Sameer Mishra just won the National Spelling Bee. I recently heard, on NPR, that they have opened up the Bee to competitors outside the US. That's fine with me, I suppose. After all, some of the best Scrabble players in the world don't even speak English, but have memorized word after word of English.
I know there are many, especially those with young children, that find spelling and spelling bees inane. English has no logic! The spelling doesn't make any sense! Why are words so hard to spell! Why can't it simply be phonetic?
Of course, having words that sound alike allows people to make jokes, saying one word, and subtly implying the meaning of the other word.
But I don't think the kids who learn to spell are doing something inane. In order to learn new words, most spelling champs will learn not only how to spell it, but what the word means, its word origins and so forth. Is it not the mark of someone intelligent to use the full spectrum of words available to them? Have you never struggled to find a word that captures the nuance of what you're looking for? You know there must be some word that conveys the feeling, the meaning you want, that replaces "unmitigated gall" with chutzpah.
Another interesting result of the Bee is the numerous Indian Americans that excel at spelling. Indeed, because there's a trend of Indian Americans spelling well, I'm sure there's many a parent that are into their kids spelling well. It also points to the sharp increase in Indian Americans in the US.
I'd say it's not a particularly American phenomenon. I've pointed out that the greatest export of India is Indians. There are countries that have had Indians living there for decades, if not centuries. Malaysia's Indian population is quite large and influences the cuisine.
One expects that, at some point, there will be a breakthrough Indian-American tennis player. Where Michael Chang was that breakthrough Chinese-American, it seems only a matter of time before an Indian-American succeeds. Having said that, Americans have struggled to reach the upper echelons.
Meanwhile, it's perhaps no surprise that Indians in the US have found spelling as a compelling competition, and one Sameer Mishra is now the spelling bee champ.
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