Shaking up the spelling bee

The biggest spelling bee in the country, the Scripps National Spelling Bee, is introducing a major change to its proceedings. Instead of just knowing how to spell preposterous words, contestants will also have to know their definitions.

If you ask us, for those who have trained for years just on the proper spelling of words, the change is bound to be like a field full of guetapens (the word that propelled last year’s winner, Snigdha Nandipati, to victory).

The reason behind the change:

“It represents a deepening of the bee’s commitment to its purpose,” Director Paige Kimble told USA Today, “to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”

Read more from reporter Karin Klein’s rundown of the changes.

Photos: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images, Erik Hill/Anchorage Daily News/MCT, Fred Watkins / ABC, Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

An Inside Joke

Photo by Ben St. Lawrence. Round Valley, CA.

Guetapens: pronounced: (get'a paw) definition: ambush, snare or trap.

Last Tuesday morning, I heard the word guetapens for the first time. Like many, I learned of this word after seeing a 14 year old girl from San Diego spell it correctly to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

That same morning, I drove down to Bishop, CA with Pat Smyth, Ben St. Lawrence and Collis Birmingham. We did a workout in Round Valley. Like we’ve done in previous weeks, we went to lunch at Black Sheep Coffee Roasters. Along the way to Black Sheep, a challenge emerged: could one of us order a fictitious espresso based drink named a “guetapens” and pass it off as a real drink to the skilled baristas (seriously, they are very good) at Black Sheep?

In the the age of the cortado, flat white, forte, piccolo, and double ristretto we thought we had a chance with guetapens.

We concluded paper/rock/sissors would best decide who would be ordering a guetapens, in the end Collis lost, he would be ordering the fake drink. We collectively decided a guetapens would be composed of chilled espresso and sparkling water.

Here is Collis’ dialogue with the baristas at Black Sheep:

Collis: Hi, yes, I’ll have 2 cappuccinos and a double guetapens thank you.
Barista 1: Got it, 2 caps and a…what was that?
Collis: A double guetapens please.
Barista 1: I’m so sorry, but what is that?
(Enter Barista 2)
Barista 2: It’s kind of, like a, uh…(he’s posturing like he’s heard of it before, which is impossible)
Collis: It’s a double espresso over ice finished with sparkling water.
Barista 2: Yeah, like a…(confirming he knows the composition of a drink that doesn’t exist)
Barista 1: Oh, okay I’ve never heard of that.
Collis: Yeah, it’s a very popular drink in Australia.
Barista: Okay cool, I’ll have to remember that!

The barista wasn’t lying, she did remember! In fact, a “Sparkling Black” is now a speciality summer drink at Black Sheep.

Although, it would have been funnier if they kept the original guetapens name, we still laughed that a drink we made up 1 week ago, that everyone agreed tasted terrible, was now prominently featured at a local cafe.

Thanks for reading,