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Spelling Bee Now Requiring Finalists to Be Super-Genius Word Cyborgs

Sure, you can spell "cymotrichous," but can you define it?


We're talking about the Spelling Bee, so I have to tell you my story. It's a rule. Anyway, I won the school spelling bee in fifth grade. My final opponent—a fourth-grade girl—misspelled "hippopotamus," which I then spelled correctly. Then, I spelled "scheme" with the right six letters in the right order and won.  The girls in my class were mad that I beat their friend, and they told me I only won because we had "scheme" as a spelling word a few weeks before. I showed them ... by spelling one word correctly at the county spelling bee and coming in 18th place because my last name is sort of toward the end of the alphabet.

Were they right? Sure, maybe, fine, whatever. Did I even know what a "scheme," or even a "hippopotamus," was? I don't remember. Can you even define "hippopotamus?" You can't—seriously, try it—but now, starting this year, spellers might have to.

From the AP:

Organizers of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday announced a major change to the format, adding multiple-choice vocabulary tests to the annual competition that crowns the English language's spelling champ.

Executive Director Paige Kimble said the changes help reinforce the competition's purpose—to encourage students to improve their spelling and broaden their knowledge of the language.

The final round will remain the same—children with first-mustaches and braces, asking about latinate origins and imaginarily writing words on the back of giant name-placards, and spelling words right and wrong—but the vocabulary test, which will be a multiple-choice, SAT-style thing, will help determine what contestants make it to the semifinals and the finals.

These children are freakishly intelligent already, maybe in a too-concentrated way, the point is, so this will only make them even more so. This is not a bad thing—except, as Jen Doll notes at The Atlantic Wire: "They'll know literally everything now. Now. At the present time or moment. Now."

I spelled "lineament" wrong at the county spelling bee—I also spelled it wrong just now and fixed it with spell check—and I still have no idea what it means.