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June 5, 2010 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Anamika Veeramani just won the national spelling bee with stromuhr, continuing a long Indian-American streak which has included such memorable spelling bee moments as the Numb What? and the Pass Out.
posted by twoleftfeet (44 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for him. I can't even pronounce these words, let alone spell them. Too bad the first link provided begins with an recruiting advertisement for the U.S. Army. As if they wanted people who could spell and think.

Spelling Bee announcer: "Enlist." The word is "enlist."

Three Blind Mice: "S-T-U-P-I-D".

Spelling Bee announcer: "Incorrect. The correct spelling is B-A-T-S-H-I-T-I-N-S-A-N-E."
posted by three blind mice at 3:10 AM on June 5, 2010


Good for him.

Anamika Veeramani is a she.
posted by andoatnp at 3:11 AM on June 5, 2010


Good for her.

I'm not seeing that ad. Sorry.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:12 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go Cuyahoga County!
posted by sciurus at 3:17 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Video started off with the Army ad for me as well. I guess it's not a regional thing, since I'm logging in from Europe.

This spelling bee thing is a little weird to me since I'm not aware of anything omparable over here.
posted by _Lasar at 3:17 AM on June 5, 2010


This spelling bee thing is a little weird to me since I'm not aware of anything omparable over here.

I was just discussing this with a colleague of mine who is French. He says in France that have dictation competitions where someone speaks a passage, and the kids write it down. Not only do you have to spell all the words in the spoken passage correctly, but it's also judged on punctuation. And this event is televised -- kids at desks writing things down. My colleague says people like to watch it and play along.

I watched the spelling bee last night -- it was fun! Although the "guess which kid is homeschooled" drinking game we played added a lot to our enjoyment.
posted by bluefly at 3:33 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Spelling bees only make sense for an orthographically challenged language like English.
posted by empath at 3:33 AM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's amazingly hard to get clean video of this event now. There's a slideshow.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:36 AM on June 5, 2010


andoatnp: Anamika Veeramani is a she.

My humble apologies to the winner. I too could not sit through the ad.
posted by three blind mice at 3:41 AM on June 5, 2010


anamika, one of my favourite names

ah yes, now you lot have tips on how to date her
posted by infini at 3:45 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's another tip - half your age plus seven.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:14 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are any number of reasons that I scoff at spelling bees - and now I have a new one. Put "Stromuhr" into Google. Ok, now do "Stromuhr -spelling".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:20 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are any number of reasons that I scoff at spelling bees - and now I have a new one.

...that coverage of it shows up on Google? I don't quite understand.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 4:39 AM on June 5, 2010


Was this a competition about spelling in German? Sounds like a cheap trick on the part of the organizers.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:58 AM on June 5, 2010


fwiw I've never heard the word stromuhr here in Germany either. Though spelling it would certainly be easier for a german speaker.

Genuinely curious: What's to scoff at about these competitions?
My first reaction was along the lines of "a competition on how to spell words? Seriously?" But if it encourages kids to be less illiterate then I'm all for it.

The commercial TV aspect mentioned in the article sounds a bit worrysome. Is that what you are playing at?
posted by _Lasar at 5:10 AM on June 5, 2010


Apparently, someone speaks a passage, and the kids write it down.

Actually I think all the words in the final rounds on TV were either English words which were taken directly from foreign languages or scientific words. The foreign words sometimes had different pronunciations in English (the Japanese gyokuro was one of these where the English pronunciation made it harder to figure out the spelling of the word (there's a schwa sound after the y in English, but a long 'o' sound in Japanese)).
posted by bluefly at 5:11 AM on June 5, 2010


*Oops, I meant to quote Dr. D not myself:
Was this a competition about spelling in German? Sounds like a cheap trick on the part of the organizers.
posted by bluefly at 5:12 AM on June 5, 2010


Pass Out

I loved the whispered 'Stop the clock.'

