Can You Spell F-U-N? Fun Facts About the National Spelling Bee

BEE SEASON, Flora Cross, 2005, (c) Fox Searchlight/courtesy Everett Collection
Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection

Think back to a simpler time and place. You were sitting in the classroom, inhaling the smell of chalk when your teacher announces a spelling bee. If you’re like me, maybe you were actually pretty good at spelling but could not think of anything you’d rather not do. The anxiety of waiting for your turn and having everyone look at you as you tried to spell ridiculous words that you never used in real life. No? Just me? Anyways, The Scripps National Spelling Bee is something much bigger and allows children to compete for the title of the Spelling Bee champ. Every year on May 31, we celebrate National Spelling Bee Day. This year, the annual competition is being held from May 30-June 1.

The National Spelling Bee began way back in 1925 as a way to promote better literacy around the country and was originally hosted by newspapers. Frank Neuhauser won the very first competition by successfully spelling the word “gladiolus.” While it had a humble beginning with only nine competitors, it has grown to millions of students participating. It has been held every year since then with the exception of the years 1943 to 1945 because of World War II and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason is it now hosted by Scripps is that the E.W. Scripps Company (a newspaper company) acquired the rights in 1941.

WASHINGTON - JUNE 01: Jacob Allen Devine from Brainerd, MN. reacts after mispelling a word that was given to him during the second round of the 78th Annual Scrippts Howard National spelling Bee June 1, 2005 in Washington, DC. The spelling bee features children national wide competing for the title of champion speller

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Just after the hiatus due to World War II, the spelling bee was broadcast on network television for the first time in 1946. It has been on TV every year since then and in 2015, it became the most tweeted show of the week, beating heavy-hitter shows like Game of Thrones.

OXON HILL, MD - JUNE 2: 14-year-old Harini Logan from San Antonio, Texas uses her hand to write a word during the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort on June 2, 2022 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. 234 spellers are competing in the first fully in-person Bee since 2019

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

2015 was a big year for another reason as the time limit was reduced to two minutes for participating in hopes of speeding along the competition. The competition works with the Merriam-Webster dictionary to make sure that unique words are being brought each time. They might even throw in some strange words like consonants! The 21 consonants can actually be spelled as the following: bee, cee, dee, ef, gee, aitch, jay, kay (also ka), el, em, en, pee, cue, ar, ess (or es), tee, vee, double-u (or double-you), ex, wye (or wy) and zee.

If you’ve ever seen the competition on TV, you know that these kids really know their stuff. Who will win this year? Think you’re a spelling master? Try this fun quiz created by Merriam-Webster and tell us how many you got right!

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Kid Stuff

June 2018

Unleash your inner child by reliving your favorite kids TV shows, cartoons, toys and more!

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