Live Blog: Scripps National Spelling Bee

Good evening and welcome to our liveblog of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Or, as I like to call it, Nerd Superbowl. Speaking of the superbowl, this is the one time every year that many of us will be voluntarily tuning into ESPN, so everyone, give yourselves a few minutes to track down the channel. Keep refreshing the blog to catch our updates, and follow our live tweets on Twitter — @cookiessangria

  • Like homeschooled 5th graders and NPR fans everywhere, I’ve been waiting all year for this. Literally, this time — I read American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and The Culture Of Word Nerds right after last year’s bee, and was pretty bummed I’d have to wait 12 months to see it play out.
  • Remember the big bee news of 2012? The youngest speller ever, 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison competed. She got dinged out on “ingluvies.” Cute kid, but can’t spell ingluvies? What are you, a kindergartner?

    I honestly have tattoos older than her.

Ugh, who am I kidding. Even though she has a name from 1973 (a good thing, as Lori is 10,000 times better than Madycynne or McKaeighlah), this kid wasn’t even born until I was a few years into college. Lori isn’t here this year, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. I sincerely hope that she’s being seven right now and constructing a blanket fort or making a village out of tissue boxes.

  • This year, the hot story is that the competitors have to take a vocab test. FINALLY. If there’s one problem with spelling bee kids, it’s that they’re dumb and lazy and don’t know enough about words. Thank God we’re finally weeding out those bozos!
  • The Bee begins with a kind of confusing Matilda The Musical tie-in. I can only guess that we’re trying to reach out to all distinct nerd groups, from word to theater to eventually science. I can only guess they’ll bring in Doctor Who eventually.
  • Really embarrassed to remember some of these kids. Favs: Vanya, whose sister won a few years back and is ADORABLE, and Arvind, who has more charm than any child since Jonathan Lipnicki told us all how much the human head weighs.
  • Dr. Jacques Bailly is seriously just the Tim Gunn of the National Spelling Bee. What a dream.
  • Do kids with misspelled names get ashamed during the bee? Or are they drawn to it to correct their parents’ mistakes? I’m looking at you, Christal Schermeister.
  • Guys, if I’m mean about Christal Schermeister, it’s just because she’s clearly going to grow up to be far more intelligent and attractive than me.
  • First ding out! Bummer. I try not to get too attached to anyone during the early rounds. I’m sure many Panem citizens used the same tactic during the Hunger Games.
  • A little more spelling bee background: the kids arrived in D.C. last weekend, and I guess they just go hog-wild in a hotel this week. I mean, as wild as kids who spend all day studying the dictionary can go. It’s like rumspringa for a very particular kind of Amish person.

  • Vanya Shivashankar knows French very well. I mean, of course she does. Best kid ever. BTW, her sister Kavya is here and she’s so grown up! Off to Colombia already.
  • Amber Born: “Is the sentence funny?” Amber wants to be a comedy writer. Amber, girl after my own heart. Please come by and write for us sometimes! As long as you promise not to judge our spelling which is, admittedly, not always awesome. The announcers say she’s a dark horse. Move over, Arvind, I have a new favorite.
  • Sriram is from kind of near me! This matters to none of you. I’ll stop. He gets singerie, which is from French. Apparently when I was taking college French I told Traci that it was the language that they speak in hell. I don’t remember saying that, but it seems like something I would do. Such weird pronunciations! Full disclosure: French was my grandma’s first language, so I’m not just being a jerk. I’m being a jerk to my own beloved family members.
  • Arvind’s drama teacher sees him in a red smoking jacket. I’m sorry, is he a precocious 8th grader or Hugh Hefner? I’m confused.
  • Here is a fantastic spelling bee video (not from today). This kid is my new comedy hero. He was totally punking her:

