Words, Words, Words: Microsoft at the Scripps National Spelling Bee

When spellcheck first became popular, there was somewhat of an elegiacal interlocutory fracas by those who practiced the antediluvian deification of autochthonous language and viewed a deteriorating emphasis on canonical spelling as an almost sacrilegious demarche against the euonym and akin to vivisepulture. After all, who would need to learn how to spell when computers could not only recognize the mistakes but suggest corrections? Might one day all languages simply become the Ursprache of computer code? Dire naysayers nearly drove themselves to the sanitarium and years of psychiatry and therapy by predicting the end of meticulosity and asceticism, the death of elucubrate and intelligible writing, and a promiscuous reliance by the Laodicean pococurante on the spellcheck feature.

Clearly, those cynics had never been to the Scripps National Spelling Bee or they would have been insouciant about the eudaemonic prospicience of spelling. For almost 90 years, students have been gathering to compete for the place of top speller. And for many, it is part of a lifelong milieu of words and communication, as revealed in this vignette by Yan Zhong, the Skype Program Manager who qualified two years in a row to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Even in a world of auto-correct, spelling is clearly still important. There are over five thousand Bing queries every day that start with “how to spell” and an entire team at Bing devoted to the many misspellings people make when they search, a part of Microsoft’s vouchsafe to a support of language. A few facts from their reports:

  • The word people most use search to help them spell isn’t even a real word: the most common “how to spell” query is “how to spell supercalifragilistic”. The most common real word query? “How to spell acknowledgement”.
  • Even simple sounding celebrity names can be tricky. Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus both have 192 recognized search spelling variations. Arnold Schwarzenegger only has 37.
  • What query has the most variations? YouTube, with an astounding 4,155 alternates.

Microsoft is proud to be the technology lyceum of this year’s Bee and a supporter of students in education everywhere, with or without a knack for spelling. We see spellcheck not as spoliator but as yet another way of helping kids love language. As part of our Bing in the Classroom program, we’ve been creating special digital literacy-focused Spelling Bee lessons alongside our regular lesson plans, and you can join in the fun with our free Spelling Beesapp, exclusively for Windows 8. Finally, check out the Bing homepage on Bing.com today to learn more about the Scripps National Spelling Bee and unique facts related to the art of spelling.

You may be wondering about the logorrhea of this post, but it was simply an attempt to use as many Bee-winning words as a sort of appoggiatura guerdon and not as a guetapens or succedaneum for simplicity. Those used in the post include:

1929 – asceticism

1930 – fracas

1932 – knack

1934 – deteriorating

1935 – intelligible

1937 – promiscuous

1938 – sanitarium

1939 – canonical

1940 – therapy

1942 – sacrilegious

1948 – psychiatry

1951 – insouciant

1952 – vignette

1960 – eudaemonic

1969 – interlocutory

1973 – vouchsafe

1978 – deification

1980 – elucubrate

1985 – milieu

1988 – elegiacal

1989 – spoliator

1992 – lyceum

1994 – antediluvian

1996 – vivisepulture

1997 – euonym

1999 – logorrhea

2000 – demarche

2001 – succedaneum

2002 – prospicience

2003 – pococurante

2004 – autochthonous

2005 – appoggiatura

2006 – Ursprache

2008 – guerdon

2009 – Laodicean

2012 – guetapens

– Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist at Bing