Laodicean, autochthonous, stromuhr....
These were all winning words in years past. I have no idea what they mean and would epically fail if asked to spell them. I imagine I'm not alone in feeling this way.
Seeing the words these kids are asked to spell begs the questions: So how are they chosen and who chooses them?
"The committee is the secret sauce of the spelling bee,” E.W. Scripps Company spokesman Chris Kemper, told TIME. And the first rule of the committee, he said, "is not admitting that you're on the committee."
And what makes a word worthy? The TIME article goes on to explain:
“A good spelling bee word is one that isn’t transparent,” says Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s Editor-at-Large, who is involved with the bee. That means double letters (braggadocio), single letters where you might expect double letters (sassafras), silent letters (mnemonic), and letter combinations that most of us never encounter. American Heritage dictionaries editor Steve Kleinedler points to mashups like the phth- at the beginning of phthongal, which means capable of varying in pitch.
(Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters)