14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde is the second black girl and the first black American to win the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee. Most spelling bee contestants spend their lives studying and preparing for the competition, but Zaila had only been practicing for two years when she won! Talk about amazing! The last word that she spelled correctly was “murraya” which, according to the Merriam-Webster website means, “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees (family Rutaceae) having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.’” There are a lot of words in that definition that I’m going to need to look up in the dictionary later... And I would have a lot of trouble spelling them! Did you know that the Merriam-Webster website has articles about trending words that you might be hearing more often because they are being used in current news stories, like the story of Zaila’s historic win? If you've ever heard a word in the news and had to look up what it means, you're definitely not alone!
Zaila’s tutor expressed that she had a talent for not only memorizing letters but also for learning why each word is spelled the way it is, “Zaila looked at each word as a story," (ESPN). The library has a lot of resources for exploring the English language! If, like Zaila, you’ve ever wondered why things are spelled a certain way or how the English language evolved, take a look at our encyclopedia databases! Or maybe check out some of the books below!
Multitalented, Zaila has also made a name for herself by holding three Guinness World Records for basketball-related feats: “the most bounce juggles in one minute with four basketballs, the most basketball bounces in 30 seconds with four basketballs, and ties of the record for most basketballs dribbled at once,” (NPR). Are you interested in what other types of records are being broken? Check out some of our books about world records!
Of course the library has books and movies about fictional spelling bees. But you may still have some questions like... why are spelling bees called spelling bees? Well according to the Merriam-Webster website there were other options, like “Spelling-Fight” and “Spelling Combat”, but none of them had quite the same ring to them as "spelling bee." You may have also heard of “quilting bees”. “The word bee is an alteration of a word that meant ‘voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task,’” (Merriam-Webster). It might not make perfect sense, but it is a cute name for a fun and friendly competition! You can find out more on the Merriam-Webster website.
And did you know there were dictionary wars?? Apparently, not everyone agreed on how words should be spelled... If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out some of the books below!