Did you know that no one from Rhode Island has ever won the National Spelling Bee? The last person from New England to win was Worcester’s Elizabeth Anne Rice, who took home the trophy eighty years ago with CANONICAL (1939). Things have changed a lot since then. Winning words from the past, like CROISSANT (1970), LUGE (1984), and KAMIKAZE (1993) now seem like quaint practice round fodder compared to more recent winners like STROMUHR (2010), SCHERENSCHNITTE (2015), or ERYSIPELAS (2019), one of the eight words spelled by this year’s unprecedented octet of champions.
Shalini Shankar’s new book is Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z’s New Path to Success.* As an anthropologist and professor of Asian American Studies, she’s particularly interested in the spelling culture of Indian Americans, who have dominated every national spelling bee since 2007, including seven of the eight winners this year.
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