kavya shivashankar

Friday, May 29, 2009

won this year's national spelling bee by spelling "laodicean" -- lukewarm or indifferent, esp. in religion, as were the early christians of laodicea. the word the loser kid lost to or something like that was "maecenas" -- a generous patron or supporter, esp. of art, music, or literature.

okay, these are both greek terms, but they don't seem too difficult to spell, especially since they're pronounced (well, "maecenas" would be tricky still).

so it got me wondering if the words for spelling bees are getting easier. i looked them up, and actually, it looks like they've gotten much, much harder. compare the words from the 2000-2008 with those from 1970-1978:

1970 croissant
1971 shalloon
1972 macerate
1973 vouchsafe
1974 hydrophyte
1975 incisor
1976 narcolepsy
1977 cambist
1978 deification
2000 démarche
2001 succedaneum
2002 prospicience
2003 pococurante
2004 autochthonous
2005 appoggiatura
2006 ursprache
2007 serrefine
2008 guerdon

compared to the '00s' words, the '70s' words don't seem tough at all (narcolepsy? come on!)--in fact, the easiest word from the "modern" bees is "kamikaze," which was 1994's winner.

and the farther back you go, the easier they get--there's 1941's winner, "initials"; 1940's even-easier "therapy"; and 1932's laughable "knack."

anyway, full story here.

and does the nbs's seal remind anyone else of this?