I enjoyed watching Spellbound fairly recently, possibly because - as others have said - we don't have anything to really compare over here.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:18 AM on June 5, 2010


are you telling me there's no "dictation" as part of standard english coursework through primary and secondary school?
posted by infini at 5:19 AM on June 5, 2010


I have watched the spelling bee for the last time -- tv used to just SHOW it, without adding all this cheesy crap and forcing the competition to slow down for commercials and more cheesy crap and up-close-and-personal stories, and TALKING over what was going on so you couldn't hear the speller and Dr. Bailey half the time, and Erin Andrews's dreadful interviews are the last straw. I think I had the mute button on for a full 2/3 of the broadcast.
posted by JanetLand at 5:27 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "Pass Out" video is all kinds of disturbing. A kid faints on stage, and no-one goes to see if he's okay? And then they let him carry on and go back to where he was sitting as if nothing unusual just happened? Hmm.
posted by afx237vi at 5:44 AM on June 5, 2010


yeah, infini, dictation was a big part of my Scottish childhood. A big deal in Quebec, too - it's televised, and made into a book of past years' passages. Some of those are vicious.
posted by scruss at 6:20 AM on June 5, 2010


I scoff because I fail to see the connection between spelling and, well, much of anything else. If the competition involved reading something interesting and then tell us about it I'd feel like literacy was at least being supported. Or hell, they give you a word and you give them the definition.

As it is, it seems a lot like memorizing a lot of digits of pi or e. It's a cute parlor trick, but it's not the same as knowing anything about math.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:36 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I scoff because I fail to see the connection between spelling and, well, much of anything else. If the competition involved reading something interesting and then tell us about it I'd feel like literacy was at least being supported. Or hell, they give you a word and you give them the definition.

It requires an extensive knowledge of etymology, as well. Spelling bee participants can't be expected to know every single word that possibly exists. If you see them approach a difficult word, they ask for its origin and meaning and puzzle it out from there.

As it is, it seems a lot like memorizing a lot of digits of pi or e. It's a cute parlor trick, but it's not the same as knowing anything about math.

Many competitive contests generally focus on some specific skill or piece of knowledge that has long since been isolated from its greater context. Doing well in baseball's home run derby isn't the same thing as maintaining a high batting average or having a good grasp of overall baseball strategy.
posted by deanc at 6:53 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


but what does she think of Shahrukh Khan? She MUST HAVE AN OPINION!
posted by nathancaswell at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2010


that's a drool, not a derail

now, as I was saying, its all due to the ability to rote memorize reams of data without understanding a word of it...
posted by infini at 7:23 AM on June 5, 2010


Seriously, nothing about how Scripps shut down the semifinals in the middle of round 6? There were 19 kids in round 6 and the word list was so brutal that 4 out of the first 13 survived. Supposedly fearing that ABC wouldn't have enough kids for their 2 hour final, the Bee stopped, leaving six kids into the primetime "finals" by virtue of having their state alphabetically later. When the round started up again during primetime, 4 out of those 6 kids survived, which also isn't helping whispers that the word list got easier.

While it's well within the rules for Scripps to stop midway, this was handled badly. I can't imagine how awkward and unfair it might have felt for a kid who was eliminated earlier in the afternoon see other kids who hasn't even gone up yet get all the primetime press and production segments and get called finalists when they hadn't earned the right yet. It also doesn't help that the finals were filled with so many commercial breaks and fluff and "how does it feel to be eliminated" interviews and still ended early.

Never was a champion speller, but the Bee is srs bizness to me. Don't even get me started on Dr. Bailly and his pronounciation.
posted by zix at 7:25 AM on June 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


I got two words for you to spell: Rebecca Sealfon.
posted by NoMich at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never had any sort of dictation in schools in the US, but I did in the (French-language) school I went to in Paris.

I love watching the spelling bee. All those geeky kids who've worked incredibly hard get to be on TV for something that doesn't involve hitting something with a stick or knocking someone down.

I felt bad for the kid who missed confiserie because she didn't hear it properly.
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Spelling Bee: Behind the Words
------------------------------
In 5th grade, I was in the spelling bee for 5th-8th graders. Beforehand, we all received booklets with words in it and practiced with them. Amy Anderson gave me "Chandelier" and I spelled it "Chandeleer." She corrected me. I noted it and moved on.

It came down to the wire. It was Stephanie Viste, some other kid I don't remember and me. I should note that I remember Stephanie, cuz she was the older sister of the girl I was infatuated with at the time...

