The Latest Buzz


Did you hear the news this week that the Scripps National Spelling Bee, after 85 competitions, is switching up its rules?{jcomments on}The biggest change is that, beginning with this year’s national bee (May 28-30), finalists will be determined in part by how well they do on a vocabulary test.

They will, however, be supplied with definitions for words they have to spell, so I’m not sure bee organizers have carefully thought through their new plan to promote vocabulary. And I hope the sample, multiple-choice questions they’ve released are not indicative of the extent to which they will tax the brains of the spellers who have reached the national level. Here’s one of them:

An heiress is a woman who:
(a) Inherits great wealth
(b) Owns a hot air balloon
(c)  Accrues massive debts
(d) Tests new hair products

Putting aside the fact that an heiress might not only inherit great wealth, but also own a hot air balloon, accrue massive debts and test new hair products, one can assume that most students will come to the “correct” definition easily enough.

And then there’s this gem in the sample questions:

What does it mean to be intestate?

(c) To be in the middle of a test in school

After hearing the bee news, I did what many of those with a journalistic bent do: I perused the bee’s website, which is where I found the sample questions.

In any event, the first national spelling bee champion won with the word “gladiolus.” I find this noteworthy because, while I myself have excelled at spelling, I come across lots of new words editing the garden features in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles. The names of flowers beyond daisies, roses and other common bloomers may be easy enough for master gardeners to master, but I’m learning with every issue we publish.

I also find it noteworthy that last year’s national spelling bee winner was a young lady from San Diego: Snigdha Nandipati, who won with the word “guetapens.” I not only could not have spelled it, but also could not have defined it. So I’ve looked it up. It means an ambush, snare or trap. I think the question about the heiress could be a guetapens.

I love using “new” words.

Janice Kleinschmidt