Big news in the spelling world. For the first time in its 52-year history, the American Spelling Bee title was shared. The two teenage competitors successfully answered all 22 rounds in the final. It was a tye.
Broadcast live on ESPN, “the bee has become a compulsively watchable spectacle of prepubescent brainpower”, writes Matt Borcas at the sport and popular culture blog Grantland.
“For one thing, it features the best spellers on the planet, and eliteness is entertaining in any form. For another, the agony of defeat is exponential when children are involved … Most important, there’s a palpable sense of urgency. Bee participants have sacrificed a normal childhood to memorise the dictionary, and while that commitment is admirable, it carries little financial upside or shelf life.”
Borcas’s colleague Rembert Browne tries, from his desk, to match the semi-finalists. His success is laid bare in a photograph of his scrawled efforts, and the post’s headline: “Who says spelling is so important, anyway?”
Despite Browne’s miserable result, however, he does emerge with some advice for other would-be competitors: “If stuck between an a or an o or an i or a y, never pick the one that makes the word sound like a pasta or a cheese (see: tachytely, not tacchitelli; and organzine, not orgonzine). Unless, of course, the word is a type of pasta or cheese.”
The big online attention, meanwhile, focused on a spelling mistake by a confident speller.
Tim Molloy of The Wrap is unimpressed by the reaction:
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Williamson’s supreme confidence in his ability to spell “kabaragoya” has made him an internet meme and an object of mockery by adults who have absolutely no idea how to spell “kabaragoya.”
Williamson struck out by spelling the word — I have no idea what it means — with a C instead of a K. But because he announced “I know it! I totally know it!” with unchecked enthusiasm and a nasal twang before getting it wrong, video of his error has raced across the internet, accompanied by words like “fail” …
Confronted with the truth, Williamson accepts it and moves on with disappointment, but grace. That’s a skill more important than winning a spelling bee, and will help him to win at life.