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Are These Spelling Bee Words for Real?

National Spelling Bee champion Snigdha Nandipati (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

So, am I smarter than an eighth grader? The answer is NO, NO, a thousand times NO! Especially if that eighth grader is 14-year-old Snigdha Nandipati of San Diego.

 

She’s the girl who won the 85th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee last week with her correct spelling of “guetapens,” which means ambush, snare, or trap.

GUETAPENS?!?

See, what you can’t see right now is the red, squiggly line beneath “guetapens” that indicates that not even spell-check has ever heard of this word. And, honestly, if you are meaning “snare” or “trap” or “ambush,” then why not just say “snare” or “trap” or “ambush?”

Listen, before I go on, I want to make sure everyone understands that I am, in no way, trying to undercut what this girl or any student before her has accomplished. Seriously, I’m doffing my cap.

But “guetapens?”

My cast-iron gold-painted third place trophy from the 1980 Daviess County Spelling Bee (Photo by Dave Spencer)

Really?

I’ve checked the list of winning words that dates back to the first Bee in 1925, and they have decidedly gotten more difficult. Granted, a few of the early ones were a bit unusual–like “foulard” and “albumen”–but there were also fairly easy winners like “deteriorating” and “therapy.”

Lately, they’ve been giving these kids words I’ve never heard of or seen before in my life. Let me give you the rundown of, say, the last five winning Spelling Bee words.

They are “cymotrichous” (having wavy hair), “stromuhr” (an instrument for measuring the velocity of blood flow), “Laodicean” (indifferent toward religion or politics), “guerdon” (a reward), and “serrefine” (a small set of forceps).

It makes me feel incredibly inferior when I remember that I came in third in the county spelling bee when I was in eighth grade. I screwed up and left out the second “E” in “achievement” and got bounced. Still got a trophy, though.

Anyway, have any of you ever used any of these National Spelling Bee words? Well, anyone who isn’t a super-intelligent doctor who needs forceps and measures blood flow velocity and who also has wavy hair and doesn’t care about religion or politics and likes to reward?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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