The high school spelling bee is a time honoured tradition in the US school system and alongside head cheerleader, all star quarterback and the first guy to get a handjob, it is the title all students strive for.
For the winners, a lifetime of classmates and colleagues asking them to check their work awaits, but little is known of those who come 2nd and the words they stumbled on. We take a look at some of this year’s more interesting competitors and the words which will now haunt them forever.
Brian Hampson, 17 y.o Nebraska
Not only did Brian stumble on the spelling of this word, but he and all the male teachers in attendance, could neither define it, or recall ever having heard it before. Brian was out spelt by 15 year old Nancy Cartwright, who is head of the middle school girl’s social club and captain of the soccer team. Following the final, an investigation was launched by the Department of Education, reviewing the appropriateness of the school’s words list.
Shanyjkah Jackson, 16 y.o, Florida
16 year old Shanyjkah was the highest performing African American student at her Florida high school, however stumbled when quizzed on this word. Having been burdened with one of the most ridiculously spelt names in the country, Shanyjkah has experienced a lifetime of spelling practice and soared through the preliminary rounds, spelling ‘unarmed,’ ‘defenseless,’ ‘enslavement’ and ‘intergenerational,’ however the crowd favourite stumbled at the last hurdle.
José Gonzáles Henríquez, 17 y.o, Texas
Mexican born José competed in both the English and Spanish language state finals, however sadly could not claim the title in either. Observers are citing his dual competition as the reason for his downfall. When asked to spell such an easy word to claim the title José, did in fact spell it correctly, however in Spanish and not English as required. A subsequent appeal was overturned by the all white review panel.
Holly-Lee McKenzie-Edwards, 15 y.o, New Jersey
A wildcard entry from the New Jersey public school system’s ‘Education 4 All’ program, Holly-Lee progressed further than many thought possible, easily spelling ‘tobacconist,’ ‘unemployment,’ ‘caesarean’ and ‘Kardashian,’ however not knowing contraception was, ironically, for the teenage mother of two, her downfall.
Inzamam al-Fadr, 15 y.o, Ohio (Saudi exchange student)
Known to his classmates as Inzy, the 15 year old exchange student surprised the judges by progressing as far as he did, given he only began speaking English at age 8. Inzy was able to correctly spell ‘democratisation,’ ‘hallucinogen,’ and even ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ on his way to the final, however was left silenced when asked to spell ‘feminism.’
Jerome Goldstein, 16 y.o, New York
Fluent in three languages, Jerome made light work of his opponents, correctly spelling ‘nonproliferation,’ ‘recognition’ and ‘settlement,’ however could not complete the dream run. Supporters of Goldstein say his concentration was affected when, in the penultimate round, the supposedly random word selector nominated ‘holocaust’ as the word to spell.
Joe Clapton, 17 y.o, Tennessee
The son of a small town police chief, Joe was amongst the favourites to take out the title. He cruised through the early rounds, knocking off ‘capsicum,’ ‘calibre,’ and ‘militarily.’ However in the semi-final when Joe came up against African American student Kobe Freeman he was unable to correctly spell ‘restraint’ and as a result, progressed anyway.