Audio blog post by Dr. Isaacs. Click to listen and read along!

Spelling bees are notorious for their stress, rattling the nerves of spellers and audience members alike. Interspersed in the grueling pressure of bees are the occasional hilarious and spontaneous events that break the tension. One of the funniest and most memorable moments in bee history occurred in 2008, when eventual Scripps champion Sameer Mishra received the word numnah in round 8. Watch the video to see what happened.

Pretty amusing, right? I know everyone in the auditorium appreciated the humor, and eventually Sameer did, too.

Beneath the veneer of humor, though, there is a big lesson to learn here. Despite the snickers in the auditorium, and despite the bewilderment Sameer felt upon hearing what he thought was “numbnut,” he stayed calm and focused on trying to decipher the word. He didn’t let the outside distractions take him away from his task. And when Sameer wasn’t sure of the pronunciation, he pronounced what he had heard very clearly. Once he did this, it became obvious to Scripps pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly that Sameer had misheard the word. A simple clear repronunciation of the word, and Sameer was good to go, much to his relief and much to the crowd’s amusement and delight.

Let Sameer’s example guide your demeanor while onstage. If you suddenly get a word you don’t recognize, stay calm and focused. An epiphany may be just a few questions away. Also, make sure to communicate with the pronouncer and especially the judges as clearly as possible. And if you don’t know what you heard, communicate that fact clearly as well.

(By the way, “numbnut” may be a word, but it does not appear in Merriam Webster Unabridged Online, the source of all words used at Scripps. It is, however, informal slang, and not a terribly complimentary word!)

Photo credit: Scripps