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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Last night, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, and live on ABC television, the 80th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee came down to two 13-year-old contestants. Nate Gartke from Alberta, Canada misspelled the word coryza, an acute inflammatory respiratory disease, and it was up to Evan O'Dorney of Danville, California to spell, as it happened, another medical word.

Unidentified Man: Serrefine or serrefine.

Mr. EVAN O'DORNEY: Serrefine, serrefine. May I have the definition please?

Unidentified Man: A serrefine is a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Serrefine. S-E-R-R-E-F-I-N-E. Serrefine.

Unidentified Woman: You are correct. You're the champion.

(Soundbite of applause)

SIEGEL: And the champion speller, Evan O'Dorney is our guest. Welcome to the program and congratulations.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Were you familiar with the word serrefine?

Mr. O'DORNEY: Well, we've studied the dictionary and I just happened to remember having that word.

SIEGEL: And the word that Nate Gartke went out on - Coryza.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Would you have done as well with that one had you gotten it?

Mr. O'DORNEY: I know that word.

SIEGEL: You know that word. When you said we studied it, whom do you study spelling with?

Mr. O'DORNEY: My mom has home-schooled me since I was really young. And I really like it. I can advance really far in certain subjects like math, not like regular school where you have to stay on the subject.

SIEGEL: I saw that you actually have a favorite difficult word and it describes a Maltese boat of some kind.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: How do you pronounce it?

Mr. O'DORNEY: Dghaisa.

SIEGEL: Dghaisa. Let's give a second for all the people in the audience to imagine how they would spell that. And what's the etymology of it? Do you know what language does it come from?

Mr. O'DORNEY: Maltese.

SIEGEL: It's from Maltese, which is no ordinary language. There's some Arabic in Maltese and some Italian in Maltese, I believe. So Dghaisa. Now that everyone in the audience has tried to spell it, give them the correct spelling.

Mr. O'DORNEY: D-G-H-A-I-S-A.

SIEGEL: Dghaisa. Where did you learn that one?

Mr. O'DORNEY: It was first on a list of words with strange beginnings.

SIEGEL: D-G-H would be a strange beginning. I don't know of any other words that begin that way in English.

Mr. O'DORNEY: There aren't any.

SIEGEL: That's the only one?

Mr. O'DORNEY: Yeah. At least that's the only one in Webster's Third.

SIEGEL: In what order do you go about studying words? Does - you take them by the letter or by the category or there are random lists of difficult words? How do you - how do you do this?

Mr. O'DORNEY: We would pick a letter like, we might decide to do G first. And then we would study each word and decide on another letter to do and so on until I memorized the whole book.

SIEGEL: How long does this go on everyday? How much spelling practice per day?

Mr. O'DORNEY: On average, about two to three hours.

SIEGEL: I've heard that you've been in math competitions and you also play piano and have done some composition.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: How does the task of spelling, which is - I guess there's something systemic to it, but mostly it's memorizing difficult word by difficult word. How does it compare either as a challenge or a source of satisfaction to you as say mathematics or music?

Mr. O'DORNEY: I don't like spelling as much as math and music. With math, I really like the patterns numbers make. And with music, I like to let out ideas using notes. But the spelling is just memorization. And even though I do really good at it, it's not my favorite thing.

SIEGEL: Do you now retire from spelling? I mean having won the national championship, is it...

Mr. O'DORNEY: Yeah. I'm not going to do words anymore, just numbers and notes.

SIEGEL: Well, Evan, congratulations once again.

Mr. O'DORNEY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Evan O'Dorney of Danville, California. He's this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee champ.

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