Captioning a spelling bee

Chase Frazier

So what do you do when you are asked to report a spelling bee? If you have the opportunity to do so, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, of Murrieta, Calif., says that it can be a fun experience and suggests making sure you know what the company you work for wants you to do. Here, he shares his experience.

JCR | Were you on-site for the spelling bee?
Frazier | I was remote. I believe it was a state spelling bee. The kids were 13 years old and under, I believe. It lasted about four hours.

JCR | Did you get the list of words early? Did you have the list printed next to you or did you have them all in the dictionary?
Frazier | I wasn’t allowed to write the word when the judges said it. I would write: “Spell ____.”

Then, I would write everything else and then fingerspell the student’s spelling. They didn’t want there to be any way for cheating, so I was not given any prep. And when they used the word in a sentence, I had the blurb (contest word) come up in place of the word.

It wasn’t that hard to just drop the word because the words were crazy. I’ve never heard of most of them, so it quickly became natural to write the blurb.

When they spelled, I could fingerspell the word; but when the judges were saying it, I couldn’t.

JCR | Did you feel for any of the contestants when they missed or were you just too focused on what you needed to do?
Frazier | It was cool to see them do so well, but it was sad to see some go because they did so great in previous rounds.

JCR | Did you end up adding those words to your dictionary or did they seem too esoteric? Or did you pick and choose?
Frazier | Most of the words were just so far out there. They were spelling bee words, so, no, I don’t think I added any of them. I may have added a couple that seemed reasonable, though.

Back-to-back co-champions for Scripps National Spelling Bee

For the second year in the row, there was a tie at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held on May 28 at National Harbor, Md. This year Vanya Shivashankar, age 13 from California Trail Middle School, Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam, age 14 from Parkway West Middle School, Chesterfield, Mo., were the winners. The winning words were scherenschnitte, the art of cutting paper into decorative designs, and nunatak, a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice.

There have only been five ties in the history of the spelling bee and this is the first time there have been back-to-back ties. Shivashankar and Venkatachalam tied because the judges ran out of words. Once there are three contestants, the judges use a 25-word championship list of words; if one speller misspells, the next speller must spell two words correctly in a row. When there were only two words left on the list – not enough to declare a single winner, the two spellers officially tied.

This was Shivashankar’s fifth year in the spelling bee, and her sister Kavya was the champion in 2009. Venkatachalam made his fourth appearance in the spelling bee this year.

Shivashankar and Venkatachalam won a $30,000 cash prize from Scripps, a $2,500 bond and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster, and $1,200 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica. Their schools and sponsors each won a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home. The finalists and semifinalists each won a medal and cash prize; all spellers received Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium, among other prizes.

The spelling bee was well covered on Twitter; Scripps live-tweeted the event at their official handle, @ScrippsBee, and lexicographers Ben Zimmer of Vocabulary.com and Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster provided behind-the-scenes commentary as well.

Sujoe and Hathwar co-champions at 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee

The finals for the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee were held May 29, in National Harbor, Maryland.  Ansun Sujoe, 13, from Bethesda Christian School in Fort Worth, Texas, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, from Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, N.Y., were co-champions, the first since 1962. Sujoe and Hathwar became co-champions when they exhausted the word list, although each had a winning word. For Sujoe, the word was stichomythia, and for Hathwar, the word was feuilleton. This was the fifth year that Hathwar has appeared in the spelling bee and the second year for Sujoe.

Altogether, 281 spellers from 50 U.S. states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe, as well as other countries in the world, came to compete in the spelling bee. This year also saw the youngest competitor: Hussain A. Godhrawala, from Barnwell Primary School in Barnwell, South Carolina, is 8 years old. The average age for competitors ranges between 12 and 14.

Sujoe and Hathwar won a $30,000 cash prize from Scripps, a $2,500 bond and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster, and $1,200 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica. Their schools and sponsors each won a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home. The finalists and semifinalists each won a medal and cash prize; all spellers received Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium, among other prizes.

Do you think you can match wits with the national champions? Test your spelling on the Scripps web page.