by Derek, aka Word Buff (Brisbane, Qld, Australia)
Scripps National Spelling Bee is the largest educational competition in the English-speaking world.
The National Spelling Bee, as it is usually called, has been held every year since 1925, with the exception of three war years, 1943-45. The National Bee has consistently increased in popularity since its inception, with more than 10 million spellers now competing each year!
The Bee has also steadily increased in difficulty. To see this, you only need to glance through the list of winning words — the final word in the inaugural 1925 Bee was GLADIOLUS, while the winner in 2009 had to negotiate the treacherous LAODICEAN.
As you can imagine, with more than 10 million competitors, there is a rather long and tortuous lead-up to the event, with all but a handful of contenders knocked out well before the finals. The finalists do battle in the splendor of the Grand Hyatt hotel, Washington D.C., in the week following Memorial Day weekend (i.e. late May or early June).
To compete in the event, you'll need to be 14 or younger on September 1 of the previous bee year, and have not yet completed eighth grade. You'll also need to belong to a school that has enrolled in the competition through a local Scripps sponsor. If you're not sure whether your school has registered, just hassle your teacher ;-)
And by the way, if you get a buzz out of spelling obscure words, you don't have to compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee to enjoy the event. Every year the most exciting, later rounds of the event are televised on ESPN and ABC. (See the Comments area at the bottom of this article for updates on the next national bee!)
So, what's it actually like to compete in the Nationals? Here's a snippet from the 2007 finals that will either whet your appetite or scare you, depending on whether you intend watching or spelling...
If you decide to enter, make sure you visit Word-Buff's Spelling Bee Guide for a few tips and resources recommended by spelling bee experts.
I'll use the Comments area below to post National Spelling Bee updates. Feel free to post any of your own thoughts or anecdotes here too by just clicking on the comments link below...