The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat – the Scripps National Spelling Bee has it all, plus the joy that comes from watching delightful little nerdburgers blow everyone away with their uncanny ability to sound out works like “avellaneous” (a synonym of “hazel”) and “ptyalagogue” (“a drug or other agent that increases the flow of saliva;” can you spell “ew”?).
And naturally, this year’s Bee wasn’t short on memorable moments — especially at the end, when 14-year-old eighth grader Sriram Hathwar and 13-year-old seventh grader Ansun Sujoe became the event’s first co-champions in 52 years. (Previously, the Bee has ended in ties in 1962, 1957, and 1950.)
Sriram and Ansun’s pas de deux stretched for a dozen words, nearly ending when the eighth grader failed to spell “corpsbruder” (“a comrade in a German student corps”) correctly. But when Ansun missed his next word, “antegropelos” (“waterproof leggings”), Sriram was back in the game. By the time Sriram secured his championship by correctly spelling “stichomythia” (“dialogue, especially of altercation, delivered by two actors”), there weren’t enough words left for the two to keep facing off — meaning that if Ansun got “feuilleton” (“a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader”) right, he’d share the title with his rival.
The younger kid couldn’t quite pronounce the word — “Whatever,” he said, sounding a bit flustered after giving it a shot — but his spelldar didn’t fail him. See the moment of triumph below:
And weep for poor, 15-year-old Jacob Williamson, who was so excited to get a word he knew — “kabaragoya,” “a large lizard of Southeast Asia” — only to find out that it starts with a “k,” not a “c.” D’oh!