Arvind, Round 2

The only person in last year's championship finals to return to the Bee this year, New York eighth grader Arvind Mahankali (Speller 163), is through the second round. He correctly spelled "euphemism," a polite, tactful, or less explicit term used to avoid the direct naming of an unpleasant, painful, or frightening reality.

Here was his sentence: Robert spent the afternoon searching for a euphemism for "bankrupt on mortgage-backed securities" before reporting to the Board of Directors.

Howdy and hello

Some of the spellers simply get their word and spell, but others have exchanges with Dr. Jacques Bailly, the Bee's pronouncer.

Isabel Cholbi (Speller 18) walked to the microphone with a, "Howdy, Dr. Bailly."

"Howdy," he replied. "How are you, Isabel?"

"I'm great," the California seventh grader said.

She spelled "escargot" correctly, but not before responding "That makes sense" to the sentence Dr. Bailly read her: "Mike's favorite recipe for escargot was any recipe that made it taste less like escargot."

Pictures with the trophy

The competition began this morning, but last night, spellers were in the same room as their prize -- the trophy handed to the winner of the Bee.

Spellers and their adults alike took pictures of the trophy, and in front of it.

Cecilia Guerrero (Speller 72), an Illinois seventh grader, said she'll keep the picture to herself -- unless she wins the competition.

"It's just to show how close I am to the trophy," she said.

First to go

We've had a lot of spellers get through so far, but there are a few who didn't make it.

There was a lot of applause for Alan Shi (Speller 21), a California eighth grader, who was the first one to leave the competition. He incorrectly spelled cynosure, a center of attraction or interest.

The next speller, Zerin Wetzel (Speller 22) also spelled her word incorrectly, and was eliminated. She misspelled commissar, a Communist party official who assures party loyalty.

She also received a round of applause.

A word from the judges

The judge's main job is to listen, Head Judge Mary Brooks told assembled spellers Tuesday evening.

To the pronouncers, to make sure they're pronouncing correctly. To the spellers, to make sure they understand the word they're supposed to spell.

There are a few things -- like accents and capital letters -- that spellers don't need to worry about onstage, even if their word has them.

"We are all on your side," she said. "If you carry out your responsibilities, truly, your only foe will be the dictionary."

A few numbers

At the first national spelling bee, in 1925, only nine spellers competed for the title. This year, there are 281 spellers at the national bee.

Want some more facts about the spellers? Here are a few:

  • 27 percent of this year's spellers are repeat performers, or are related to someone who has been to the Bee before.
  • English is not the first language of 34 spellers.
  • There are 169 spellers who speak a language other than English at home.

For more numbers, check out our statistics page.

Some words of wisdom

The competition has already begun, but tomorrow starts the on-stage portion of the Bee. And in an evening gathering, spellers were welcomed to D.C. and reminded of what it is they're doing here.

"It's our love of words, language and championship spelling that brings us together," said Paige Kimble, the Bee's executive director. "We admire and salute your accomplishments here this week."