  • Oh man, I remember Vismaya from last year. She did pretty well and had a distinct air of being probably too cool for this business. Damn, Vismaya. You’re smooth. Delivered “sciomancy” like it was nothing even though she was obviously not sure of it.
  • Grace is pictured diving into one of those pits of foam blocks, which was a childhood dream of mine thanks to all of the gymnastics centers that opened up after the ’96 Olympics. There are also a bunch of trampolines, which reminds me that Amanda Bynes was photographed at a trampoline center at my old city, Buffalo. First of all, I never knew there was a trampoline center there. Second, I am really curious as to what string of events lead her to a Western New York trampo-gym. Buffalo’s right at the border, so maybe that.
  • Bailly and co. tried to recreate those commercials where kids are sitting around being asked questions. I love those commercials, but I can’t say that they’re all that effective, because I can’t remember what they’re for. Was it phones?
  • Grace Remmer is chronicling her various awkward stages that appeared during the bee. Listen. Like most American kids, I can remember my spelling bee downfall painfully well. I was a major bookworm with the vocabulary of a nerdy adult, but I didn’t have an exceptional spelling prowess. See, if they’d had the vocabulary test then, I might have been okay. Anyway, I made it nearly to the end of my elementary school bee, only to be struck down by “counselor.” To be fair, I don’t think we got definitions, and I spelled it councillor, which is a homophone or close to it. Whatever. Anyway, Grace reminds me that it’s not like I’d really want my 11-year-old mug visible on the internet today, anyway. I had the Frizz No Butterfly Clips Can Tame.
  • Christal’s little sister looks majorly concerned. Somebody didn’t study “doryline.” Oh shit. Countdown clock. Bye, Christal. It’s been real. With the sorry spelling genes that your parents passed down, it’s a miracle you made it this far. I mean, Christal?
  • According to the spelling bee kids via Mackelmore, the ceiling is no longer able to hold them.
  • Vanya, stop asking questions, you know this. I was about to wonder whether she got teased with Uncle Vanya references at school, but probably not, right? Because she’s a child?
  • Amber Born reminds me of Traci and I when we first became friends, except actually accomplished at something other than recording The Rosie O’Donnell Show so we didn’t miss it during our afterschool activities.
  • I know envoutement totally LOOKS like a word, but when you pronounce it with a fancy French accent, it sure doesn’t SOUND like one. I reiterate: The Language They Speak In Hell. With all due apologies to my dear, late Grandma. But I think there’s a reason she always spoke English with us, you know?
  • [The reason is my demonstrated inability to speak French properly, probably]
  • This may be the first time I correctly identified a history-based root. Sansculottic, related to the sans-culottes? Yeah, I KILLED AP European. That’s right.
  • Vismaya is from Bountiful, Utah. Was that the town with all of the plural marriages? I read a book on the FLDS but don’t really remember. She’s clearly too cool to take part in that though:There are nine spellers left. NINE. Don’t they know that kids stodgy 20-somethings are watching with strict bedtimes to attend to? Come on, Bailly. Stop playing so nice.
  • Can we talk about redshirting? When I was in eighth grade, maybe half of the kids had turned 14 by the end of the school year. I’d think with all the homeschooling happening, most of these kids would be ahead of grade level for their age. There are a few too many 14-year-olds, is all I’m saying. I’m only regular-smart**, not spelling-bee smart, and teachers even asked my parents if they wanted to skip me ahead a grade. I’m sure some of these old kids are being kept at eighth grade status just to eke out another year of eligibility.

    ** A cold truth to all of you precocious kids out there: eventually, you’ll be average. I may have had a sixth grade reading level in kindergarten, but by law school, I just had a law school reading level. There’s a silver lining, though. That means parents can chill out about trying to teach their babies to read and their 2-year-olds to multiply. Eventually, they’ll probably be exactly as dumb as everyone else.

  • FYI: When there’s an accent mark, the kid doesn’t have to say it. The more you know.
  • Trivia: Vismaya’s mom used to be an actress in India. She got the word right, which is nice, I guess, but I am seriously getting sleepy here. Please start being less excellent, children.
  • Awww. Grace Remmer just got a standing ovation after she dinged out. She’s been here 4 years in a row. Such a likable kid! She’s temporarily taken over for Amber Brown as my favorite of the moment, because SOMEONE had to get eliminated so that this thing ends.
  • ESPN tells me that Nascar will be on in two days. Why do I guess there’s not too much overlap in these 2 audiences?
  • The winner gets $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Brittanica. I’m sorry, do people still use encyclopedias? Other than my dad, who pulls down his 1976 Encyclopedia Americana because he doesn’t remember to use Google? In case you’re wondering, my parents are also the people who still use phone books as phone books.
  • This kids difficulty with the pronunciation of kaburi reminds me of this gem:

BOWERY. BALLERY? Bowery. BALLERY? I don’t know if this girl has a hearing impediment or a speech disorder, but either way, I’m going to hell. I’d blame this debacle on a regional accent, but the girl is from Philadelphia. I lived there. I’d understand the confusion if they asked her to say water (“water.” “WOODER?”) or eagles (“eagles.” “IGGLES?”), but bowery should be fine. Just kidding, love you guys, send me some Tastykakes, go Iggles.

  • The announcers just said one kid was the most consistent speller. But, if you’re still on the stage, isn’t it because you’ve gotten everything right? So all of these kids are equally consistent? Well, it’s not a logic bee.
  • So long, Vanya. Unlike most of these red-shirted 14-year-olds, she has two years of eligibility left. I’d really like to see her win one of these years!
  • Guys, Born gets laughs just for walking on stage. Girl’s going places. The last person I remember getting laughs for a mere entrance was Cosmo Kramer.
  • Goodbye, Vismaya! Fortunately, she will seldom come across the word paryphrodrome to haunt her again. It is so obscure that my spell check can’t even tell me how terribly I just butchered it.
  • Amber Born is out. Want to know a secret, Amber? Comedy writer is a cooler title than spelling bee champion, anyway.
  • They just announced that this can’t go on all night. I think I may have heard all of the angels of heaven singing hymns of joy and praise. 25 more words. I can stay awake for this. Maybe.
  • Sriram’s out. Don’t cry, little buddy. There is no way that ptyalagogue is even a real word.
  • AHH WE’RE DOWN TO ONE SPELLER! I’M NOT USING CAPS BECAUSE I’M HAPPY FOR THE WINNER I just really want to go to bed.
  • Oh my God, Arvind could win! This kid! He gets a German word last. German is his language-nemesis. I get this. Right, French?
  • Guys, I just want to do something so amazing ONE TIME that ticker tape confetti is thrown all over me. One time. Other than attending a ticker-tape parade. Love his look of utter shell-shock.

That’s all, kids! Thanks for reading and thanks even more for ignoring all of my spelling mistakes. I’m a bit of an armchair QB as far as spelling bees go.

And Amber, if you want to write a guest post, we’ll be here waiting.

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