In 1943, as Americans fought in World War II, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was canceled for the first time since the Bee began in 1925. Now, the United States is once more facing an unprecedented challenge — the coronavirus pandemic — and the Bee has been canceled again.
But you can’t keep a good speller down. (Watch what we mean below.)
In honor of the eighth graders for whom this Bee was their last year of eligibility, Washington Post Opinions decided to throw a bee of its own. Seven columnists and editors — Christine Emba, Fred Hiatt, Ruth Marcus, Dana Milbank, Alexandra Petri, Molly Roberts and Erik Wemple — assembled via Zoom to face off against one another and 2015 national Bee co-champion Vanya Shivashankar in an orthographic showdown. The drama unfolds in the video above that we produced with Joshua Carroll, Danielle Kunitz and Kate Woodsome.
Wielding the dictionary and the bell was official Scripps pronouncer Jacques Bailly, who challenged the spellers with increasingly difficult words, from “oleaginous” to “kaffeeklatsch" to “syzygy” (as in, “Despite warnings to the contrary, the president looked directly at the syzygy”). At stake: a freebie Post subscription to give out on social media — and a roll of double-ply toilet paper.
Eight contestants. Four rounds. One bonus B-U-T-T-I-G-I-E-G. It’s the Post Opinions Spelling Bee.