Of the viewers who watched ABC’s broadcast of the 79th National Spelling Bee on June 1, how many would have spelled the word meaning “kosher approval” the way the judges did? The Round 8 word trumped the young lady who had to spell it, too.
When Saryn Hooks spelled it H-E-C-H-S-H-E-R, the judges dinged her out. According to them, the word should be spelled H-E-C-H-S-C-H-E-R. But that is not the spelling used in many Jewish newspapers and magazines, which is heksher. Luckily, the judges caught their mistake, and Hooks retuned to the competition to become the third-place finisher. She was luckier than Kavya Shivashankar who lost, misspelling the Hebrew word G-E-M-A-T-R-I-A-L (she spelled it with an O).
Second-place finisher Finola Mei Hwa Hackett, asked to spell K-N-A-I-D-E-L, however, got it right (it was an ironic follow-up to her Round 6 word: K-A-D-D-I-S-H). During Round 10, Ragiv Tarigopula received the “we didn’t think it was that hard to spell” word of the night: Y-I-Z-K-O-R (he spelled it correctly).
Earlier in the E.W. Scripps Co-sponsored bee, during the off-air Round 5, one child was asked to spell M-O-L-O-C-H (you might know it as melech).
The larger question is: Why should anyone be asked for a single correct spelling of a transliterated word? Is that fair when even the larger Jewish society can’t agree on a spelling for Chanukah (or is it Hanukkah)? Well, at least uber smart participants didn’t have to worry about spelling the Yiddish term for untalented loser: S-H-M-E-G-G-E-G-G-E.