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Chandran teaches experts a spelling or two

Speller number 44 was not going home beaten, not tonight. Nikitha Chandran was convinced she had spelt “Viruscide” right. The Bee was wrong. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: May 31, 2013 01:24 IST
Yashwant Raj

Speller number 44 was not going home beaten, not tonight. Nikitha Chandran was convinced she had spelt “Viruscide” right. The Bee was wrong.

The eighth grader from Florida, and a few others, won the argument. She entered the semis of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Viruscide is an agent used to detect viruses.

The Bee was aware until then of only two versions of the word: viricide and virucide. When challenged by Chandran and others, it researched the word and figured they were indeed correct.

“We’re happy to accept alternate spellings and variants if they meet the correct spelling in our rules,” said Paige Kimble, the executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Paige is a Bee winner herself. And so is the pronouncer Jacques Bailly, who has been called the most important person at the Bee with a rockstar presence.

In separate interviews to HT, they both affirmed the domination of Indian Americans, attributing it to their “hard work”.

“The championship belongs to those who are willing to work the hardest,” said Paige. “What we see is a willingness to work very hard to reach the highest level of this programme.”

Seventeen of the 42 semi-finalists announced at the end of the second day of the 70th national bee on Wednesday were of Indian origin, going by their names.

If one of them wins Thursday night, it will be an Indian American winner for the sixth time in a row. Nine of the 13 winners starting 1999 were of Indian origin.

Minka Gill, from Kokoma, Indiana, didn’t make it. She was one of the 281 contestants who came to the national bee being held at a waterfront resort just miles outside Washington DC.

A TV crew asked her, “are you a contestant?”

Gill nodded and without so much as a glance at her father turned to the camera.