Last year was the first time since World War II that the national spelling bee was canceled. The bee is back. Finals are tonight at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.
I’m no fan of the bee. You can have it. Why would I want to watch you fumble “pococurante” in front of millions of eyes as beads of terrified sweat light up your crunched forehead like an athlete grunting against the weight of a defender? Still, I’m a Professional Haver of Interest in spelling and grammar and language and accuracy and education, the whole mess of obsessive word-squinting. All for the idea. But if I’ve learned one thing from this spelling racket, it’s the right to informed dissent: The bee is a sugar high.
I’ve read the arguments for and against, and I’m not swatting or punching “down” at your intrepid bee—bee health matters—but if you catch me in the elevator at an annual copy-edit conference (real event) and ask me to spell “succedaneum” or “guetapens” or “autochthonous,” I’ll inch away and take a “phone call.”
“Succedaneum” and “guetapens” and “autochthonous” are winning words from spelling bees of years past. Take a look at the winners from every contest since 1925. Knock yourself out.
Before you send us pointed rebuttals to firstname.lastname@example.org, prove your mettle/metal/meddle/medal by acing this quiz:
1. misspelled or mispelled
2. hydroxychloroquine or hydroxychloroquin
3. incumbant or incumbent
4. gerrimandering or gerrymandering
5. caronavirus, coronavirus, or coronovirus
6. predeliction, predilection, or prediliction
7. desperate or desparate
8. annually or anually
9. buoyant or bouyant
10. separate or seperate
11. concensus or consensus
12. embarrass or embarass
13. guage or gauge
14. miniscule or minuscule
15. occurrence or occurance
16. persue or pursue
17. siege or seige
18. sieze or seize
19. vacuum or vaccuum
20. withhold or withold
Look at you—20 out of 20! Congratulations. You didn’t even buckle and search. Tune in tonight if you must. Before you go, a bonus for playing: Get in on Mother Jones’ latest newsletter, David Corn’s This Land, for our DC bureau chief’s sharp insights, scoops, recommendations, and behind-the-scenes accounts from Washington and beyond. I guarantee each newsletter is spelled perfectly—and perfectly spelled. Get on it.