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14-Year-Old Karthik Nemmani Absolutely Slays Competition at the National Spelling Bee

Last night, 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, rocking rectangular glasses and a smooth bowl cut, won the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee after correctly spelling the word “koinonia,” meaning “communion.” The runner-up, Naysa Modi, was felled by the arguably much more difficult word “bewusstseinslage,” the correct spelling for which Nemmani mouthed behind her.

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Middle-schoolers will never cease to amaze me with their power and industriousness, and this year the competition was remarkably fierce, as the Washington Post illustrated:

Along the way, he had to outlast a field of 16 finalists who vanquished words such as “Praxitelean,” “ispaghul” and “telyn” — sometimes without batting an eyelash — in a breathtaking show of spelling skill broadcast live on ESPN.

But Nemmani, who was competing at his first national bee, displayed the poise of a veteran, seeming to sail through his words: “condottiere” (knight or roving soldier available for hire), “miarolitic” (of igneous rock), “cendre” (a moderate blue), “ankyloglossia” (limited normal movement of the tongue), “grognard,” “passus,” “shamir” (tiny worm capable to splitting the hardest stone) and “jagüey” (an East Indian tree).

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Ankyloglossia?! Jacques Bailly, my man, what the fuck! Karthik Nemmani is my GOD! And as winner, appropriately, he will receive $40,000, a trophy, $2,500 more from Merriam-Webster, trips to New York City and Los Angeles, and a pizza party for his school.

Congratulations, Karthik!

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.

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DISCUSSION

Kat Marlowe

I secured my victory in my 5th grade spelling bee with the word ‘mattress’ because I didn’t leave off the last ‘s’ for savings.