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What’s the Buzz About ?

June 2006
What’s the Buzz About ?

Did you hear it?—that buzz, I mean. It's those bees again! They've been buzzing busily in the last few months all over the schools. At the end of last month, May 31st specifically, they could be heard buzzing all the way over in Washington, D.C. Actually we have been watching them on TV these last few days.

So what am I talking about? The spelling bee, of course, or as it is formally known, the Scripps National Spelling Bee (formerly known as the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee).

How the spelling bee came to bee?

The year was 1925, and a newspaper by the name of The Louisville Courier-Journal organized a spelling bee for boys and girls around the state of Kentucky. It was a huge success. Soon after, newspapers like The Detroit News, The Hartford Times, and The South Bend News-Times became the first sponsors of a country-wide competition in which school-going kids could compete. In 1941 it became known as the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. The finals are held in Washington, D.C., from May 31st to June 2nd. The competition starts months before inside classrooms, and the winners move forward to compete at higher levels, until finally they compete for the state title. The state champion goes on to participate at the nationals held in Washington, D.C. A total of two hundred and seventy five kids compete for this title. They represent the U.S., The Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Our Georgia State Champion for the year 2006 is Nadhini Sundaresan.

Why Bee?

There is no certain explanation of why this competition is called a spelling bee. The word "bee" is most commonly used to describe a gathering in which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (quilting, sewing, etc.) to help one person or family. Many people believe the word was used because of the similarity between these gatherings and the hard-working, social activity of the insect, the bee. Lately scholars have said that it comes from the Middle-English word bene which means a prayer or a favor, as in people helping each other out with different activities.


Important people around the country such as businessmen, educators, and editors feel that students are less capable in spelling as compared to subjects like math, geography, and English. This competition helps to introduce a love for words, increases powers of memory, and helps to build a huge bank of new and fun words. It is a great asset to teachers as it helps students in the learning of a difficult subject.


The spelling bee Champion won prizes worth more than $37,500 as well as an engraved loving cup. All spellers who went to Washington received a commemorative watch; Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, on CD-ROM; a $100 savings bond; a duffle bag, T-Shirt, baseball hat, and a $20 gift certificate; and cash ranging from $25 to $6,000 (third place), $12,000 (second place), and $30,000 (champion).

Now, what about you?

For those of you who heard about this competition for the first time, and those of you who want to try participating in it—or in any other kind of challenge that you really want to try your hand at but aren't sure of yourselves, and those of you who have been there but didn't succeed, let this thought from George Abraham Thampy, winner of the 2000 National Spelling Bee, buzz within you: If he had been eliminated in an early round, he says, he would still be happy, "as long as I learned one new word."

George Abraham Thampy

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