Back on stage at the Adult Spelling Bee

Today featured another fun, adrenaline-pumping time at the Bay Shore Church in Long Beach, during which ~35 contestants gathered to try to spell each other into oblivion. The National Adult Spelling Bee awards $500 to the winner and $500 to the charity of their choice. This time I was joined by friends Evan and Sam, which made it even more enjoyable!

Last time I made it to round 18 before failing to spell “latkes”. This year I managed to spell the following correctly:

  • dynamic
  • demographic
  • hypothesis
  • disaffiliate
  • discomfit
  • flaccid
  • myrmidon
  • zydeco
  • jejune
  • nudnik
  • abscissa

At that point, we were down to four spellers left. I misspelled “vizsla” (?!), but the three others remaining also failed to spell their words correctly, so we all survived to the next round. I then promptly misspelled “boustrophedon” (as “boustrephedon”) and the woman after me misspelled “oriflamme” (argh, I knew that one! :) ), so we tied for third place. (Boustrophedon describes a piece that is written right-to-left and left-to-right in alternating lines. Vizsla is some kind of dog breed. Aie!) The two remaining spellers duked it out for a few more rounds until Janice Davis (a returning 2008 champ) won over Nicholas Kuefler (an amazing speller from Georgia). The words by that point were bordering on ludicrous; the organizers were having trouble just pronouncing them. Good job, Janice and Nicholas!

Once again I must comment on the luck factor involved in single-elimination spelling bees. Here are some words, assigned to other spellers, that I would have misspelled if they’d been given to me:

  • emolument: a salary, fee, or profit from employment
  • pullulate: to breed or spread so as to become very common
  • vinaceous: of the color of red wine
  • jodhpurs: trousers for horseback riding
  • neoteny: the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal
  • chiliast: same as “millenarian” (a Christian belief)
  • ecesis: the successful establishment of a plant or animal species in a habitat
  • clerihew: a short comic or nonsensical verse, typically in two rhyming couplets with lines of unequal length and referring to a famous person
  • monadnock: an isolated hill or ridge

How would you do? I know many people reading this are excellent spellers!

So many words to learn. Such a fun event! I’m glad I got a chance to participate again.

3 of 4 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Marcy said,

    April 18, 2011 at 8:47 am

    (Knew it already.)

    Oh no, vizsla! That’s the type of dog that the guy I dated last year got. Perhaps if I’d written about it, you would have won. I’m so sorry!

  2. Terran said,

    April 18, 2011 at 9:20 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Third! Impressive! (Unless you live in the Ender universe. But that’s a different post.)

    Good work spelling those. Had I been there I would have burned out and died in flaming humiliation in round 1. I am a miserable speller. Only the little wavy red line saves my sorry ass.

    Though I am reassured to know that you can spell hypothesis. ;-)

  3. Tyestin said,

    April 18, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I am not very good at spelling bees. I spell wonderfully normally, but if I stop to think about how a word is spelled it suddenly looks and feels completely wrong.

  4. Kiri said,

    April 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Marcy: Right, I can totally blame you for me not getting first place… sure! ;)

    Terran: Indeed, I was pleased that hypothesis came out correctly. :) I was more nervous about possibly misspelling abscissa! Oh, the shame that would have been!

    Tyestin: I find that I spell about 90% visually and maybe 10% orally. When I’m asked to spell a word, I actually see it rolling out in front of my eyes and just read off the letters. That’s if I know the word, of course. :) If I don’t then it takes some quick deductive work, which can fail (like boustrophedon — I asked for the language of origin, so was pretty sure I had “boust” and “phedon” right, but that middle vowel killed me. If I’d known it came from “boustros” (ox) I would have been all set!).

  5. jesse said,

    April 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

    What the heck? Those aren’t real words! They had to just be making them up!! I can do that too… how about these… kornipharentaloin, byzlmith, datiecrypwort, viljed?

  6. Kiri said,

    April 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Other people actually got asked to spell “kerfuffle” and “flibbertigibbet”!! How crazy is that?

  7. jesse said,

    April 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Kiri, you mispelled jodphurs in your blog about spelling!! Hahaha!

  8. Kiri said,

    April 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I didn’t though — I *thought* it was spelled “jodphurs” but it’s not. :) The h comes before the p (comes from a city in India called Jodhpur). The guy in front of me got that word, and spelled it right — I was impressed!

  9. Scott Van Essen said,

    April 19, 2011 at 9:57 am

    (Learned something new!)

    It’s hard to say with the words in front of me, but I think I would have gotten all the words that you got, and none of the words that you didn’t no.

    Congratulations on an excellent performance.

    Reminds me of my 8th grade spelling bee. I got to the final two. The word I got was coffee. C-O-F-F-E-E.



    My opponent tries tentatively, knowing it shouldn’t be right…



    Without thinking, and following my opponent’s rabbit hole of spellings that we both knew were incorrect…



    The second I had finished, I knew my mistake. And my opponent knew it too.

    “Could you use it in a sentence please?”

    “It was hard to breathe because I was COUGHING so hard”


    And just like that, I was eliminated. Never to go on to fame and fortune at the regional or national spelling bee.

  10. Katie said,

    April 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Congrats on being 3rd! I miss spelling bees. This is something I have always been good at. Of your words, I would have missed nudnik (what IS a nudnik, anyway?!), and boustrephedon (which I actually just had to copy and paste). I WOULD have spelled jodhpurs correctly, though. :) I am glad you are able to participate in these things!

  11. Scott Van Essen said,

    April 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I realy tihnk dis woold hav bin funyer if U hadz morr randumb mispelings!!!

    (Man, that was hard to type) ;)

  12. What I Learned Today » Blog Archive » Beginnings of writing and libraries said,

    January 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    […] We discussed various writing systems, and you can browse several historical scripts as well as (quite curiously) constructed scripts, mainly for English, that replace our current alphabet. One of my favorite is Heptal (rendered at right). We also discussed boustrophedon, a word I will never again misspell. […]

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