The Spelling Bee: winning/losing words

Here is some information on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held every year in America. It’s so popular, it even gets some significant coverage on ESPN.

The fascinating part of the above-linked page is the list of winners and the winning words. Such is the nature of the competition, a winning word for the winner is by definition a losing word for the runner(s)-up.

First of all, it’s obvious that the standard has increased significantly over time. I don’t know the meaning of the last 13 years’ winning words, and would struggle to spell any of them. Meanwhile, there must have been some runner-up kids kicking themselves in the competition’s early history, as the following list shows:

  • 1928: albumen
  • 1930: fracas
  • 1932: knack
  • 1934: deteriorating (please!)
  • 1935: intelligible
  • 1937: promiscuous
  • 1940: therapy
  • 1941: initials
  • 1970: croissant

Some of the above faux-pas are an indication of how our language has evolved. Others are no doubt howlers that drew gasps from the live studio audience.

Posted by Dan, 16 October, 2006 under Grammar


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