Competition was fierce, we each aced the words thrown at us for round upon round. We're all feeling nervous, I think I can hear the gulp of the person next to me (is it sad that I don't even remember their gender, let alone their name?)... Then it's my turn:

"David, spell 'Chandelier'" I freeze. FUCK. CHANDELIER! I know this. I just did it.
"Chandelier -- C - H - A - N - D - E - L - E..." FUCK! I DID IT AGAIN!!!!!!!!! My heart sank, my head shakes. I let my class down.

After watching the next set of words, I could have aced them all! I *knew* them, not kinda knew after hearing it in practice, but actually knew them. If I didn't bomb it I could have kept on fighting! So I was sad.

But I got back to class and the teacher and kids were proud to hear I came in 3rd place.

My memory may be hazy, but I believe this is what happened next (I know it happened at some point, but it may not have been after the spelling bee, but I feel like it was): I got called to the principal's office (you're not my "pal", buddy)...

I walk in, excited to be recognized and congratulated (and this is why I'm pretty sure it happened like this, because it was a double whammy) -- I walk in and see the principal, and then a sinking feeling in my gut as I look to his left and see my arch-nemesis: Mr K. The gym teacher. Also? He was the High School Football Coach, if that gives you an idea of what asshole lengths he might go through to push his students to "succeed".

As you may well know, nerds aren't always the most athletic in the group. I was no exception to the rule. I could barely do a few situps (this after having transferred to this school from a school w/not much of a phy ed program (yes it was "phy ed" not "phys ed" to us)) I spent the next half hour getting my ass REAMED in front of the principal for not trying hard enough... for being a slacker. This after I had almost had a fucking heat stroke one day and was very very dehydrated and had to stop running and get water.

I went in thinking I would be eulogized, instead, I was humiliated and berated at the hour of my triumph.

----------

In 6th grade, I was the only one in my spelling class. That is, I was "AP" spelling. LOL. I had to sit outside doing my own book of High School level spelling. I bombed out early that year because I got distracted at nebula (NEBULA FFS! I devoured science books at that age, I knew how the fuck to spell nebula!) Because some fucking GENIUS running the program decided to let the illiterate kids into the program and they bombed early and sat behind the teacher making faces and shit. Way to go, organizers! (yeah I cracked under pressure, so it's really my fault, but still)
posted by symbioid at 9:05 AM on June 5, 2010


http://www.whynotad.com/_mm/_d/_ext2/58613/big_Rebecca%20Sealfon01.jpg
posted by symbioid at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2010


Too bad the first link provided begins with an recruiting advertisement for the U.S. Army. As if they wanted people who could spell and think.

I think you either don't know much about the army or are being a jerk or both.

The military needs plenty of folks with high technical abilities, but even at the general level, they prefer soldiers to be more intelligent. They structure recruiting bonuses and rank advancement to encourage those with education to enlist.

It's also specifically targeted recruiting towards Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi speakers.
posted by Jahaza at 11:36 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just ranting about the TV production elsewhere (summary: it's horrible), but I will say this - the kids were awesome - from the ones who spoke up at the press conference and after it to the media about what a bad idea stopping in the middle of a round was and how it was unfair to all of the kids to the ones who were on the primetime show who were essentially iced before each turn by having to wait 5 minutes (3 minute commercial break + 2 minutes of filler) between each speller to Anamika (who had her name mispronounced by the commentators and by Erin Andrews to her face ALL NIGHT LONG) who persevered. It's a pity the crappiness of the ABC coverage did it's best to try and overshadow the kids.
posted by julen at 12:08 PM on June 5, 2010


Awww, I always feel such nostalgia this time of year. I used to compete in spelling bees--back when the book was still Paideia. I never trained like these kids, but I had a good visual memory and could usually spell a word after I had seen it once or twice. In 8th grade I went to the St. Louis Regional Bee, which was held at the art museum, and made it all the way to the final ten. I finally went down on the word "impetigo," which I don't think I'd ever encountered. 8th place, crapheads, I'm such a winner! Here's the weird part, though--you know George Thampy, the kid from Spellbound? He was there. He fell two people before me and his father ran from the audience, grabbed Georgie by the elbow, and marched him up on stage to argue with the judges. It was surreal as hell, but I was hardly surprised to hear that he won the whole shebang a few years later.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being a voracious reader and having a good grounding in phonetics will get you pretty far. In 8th grade I was 3rd in the state (GA) finals without any special training / memorization for it. To win nationals without that would be harder.

