat. He and Laura Newcombe and Joanna Ye are the most dangerous competitors in the competition…
8:21/11:21 am: I will be honest. I am rooting for Joanna Ye. Full on. She tied for 5th place last year with Laura Newcombe and she’s the super model of the competition -- pretty, poised and completely comfortable in her own skin. She wants to be a brain surgeon when she grows up and she plays both the flute and the alto sax. She rocks. She gets “brachygraphy” which is a method of writing rapidly by substituting characters, abbreviations or symbols for letters, words or phrases: shorthand. She spells it easily and laughs, charmed, by BBC Bailly’s use of Bernie Madoff in his sentence.
Sukanya Roy seems mousy and shy on the stage but in her interview we discover she’s a spitfire, full of giggles and energy. I decide she is simply all business when she is on stage; “mousy and shy” is just her game face. Her word is “hesthogenous” which means having a covering of down when hatched. She spells it methodically and easily, writing each letter on her hand with her finger. She’s through to the next round.
8:33/11:33 am: I am going to start using “nystagmus” (which means a rapid involuntary oscillation of the eyeballs occurring normally with dizziness during and after bodily rotation or abnormally after injuries) in daily conversation as much as possible. Mashad Arora spelled it to move on to the next round.
Anna-Marie Sprenger might be the most adorable geek here today. She has a flower in her hair, announces “I think I got this” before she spells and wears awesome earrings. She’s kind of a rock star of spelling cool and she knows it.
Random Musing At The End of Round Four: Not enough Spellers are went down in this round. We’re at the end at there’s WAY too many Spellers standing. The words next round must be brutal…