Additional speller brings Semifinal total to 42

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is announcing the addition of another speller to the pool of Semifinalists.

Nikitha Chandran (Speller 44), an eighth grader from St. Petersburg, Fla., will advance to the Semifinals. This brings the total number of spellers who will compete in Thursday's Semifinals to 42.

Two words on the Preliminaries computer test had alternate spellings in addition to those initially accepted by the Bee. Those spellings appear in the Bee's official dictionary, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and are acceptable spellings of the words.

At the Semifinals announcement, the Bee was aware of two of those alternate spellings -- "aurox" for "aurochs," an extinct cattle, and "viricide" for "virucide," an agent that detects viruses.

A third alternate spelling, "viruscide," was also judged to be acceptable. The third spelling was brought to the Bee's attention by spellers and their parents. The Bee immediately responded by checking the spelling and researching it.

"There are many, many words in the Bee's official dictionary that have alternative spellings and variants," said Paige Kimble, the executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. "We're happy to accept alternate spellings and variants if they meet the correct spelling in our rules. Our officials reviewed the possible alternatives and determined that both variations of 'virucide' met the criteria."

Nikitha and other spellers incorrectly had "viruscide" marked as an error on their test. Only Nikitha had enough points that the inclusion of "viruscide" elevated her into the Semifinals. The cutoff for the Semifinals is 32 points.

Nikitha's family has been notified and she is participating in the computer-based Semifinal vocabulary and spelling exam. She also will participate in the on-stage spelling tomorrow.

This is Nikitha's second trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"Integrity is of utmost importance to the Bee. So is fairness," said Kimble. "Our rules do provide for alternate spellings."

The complete list of Semifinalists is available here.