The final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be on prime-time television tonight. On Thursday afternoon, as the preliminary rounds were held, elementary- and middle-school spellers sighed, cracked their knuckles, scribbled with their fingernails on their forearms, and picked their way carefully through words that could trip up spellers of any age.
Yes, they're real. And here's what they mean:
- Persienne -- Louvered blinds made for outdoor use, similar to Venetian blinds. Also, a calico or floral print.
- Nephrosclerosis -- A hardening of the kidneys, often due to hypertension.
- Ophthalmoplegia -- A type of paralysis affecting the eyes.
- Antilegomena -- Christian scriptures whose inclusion in the New Testament was contested.
- Cointise -- A scarf or pendant, often adorning gowns and, at times, helmets.
- Uraeus -- A snakelike emblem used to denote royal or holy figures in ancient Egypt.
- Siphonapterology -- The science and study of fleas.
In general, the program is open to students who have not reached their 16th birthday on or before the date of the national finals, and who have not passed beyond the eighth grade at the time of their school finals. This year's winner is Katharine Close, an eighth-grader from Spring Lake, N.J.
NPR's Melissa Block talks with Mary Brooks, head judge of the bee, who teaches at a junior high school in West Des Moines, Iowa. Brooks also serves as site coordinator for her school district's Beginning Teacher Mentor Program.