Each year, hundreds of phenoms from around the nation travel to Washington, D.C., to spell out arcane words that most of us would never even attempt to utter, let alone spell. The program has gained a recent resurgence in attention over the last few years, thanks in part to spelling bee-themed films, and now a primetime spot on ESPN.
The National Spelling Bee’s history is chock-full of adorable, hilarious and cringe-worthy moments. Like when 13-year-old Kennyi Aouad couldn’t stop cracking up when he tried to spell the word "sardoodledom" in the 2009 competition. (Hey, we would too.)
Check out seven of our favorite moments in Bee history (below) which remind us why we love this challenge of wits so much.
Thirteen-year-old Rebecca Sealfon really brought her A-game in 1997, screaming each letter of her final word, "euonym," with the gusto of a terrified cheerleader. Her winning performance was later immortalized in a sketch on “South Park.”
"How Do You Spell That?"
Contestant Katie Seymour, an eighth-grader at the time, was the big jokester of the 2005 Scripps' National Spelling Bee. When asked by judges to spell the word "incunabula," Seymour turned the tables, cheekily asking, "How do you spell that?"
“Negus. Could You Use That In A Sentence?”
During the 2009 competition, 12-year-old Andrew Lay started to sweat when he was asked to spell the word "negus," a word which means "king" and is used as a title of the sovereign of Ethiopia, but which phonetically sounds an awful lot like the n-word. The shocked look on his face after he spells "negus" correctly is priceless.
"Do Chickens Have Large Talons?"
While attempting to spell "chinook" in 2005, contestant Dominic Errazo, 13, breaks his stoic demeanor and transforms his voice into a Napoleon Dynamite-like husky whisper, asking the unsuspecting crowd, "Do chickens have large talons?" He then embarks on his spelling of "chinook." Whatever works.
"I Think It’s A Joke"
Little Lori Ann Madison became the youngest contestant in Scripps' Spelling Bee history when she competed in the 2012 competition at the age of 6. Roughly half the age (and half the size) of her competitors, Madison proved a valiant competitor, awing the judges with her way-above-average talent and intellect. Though she didn’t win in 2012, we’re positive we’ll be seeing Madison’s name in the spotlight again soon.
"If You’re Not Saying It Right, I’ll Probably Not Spell It Right"
Evan O'Dorney, 13, was not amused by CNN anchor Kiran Chetry's interview following his win at the 2007 Scripps' National Spelling Bee. When Chetry asked O'Dorney to spell "scombridae," he appears confused and finally says, “If you’re not saying it right, I’ll probably not spell it right.” The awkwardness is palpable.
"Tried My Best"
Self-described as jovial, 13-year-old Kennyi Aouad was the crowd favorite at the 2009 competition. He finished in fifth place, after misspelling the word “palatschinken.” In the most adorable display of good sportsmanship, Aouad simply shrugged, smiled and told the audience, “Tried my best.” Watch that exchange in the video above, in which you can also see him crack up over the word "sardoodledom" and try to steal ESPN's Erin Andrews' mic earlier in the competition.