That being said, I think it is very useful. Admittedly, back then most people weren't writing on computers, so spell-checking didn't exist for most. But even now, people (especially in a professional context) will judge you on your writing and spelling, at least subconsciously.

And as a bit of a pedant, I really hate when I misspell something, regardless of what others think.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:57 PM on June 5, 2010


I was also offended by the military advertising on a children's event. I rarely watch TV and I'm shocked when I do how many ads for the military there are these days - heck, there was an ad for the military at the start of Avatar (though I laughed halfway through the movie when I thought about it).

But perhaps it's intended as a warning? "Stay in school, or you'll have to go out and kill random people who never offered you any harm."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:46 PM on June 5, 2010


Spelling bees only make sense for an orthographically challenged language like English.

Yes, English has many words whose pronunciations are not entirely predictable from their spellings. But a spelling bee is about hearing a word and then spelling it, so the correspondences in the opposite direction matter as well. Because of this property there could be spelling bees in French and Japanese, for example. Many sounds in those languages can be spelled multiple ways.
posted by cogneuro at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2010


I went to the city bee in Cincinnati when I was in 7th and 8th grade and I can tell you, rote memorization of words is the least part of being a champion speller. All the things you can ask the pronouncer while you're stalling for time - root, etymology, use it in a sentence, define it, and then pronouncing it yourself, repeatedly, and asking, "is this correct? is this correct?":

these are all great strategies for not only recalling stuff you explicitly know, but for assembling stuff you only know parts of. Plus the auditorium is full of your parents and the local tv station and dozens of kids you've met at gifted camp and ... and...

and you really have to pee. and you can't, not unless you win or get knocked down.

There's a reason the green room in that one studio at WCPO is known as the crying room. because when it's over, and you bonked on "instauration (definition: "restoration" or, alternatively, "installation" - god bless my dad, whose only comment was, "well, why the hell didn't they just say "installation?")," the relief and humiliation is overwhelming.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:39 PM on June 5, 2010


The thing that's amazing and wonderful about this particular Indian-American girl's victory in a spelling bee, the thing that gives it the character of an act of revolutionary defiance akin to Gandhi's legendary production of salt, is that at the last census, literacy among Indian women was still barely above 50%, and further progress continues to be opposed by traditionalists of various stripes.

And I wouldn't be surprised if Anamika Veeramani is well aware of that.
posted by jamjam at 7:29 PM on June 5, 2010


This American had dictation in school from 2nd-3rd grade. Also in French class.
posted by Precision at 8:49 PM on June 6, 2010


I made it to top 5 of the state finals of the geography bee in the 7th grade.

I will always remember the question I was eliminated on:

"Which country colonized Mozambique?"

Because when the tv news covered it that night, I was the video illustration for "The Agony of Defeat," when I answered "France?"

It was especially bitter because the category for the last round of questions was "the weather" and I was a huge weather nerd and knew all the answers.
posted by empath at 9:11 PM on June 6, 2010


the thing that gives it the character of an act of revolutionary defiance akin to Gandhi's legendary production of salt, is that at the last census, literacy among Indian women was still barely above 50%, and further progress continues to be opposed by traditionalists of various stripes.


come now, jamjam, by your argument I'm Mandela breaking through the hallowed walls of the blue with snarks - it might have made more sense if the girl lived in rural india and then reached american tv
posted by infini at 10:35 PM on June 6, 2010


English language butchers pronunciation of "confiserie" so if you speak French you would actually be at a disadvantage. I'm done.
posted by sety at 6:07 AM on June 7, 2010


The thing that's amazing and wonderful about this particular Indian-American girl's victory in a spelling bee

I agree that it's wonderful, but it's far from unprecedented. In addition to Nupur Lala, who won the spelling bee depicted in the film Spellbound, another Indian-American female, Ragashree Ramachandran, won the National Spelling Bee back in 1988.
posted by jonp72 at 9:31 AM on June 7, 2010


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