Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kavya Shivashankar..."Laodicean"...Scripps' Spelling Bee winner

Congratulations to local girl Kavya Shivashankar the 2009 Scripps' Spelling Bee winner.

"Spelling Bee 2009: Kavya Shivashankar Wins on Laodicean"


Michael David Smith

May 28th, 2009


Kavya Shivashankar, an eighth grader from Olathe, Kansas, correctly spelled L-a-o-d-i-c-e-a-n to win the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night. Kavya won after a championship round in which runner-up Tim Ruiter was eliminated on "maecenas" and third-place finisher Aishwarya Pastapur was eliminated on "menhir."

Making her fourth appearance in the national bee, Kavya looked calm and collected throughout, never wavering as she spelled words like "phoresy" in the championship round. (The other championship round words that were spelled correctly were antonomasia, bouquiniste, oriflamme, guayabera, isagoge and sophrosyne.)

In earlier rounds, Kavya effortlessly rattled off seemingly challenging words like "hydrargyrum," "blancmange" and "baignoire."


[Indifferent or lukewarm especially in matters of religion.]

"Kavya Shivashankar, 13, Kansas Girl, Wins National Spelling Bee"


Joseph White

May 28th, 2009

Huffington Post

Mirle Shivashankar, left, hugs his daughter Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, after she won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Washington, on Thursday, May 28, 2009. At right is his wife, Sandy Shivashankar.

WASHINGTON — Cool and collected, Kavya Shivashankar wrote out every word on her palm and always ended with a smile. The 13-year-old Kansas girl saved the biggest smile for last, when she rattled off the letters to "Laodicean" to become the nation's spelling champion.

The budding neurosurgeon from Olathe, Kan., outlasted 11 finalists Thursday night to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, taking home more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and, of course, the huge champion's trophy.

After spelling the winning word, which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics, Kavya got huge hugs from her father, mother and little sister.

Kavya was making her fourth appearance at the bee, having finishing 10th, eighth and fourth over the last three years. She enjoys playing the violin, bicycling, swimming and learning Indian classical dance, and her role model is Nupur Lala, the 1999 champion featured in the documentary "Spellbound."

Second place went to 12-year-old Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Va., the only non-teenager in the finals. He misspelled "maecenas," which means a cultural benefactor.

Aishwarya Pastapur, 13, from Springfield, Ill., who loved to pump her arm and exclaim "Yes!" after getting a word correct, finished third after flubbing "menhir", a type of monolith.

The 82nd annual bee attracted a record 293 participants, with the champion determined on network television in prime time for the fourth consecutive year. There was even a new humorous twist: Organizers turned the sentences read by pronouncer Jacques Bailly into jokes.

"While Lena's geusioleptic cooking wowed her boyfriend, what really melted his heart was that she won the National Spelling Bee," Bailly said while helping explain a word that describes flavorful food.

Then there was this gem, explaining a room in an ancient Greek bath: "It was always a challenge to tell whose toga was whose in the apodyterium."

But the laughter turned to shock when the speller, Sidharth Chand of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., flubbed the word, spelling it "apodeiterium." Sidharth was last year's runner-up and a favorite to take the title this year. He buried his head in his hands for about a minute after he took his seat next to his parents, while the audience and other spellers gave him a rare mid-round standing ovation.

This year's finalists were all 13 years old, except for 12-year-old Tim. Otherwise, they were a diverse group, with hometowns from New York to California. One was born in Malaysia. Another can speak Hindi and wore five good-luck charms. Tim is a science fiction buff who apparently does a great impersonation of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings."

Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, kicked off the championship rounds by telling of a bout with nerves that caused her to drop out of a sixth-grade spelling contest.

"I know that confidence is the most important thing you can give a child," she told the audience.

The only speller to hear the telltale bell in the first championship round was Tussah Heera of Las Vegas, who left out an "r" in the surgical term "herniorrhaphy." She took a seat in her mother's lap and wiped a tear or two as the competition continued.

Neetu Chandak of Seneca Falls, N.Y., spelled the economic term "ophelimity" as if she were asking a question, then exclaimed "Yes!" and raised her arms when told she had spelled the word correctly.

