The U.S. Spelling Bee Finals Come to Prime Time The final round of the national spelling bee will be on prime-time television Thursday night. As the preliminary rounds were held Thursday afternoon, elementary- and middle-school spellers sighed and fretted their way through words that could trip up spellers of any age.
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The U.S. Spelling Bee Finals Come to Prime Time

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The U.S. Spelling Bee Finals Come to Prime Time

The U.S. Spelling Bee Finals Come to Prime Time

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block, and this is ALL THINGS C-O-N-S-I-D-E-R-E-D CONSIDERED.

SIEGEL: From NPR News.

It's that time of year, time for the National Spelling Bee. And this year for the first time, the bee has made it to prime time. The final is airing live tonight on ABC.

BLOCK: This afternoon in preliminary rounds, the elementary and middle school spellers sighed, they cracked their knuckles, scribbled with their fingernails on their forearms and picked their way carefully through words including persienne.

SIEGEL: Nephrosclerosis.

BLOCK: Ophthalmoplegia.

SIEGEL: Antilegomena.

Unidentified Child #1: A-N-T-I-L-E-G-O-M-E-N-A. Antilegomena.

BLOCK: Also, cointise.

SIEGEL: Uraeus.

BLOCK: And this.

Unidentified Announcer: Siphonapterology.

Unidentified Child #2: Okay.

BLOCK: Mary Brooks is the head judge for the Scripps National Spelling Bee and she joins us now. Mary, thanks for being with us.

Ms. MARY BROOKS (Scripps National Spelling Bee): Well, thank you. I'm honored to be on NPR.

BLOCK: And the big news today, a kind of a heartbreaker here, a guy who looked hard to beat, 12-year-old Samir Patel. He was the runner-up last year and he is out.

Ms. BROOKS: Yes. And heartbreaker is the way to describe it, because he definitely, as I've watched him over the years, he's a well-studied, well- prepared speller and predicted to do very well because he has confidence, he's been here. But he got a word that he simply was not familiar with. And he tried to ask all the questions that would get him somewhere in the neighborhood of some of the parts of the word so that he could get it. But he just - it threw him.

BLOCK: And that word was eremacausis.

Ms. BROOKS: Yes.

BLOCK: Well, what is that? Do you know?

Ms. BROOKS: Well, I don't have my word list right in front of me but it has to do with oxidation. And he kept trying to get the word air, A-I-R, was in the definition but it doesn't have that word in any form in its spelling. And that's, I think, what just sort of got him mixed up.

BLOCK: You know when I watched this, it was on ESPN this afternoon, you know, I don't know any of these kids but my heart is in my throat and I feel terrible when they mess up. Do you feel the same way or have you gotten some immunity over the years?

Ms. BROOKS: No, I do in the initial rounds. For example yesterday, it's much easier for me because then we're dealing with, well, yesterday was 274 and so you know, you just, you know it's a process of getting to this point. But today, as each one of them went out this afternoon, I just - yes. They've worked so hard and yet, you know what? They come knowing their already champions and honestly, I think the majority of them, that is the way they feel.

They've already won at a very prestigious level. They're thrilled to be here in D.C., but they know. They know the odds are that they're not going to be the winner here. So I - the atmosphere is just so different and I think one of the spellers put it well. He said, you know, we're not competing against each other. We're competing against the dictionary. And that's the truth.

BLOCK: Yeah. Well, have fun in prime time tonight and thanks for talking with us.

Ms. BROOKS: Well, thank you and we will. But thank you very much.

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