7 Best Moments from the Scripps National Spelling Bee

A star is born, another goes down courtesy of a synonym for bovine rabies, and the judges try but fail to steal the show. Watch our favorite moments from the National Spelling Bee.

05.29.09 8:52 AM ET

Behold the Terror that is the Bee

The charm of the Spelling Bee is the sight of brainy kids at their best, but there is a darker side: brainy kids paralyzed with fear by, in this case, a term for a rather unpleasant medical procedure. But give 13-year-old Tussah Heera credit: How would you do on national television if you were asked to spell “herniorrhaphy”?

The Judges Seek the Limelight by Offering Shecky Greene-like Sentences

We have two quibbles with this year’s event. One, the announcers—including Tom Bergeron—couldn’t keep their mouths shut, especially when the tense silence was speaking for itself. Two, when the contestants would ask a few background questions to help them spell the word, the judges exercised their pent-up creativity by scripting wacky contextual sentences. Listen and repeat, producers, announcers and former champions: The kids, not you, are the stars of this show.

Beloved Sidharth Chand Collapses Like the ’07 Mets

You gotta love Sidharth Chand. He traces out his answers with a nonexistent pen, he’s a tough but quiet competitor, he looks like the neighborhood physician even though he’s 13. He also finished second in last year’s event, and we thought he might take it this time, in his last year of eligibility. Not so.

“Derriengue” Robs Us of a Ray of Sunshine

As if swine flu wasn’t bad enough, “derriengue”—a form of paralytic bovine rabies—had to come along and knock out one of the most joyful contestants. Neetu Chandak kept her sense of humor post-elimination, anticipating the elimination ding, and bouncing off the stage with an infectious smile full of braces.

Kennyi Dig It?

The breakout star of the night was 13-year-old Kennyi Aouad, who previously charmed audiences with his giggling reaction to the word “ sardoodledom.” This year, he grabbed the microphone from host Erin Andrews in a candid backstage moment. His later undoing with the word “palatschinken” ended with a humble shrug and a “Tried my best.”

The Quiet, Awesome Composure of Aishwarya Pastapur Reminds You That There Is Good on This Planet

Heard of the word “xebec”? Neither have we, nor, apparently, had eighth-grader and Springfield, Illinois, native Aishwarya Pastapur, who seems to reason out, in front of blinding lights and millions of people, the spelling of this insanely difficult word. Spelling Bees may have their problems, but all that is right with them came through in this two minutes. Abbreviated version below.

Give Her a Hand!

Thirteen-year-old Kavya Shivashankar won the night with a flawless spelling of “laodicean,” aided by her technique of tracing the words out on her hands. It may look odd, but it’s hard to argue with the results.

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