As reported by the Guardian, the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, on which I always have a few words to say (here, here and here), has been won this year by Snigdha Nandipati, a fourteen-year-old from San Diego.
Funnily enough, the word she won the competition with reminds me of just how daft are the arguments contrived by the people who oppose the phonics screening check. The word was ‘guetapens’, a word which is derived from French and means an ambush, a trap or a snare. I wouldn’t go flying off to your OED, by the way, because you won’t find it. At least, it’s not in my rather weathered edition.
One has to admire the competitors as much for their single-minded dedication to the task, as for their sheer nerdiness. I suppose some people will think that the $30000 dollar prize is the main motivation. Not so! The money probably goes nowhere near compensating the entrants for the hours they put into studying word spelling, meaning and etymology. Nandipati reckons she spent between ten and twelve hours at weekends and six hours on weekdays preparing for the Bee.
As always, there were some agonising moments. To see competitors come so far only to fall at the final fence can only make your heart go out to them. Lena Greenberg, for example, was tripped up by ‘geistlich’, which means ‘soulful or with great feeling in music’; six-year-old Lori Anne Madison, the ‘youngest competitor ever to qualify for the bee and clearly a girl with a great future in front of her, couldn’t get past ‘dirigible’; while Nicholas Rushlow, the owner of a dog called ‘Cosmotellurian’, was unlucky enough to have to spell ‘vetiver’, the name of a perennial grass which is native to India and also of a band from San Francisco!
Oh well! There’s always next year.