Two prepubescent word nerds are having the best week of their lives.
Last night (May 26), 11-year-old Texan Nihar Janga and 13-year-old New Yorker Jairam Hathwar won the coveted US Scripps National Spelling Bee championship.
This is the third consecutive year with two winners, even though this year’s bee committee beefed up the number of words in the final round to try avoid a tie. All winners in the last nine years have been of South Asian descent.
Janga’s winning word was “gesellschaft,” a “rationally developed” relationship that arises from association (as opposed to an organic one, which develops from mutual sentimental attachment). From, surprise, German.
Hathwar’s was “Feldenkrais,” a method of movement that sells better posture and body awareness. Hathwar’s brother, Sriram, was the 2014 bee winner.
Hathwar and Janga each take home a $40,000 prize and a one-year premium subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
The bee, now in its 89th year, is an annual nationally televised near-sporting event in which kids compete to spell exceedingly more difficult American English words. The 285 contestants this year included spellers from all 50 US states. All were younger than 15 and have not yet graduated from eighth grade.
Twenty-eight of the competing kids were raised with a first language other than English. Sixty percent attend public school, and seven percent are home-schooled, about twice the national average.