Yesterday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Finals, 14-year old Sukanya Roy became the 46th female participant to win as well as the fourth consecutive Indian-American. After a list of words that you’ve probably never heard of (hesthogenous, psephomancy, zwischenspiel), Roy won with a word of Greek origin that means “wavy-haired”: cymotrichous.
Roy beat out 275 spellers, which was eventually narrowed down to 13 finalists. That last round took three hours to complete and was aired on ESPN. As it stands, there have been a 46 female winners and 41 male winners.
Spelling bee competitors generally study the etymology of words, which, for a word nerd, is fascinating and wonderful, and the reason language’s degeneration into “texting-speak” breaks our hearts on a daily basis. (If you’re a word nerd.) To find out a word has roots in an ancient or dead language like Greek or Latin, and then to find out that the same word in another language is still so similar is like uncovering a lost connection. It can also provide a logical path for spelling and understanding unfamiliar words. How awesome would it be to find out a word we use every day originated in hieroglyphics, Sanskrit, or even writings in a cave? Rather than narrow down our vernaculars for the sake of convenience, spelling bees serve the great purpose of reminding us of how far we’ve come as communicators.
tl;dr: I am a serious word nerd.
ETA: My truly embarrassing spelling errors (in a post about a spelling bee) have been corrected — thanks to our anonymous tipper!