It's that magical time of year again when young teens or preteens make all of us adults feel like imbeciles. That's right, it's time for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
This annual competition is in its 86th year. It comes complete with a $30,000 cash prize for the winner and all the drama that comes complete with battling for a boatload of cash and doing so on national TV.
As has become custom, ESPN will carry coverage of this event from the start of the preliminaries on Wednesday, May 29, to the finals on Thursday, May 30.
ESPN does a nice job of making this a fun broadcast, and if this tweet by Scripps is any indication, this year will be no different:
Uh oh! @espn is up to no good, taping funny segments with #spellingbee spellers for Thursday night's broadcast. http://t.co/UKEf0PWRHv5/27/2013, 1:46:05 PM
The competition features kids in the eighth grade or lower—and as Erin Kelly of the Gannett Washington Bureau, via USA Today, tells us—281 spellers are scheduled to compete in this year's competition.
The young competitors hail from all over. With, according to Kelly, all 50 states being represented, and places far beyond the U.S.A. as Japan, South Korea, China, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Ghana, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe will all be cheering on at least one competitor in this competition.
Adding intrigue to this year's competition is a rule change that requires spellers to not only know how to spell the words, but also define them. We'll get more into the rule changes below, but first, check out the vitals for this year's competition.
When: Preliminaries—Wednesday, May 29 at 8:00 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com
Semifinals—Thursday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN2
Championship Finals—Thursday, May 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Where: Washington, D.C.
Live Stream: ESPN3
Addition of Vocabulary
As if spelling a words like "chiaroscurist" isn't difficult enough, competitors will now be asked to define them.
However, they won't have to define the words on stage as they spell them. The official site of the event discusses the change here, and how vocabulary will be incorporated.
Since 2002, this competition has factored in a computer portion of the competition. Previously, this had just involved spelling, but it is this portion of the competition that will now also feature vocabulary.
This is factored into which competitors will advance to the semifinals and the final, which is then determined by the more traditional method of kids spelling words on stage.
The vocabulary evaluation is going to account for 50 percent of a speller's overall score.
I would hope that the words on the vocabulary section are not quite as obscure as the ones these kids are often asked to spell. Like "chiaroscurist," which was an actual word from the competition, and means, obviously: an artist who specializes in chiaroscuro.
Let us also be thankful that this youngster wasn't forced to think about definitions when he misheard the word "numnah."
Other Rule Changes and Format
The addition of vocabulary is not the only rule tweak. As Kelly notes, previously, when the public spelling portion of the competition began, the youngsters were given a sort of warming up period of two rounds.
The elimination did not begin until words were misspelled after Round 3. Eliminations will begin in Round 2 this year.
Of the 281 scheduled competitors, only 50 will move on from the preliminaries to the semifinals. As Kelly notes, the elimination will not be limited to who is bounced from the stage by missing a word. The first computer test will also be factored in here.
Prior to the start of the semifinals, the competitors will take a second computer test, which will be factored, along with two more rounds of spelling, into who advances to the final.
The finals will then be determined on stage until just one likely happy and relieved competitor remains.