Then the words started getting harder. The next round claimed three spellers, including Neetu, who finished her attempt at "derriengue" by smiling and saying "ding" because she knew she was going to hear the bell.

Kennyi Aouad of Terre Haute, Ind., added a novel flair to the bee, demonstrating the kind of confident showmanship one would expect from a professional athlete. The nearsighted boy would think aloud, scratch his chin and sometimes put on glasses so he could see the pronouncer's lips. After spelling a word correctly, he would strut to his seat, point to supporters and mug for the camera.

Kennyi was finally eliminated on the "palatschinken," an unusual type of pancake. He shrugged and said "tried my best" after he heard the bell, then shook his head bemusedly when told the correct spelling.

As an amendment, did you ever wonder how the words are chosen for the spelling bee?

Scripps' Spelling Bee 2006

Finola Hackett [left] placed second after misspelling "weltschmerz" [
mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state]. Katharine "Kerry" Close [right] won by correctly spelling "ursprache" [a reconstructed, hypothetical parent language, as Proto-Germanic].

"How Do They Pick the Words for the National Spelling Bee?"


Nina Shen Rastogi

May 28th, 2009


The final round of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee will be broadcast Thursday night on ABC. Contestants in the preliminary rounds have already faced such lexicographic puzzlers as onychorrhexis, mostaccioli, and schottische. How do bee organizers come up with the tournament's word list?

By committee. The highly guarded process is coordinated by Carolyn Andrews, the bee's "word list manager" since 1998. (Andrews, a former English teacher and technical editor, is also the mother of the 1994 bee champion.) Twelve people are involved in compiling more than 1,000 words for the national bee over the course of the year leading up to the event. The group's membership remains mysterious, though Paige Kimble, the director of the spelling bee, did confirm that she is ultimately responsible for the content of the list and that James Lowe, a senior editor at Merriam-Webster—whose Third New International Dictionary is the bible of the bee—and Barrie Trinkle, the 1973 champ, both participate.

Details on how the group does its work are fuzzy. Two sources provide some insight into the process from a few years ago—a 2007 document that used to be hosted on the bee's Web site and James Maguire's 2006 book American Bee. According to those sources, members of the "word panel" would spend the summer months keeping their eyes open for good spelling-bee words as they read, listened to the radio, and went about their daily lives. (Shopping catalogs, which often feature arcane words in their product descriptions, seemed to be a particularly fruitful source.) In the fall, the panel would meet for two days to compile a rough draft of the list. Each word would be rated by level of difficulty, using factors like length, whether it can be spelled phonetically or has obvious etymological roots, and how "fashionable" it is. For example, cortege, meaning "funeral procession," got knocked down in the rankings after Princess Di died and the term appeared in numerous press reports.

In the winter, Andrews would prune the list. Then there would be another two-day panel meeting in February before the list went to Jacques Bailly, the bee's official "pronouncer." Bailly would spend the next several months practicing pronunciations and compiling his own set of notes. In May, the bee judges would review the final word list and, in a final meeting the day before the bee, approve it for competition.

The process may work somewhat differently today, however. Kimble, the spelling bee director, stressed that the process described above is out-of-date, though she declined to elaborate further. She did tell the Explainer that the panelists never consult old spelling bee lists as they come up with new words. After 84 years of competition, some words do end up reappearing. You can look for these in the 794-page "Consolidated Word List," which was compiled in 2004 and includes competition words dating back to 1950. Some examples: campodeiform (having an elongated and flattened shape), firkin (a British unit of weight for butter equal to 56 pounds), and wobbulator (a testing device for radio sets).

Words with foreign origins—like 2006's winning word, Ursprache—are always popular. (Foreign roots can be wielded in tricky ways, though: One contestant got dinged in the preliminaries this year for misspelling kakistocracy, or "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens," with a c, like cacophony—both Greek-derived words come from kakos, meaning "bad.") Carolyn Andrews has also expressed a fondness for eponyms—words derived from proper names, like sandwich and malapropism—and blended words, like netiquette.

Scripps' Spelling Bee

1 comment:

Stephani said...

I got second place in a spelling bee, but it was between myself and Steph!