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Letters to the World


Bee-lated congrats and related musings

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 2:09 pm

After being in the National Spelling Bee 10 years ago (wow, it’s been that long?), it’s become a tradition for me to watch the Bee on TV every year.

So, congratulations to Evan O’Dorney, who won this year’s National Spelling Bee on the word “serrefine,” a small forceps used for closing blood vessels.

It’s funny; normally I try to work a bit of wordplay on the winning word into my yearly Bee post, but this year, the word simply wasn’t general enough. I suppose I could’ve said something about “clamping down on the words like a serrefine” or “examining the words like a surgeon with a serrefine,” but it feels like stretching to have to use a simile like that.

And, as always, congrats to everyone who made it into the national bee— just getting there in the first place can be enough of a challenge in many cases.

Honestly? I’m quite the spelling bee geek, and I’d never heard of many of those words in those final rounds this year; some were even new enough that they weren’t in my ten-year-old copy of Webster’s Third. In the past, it’s seemed as though there were always certain perennial words that repeatedly came up (“syzygy,” anyone?), but there seemed to be significantly fewer of those this year. There also seemed to be an awful lot of words with obscure or unknown origins or with origins from proper names… to me, those sorts of words seem more unfair than the old standards, because you can’t really break them down into their component parts to arrive at the spelling.

I was surprised to see perennial Bee favorite Samir Patel miss a word as early as round 5, particularly given that, as he mentioned to a commentator, his initial instinct was the correct spelling and he overthought it. I was also somewhat surprised to see Jonathan Horton, another favorite, get out in round 7— though in this case, it was very much luck of the draw; I thought “girolle” had one “l” myself, probably because I was mentally mixing it up with “girasole” (another food word!). Incidentally, “girolle” is one of those words that’s too new for my copy of Webster’s; another was “pappardelle,” yet another food word.

On that note, was it just me, or were there an awful lot of food-related words this year?

Last, but not least, for those who haven’t been following the Bee news, one speller, Kennyi Aouad of Indiana, broke out into laughter upon being given the word “Sardoodledom” in one of the earlier rounds. I totally agree: it’s one of those intrinsically amusing words, the “doodle” part in particular. Comedy writers, do take note.

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