The 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee started with approximately 500 spellers. When the final round started at 8:30 on Thursday night only 16 remained.
Since starting to air the Bee in its entirety in 1994 on ESPN, American viewers have been captivated by these intelligent, competitive, and strategic youngsters. So much so that Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn wrote a hilarious, and at moments, heartbreaking musical about a local county Bee that premiered on Broadway in 2005.
So what is it that makes the Bee so captivating?
Well, the first, and likely, most obvious reason is just the sheer amount of words that these kids have to know. They come from all languages and all parts of language. I don’t know how they manage to fit all that knowledge into their brains in conjunction with all of their other school work. I, on the other hand, walked into the Target I’ve been going to for nearly a decade today only to discover that they were remodeling it and immediately forgot what I had gone in there to get because I was so thrown off.
Which leads me to the second reason the Bee is intriguing. And that is how these young spellers manage to “sound” or “spell” out the words before actually saying them out loud so as to avoid disqualification. If you are unaware once they start saying the word out loud they cannot start over, so the method of how they “practice” saying it is of utmost importance. Some of the more traditional methods include writing it on your arm, in the air, or on the name card each contestant wears. In the fictional Bee my favorite contestant, Leaf Coneybear, went as far as to basically go into a hypnotic trance as he spelled. Though it was definitely for dramatic effect it was also highly entertaining and endearing.
My personal favorite from Thursday’s bee though was the young lady who typed out her word as if she was using her computer keyboard.
(I know…that was a stretch…but let me just have it, ok?)
Another one of the latest attractions is Dr. Jacques Bailley, who was a former champion in 1980 and has served as the events official pronouncer since 2003. His dry delivery when asked to use a particular word in a sentence has become a favorite of both contestants and fans alike.
Lastly, I think we are all intrigued to watch how kind and empathetic kids generally are when they compete. I see it when I watch MasterChef Jr too, which if you aren’t watching that show then hit up Hulu on your next binge-watch day. You’ll thank me later. These kids come from all over the country to spend a week together and they spend long hours sitting on a crowded stage where they end making up friends they would never have met otherwise. And though the ultimate goal may for themselves to win, they are genuinely happy for their newfound friends to succeed, even when it comes at the expense of their own elimination. They are also the first to console and congratulate each other on a good competition.
Oh and in case it’s still unclear to some of you…as it was to this kid……it’s spelled Y-A-N-N-Y!
No other alternate pronunciations? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/h9BxS60mmf
— ESPN (@espn) May 30, 2018