Skip to comments.Eighth Grader Wins National Spelling Bee
Posted on 05/29/2003 4:14:01 PM PDT by Momaw Nadon
WASHINGTON - A 13-year-old eighth-grader from Dallas nailed "pococurante" to win the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on Thursday.
It was Sai Gunturi's fourth time in the competition.
"I studied it," a beaming Sai said of the word after winning the contest, $12,000 and other prizes. "That's why I was kind of laughing." The word means indifferent or nonchalant.
Sai plays the violin and studies Indian classical music. His father, Sarma, is a chemical engineer and his mother, Lakshmi, is a homemaker.
Last year, Sai tied for seventh place. He tied for 16th place in 2001 and tied for 32nd place in 2000. His sister, Nivedita, tied for eighth place in 1997.
"Actually, I started studying in fourth grade and then I guess it's kind of like cumulative study all the way up to here," he said after surviving the grueling, 15-round contest by spelling such words as "rhathymia," "dipnoous" and "voussoir."
Evelyn Blacklock, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who is home-schooled in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., was the runner-up.
Earlier Thursday, Evelyn not only had to spell one of her words, but got to fully experience its meaning.
She stepped to the microphone at the sound of "tenebrosity," which means darkness, and began to question the announcer about its meaning and origins.
An unspoken answer came when the stage mysteriously went dark.
Unfazed, Evelyn lifted the numbered yellow square hanging from her neck and scribbled on the back of it with her finger before spelling, slowly and correctly, as the hotel ballroom's lights crept back on.
She later agonized over "anaphylaxis," a hypersensitivity caused by contact with a sensitizing agent, and "ganache," a sweet chocolate mixture used in baking, to advance another round.
The cable sports network ESPN provided live coverage.
In taped remarks, Education Secretary Rod Paige congratulated the 84 competitors who were still standing when the competition resumed Thursday, telling them they should be proud of making it to the finals.
"No matter whether you go out in the first round or become the next champ, your presence here spells only one thing," Paige said, then added: "S-u-c-c-e-s-s, success."
Jane Warunek, a 12-year-old eighth-grader in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., got a second chance after appealing her exit in the third round because she gave an alternate spelling of "diaconate." She later succumbed by misspelling "cernuous," which means drooping.
Some students moved closer to the final round by conquering such mouthfuls as "fissiparous," "platyhelminth" and "matripotestal."
Others drew the clang of the judge's bell after getting a word wrong. Among the stumpers were "preterlabent," "filipendulous" and "escheator."
There were plenty sighs of relief, high-fives and clenched fists jabbed into the air by the students who spelled correctly, and frowns and shrugs by those who were escorted off stage after their errors.
The event opened Wednesday with a field of 251 youngsters, ranging in age from 8 to 15. Each got one word to spell; 175 got them right.
Next came a written spelling test, introduced last year as a way to speed up the contest but ensure that every student gets at least once chance at the microphone. This year's bee is the largest ever, and spellers now tend to take more time before answering.
The exam narrowed the field to 84, who made the cut by missing 10 words or fewer.
Last year, it took 11 rounds to declare a winner, but that number has varied widely over the past decade. In 1997, victory came in the 23rd round.
That's MY question. It seems as though an English Spelling Bee should feature words that are used in English discussion. If the object is to merely trip up a speller, one could easily substitute a compound Turkish or German word, but neither such examples would be used in English conversation. Unless, as noted, they had come into such wide use in English-speaking circles that they would be included in the current dictionary. The winner says he "studied" pococurante, so perhaps it has come into wide enough usage to be in the dictionary.
The Spelling Bee, as she is constituted, does exhibit an aptitude bias which keeps SOME excellent spellers out of the staged competition. To win (or do well), the spellers must be able to ORALLY spell a word without being able to SEE what it looks like. Many excellent spellers and grammarians don't have the aptitude that allows them to do this - they need to write out the spelling. I know. I'm one of them. I can spell correctly just about anything, but I rely on the visual image of the word to verify its correctness. People like me make excellent judges, but not competitors, in this type of competition.
I'm not complaining, mind you. We all have different aptitude sets. But the ability to spell, per se, is not what is being tested in a Spelling Bee. What IS being tested is the ability to spell a word without being able to write it. Unless some rule I've never heard of allows contestants to write the word out on paper and then read the spelling to the judges.
See my post about aptitude bias. Not all excellent spellers can do well in a spelling bee. Not only do you have to spell well, but you don't get the advantage of the visual cues that come with spelling the words IN WRITING. You have to either have the aptitude that allows you to visualize the word in your head, or the aptitude that allows you to memorize huge lists of word without the visual-conversion aptitude. In other wirds, spelling bees are not so much tests of the ability to spell as much as they are visualization-aptitude tests.
Dr. Johnson O'Connor was one of the modern pioneers in the development of Aptitude Testing, having been hired by GE in Boston many decades ago to find out why so many workers GE hired left the jobs they had. O'Connor was one of the first to exposit the idea that many seemingly unrelated aptitudes can predispose one to success in differing areas of pursuit. For instance, the aptitude of Pitch Discrimination had obvious benefit to musicians and singers. But O'Connor also found that those who scored very high in Pitch Discrimination also excelled at doing all kinds of close-tolerance work, such as jewelers, high-end machinists, and artists. To O'Connor, Pitch Discrimination is simply the MANNER in which one measures a person's ability to pursue very finely detail work.
Dr. O'Connor was also the first to isolate and test for Structural Visualization - in fact, he wrote more than one book on the aptitude. SV is the aptitude that allows a person to visualize, say, the design of a building or a room before one nail has ever been driven. Engineers and architects obviously have the aptitude, but so do those who are excellent at organization.They "visualize" in their heads how things are supposed to be laid out. Top military strategists also are strong in this aptitude.
Those lacking in Structural Visualization are conversly high in Abstract Visualization, which would be helpful to those, for example, in a Spelling Bee. In the general population, about 70% of people are high in Abstract Visualization, leaving only 30% high in Structural. Which is why the general population seems genuinely baffled by someone who can come into a situation and instantly visualize a solution to whatever problemos he sees. The guy who can do this is high in Structural Visualization.
Just a few notes for those of you who were craving a bit of aptitude exposition with your morning coffee.
Your school must be really proud today.
So, when are they going to get around to teaching you about capitalization?
However, as I've noted, there is a difference between the ability to spell well and to perform well at spelling bees. To perform well at spelling bees requires an aptitude not related to spelling at all, but related to mental vision.
Not totally. A lot of it is the ability to reason-out a word's spelling based upon the basic rules of spelling - handy if you don't happen to know the word. It also helps to know English etymology.
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