‘Taoiseach’ features in US Spelling Bee

Taoiseach US Spelling Bee
Image courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee

Nihar Janga correctly spelled the word for an Irish prime minister to become co-champ of the National Spelling Bee

‘Feldenkrais’ and ‘Gesellschaft’ were the final words given to the co-champs Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga of the US Scripps National Spelling Bee. However young Nihar was helped along the way by his knowledge of Irish governmental roles.

Even Irish students of the same age often struggle with the word ‘Taoiseach’. Indeed many adults do too. Many wouldn’t believe that the word would even be known, let alone spelled by a young boy over 3,000 miles away in the States.

Nihar, 11, and Jairam, 13, went head-to-head for 25 rounds. Jairam gave Nihar a chance to win when he misspelled “Drahthaar” a kind of dog. But Nihar then slipped up on “ayacahuite”, a Mexican tree.

Each winner receives a trophy and $45,000 (£30,700) in cash and prizes.

Students are allowed to compete in the Spelling Bee up through eighth grade. And usually it takes until this advanced stage of middle school for students to have enough practice and skill to actually win the competition.


Taoiseach US Spelling Bee
Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga: Image courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee

Finalists are chosen after extensive testing and knock-out rounds.

This is the third tie in a row at the bee. The organisers had implemented the 25-round spell-off to try to avoid a deadlock.

Jairam and Nihar are the ninth consecutive winners of South Asian descent. Jairam’s brother, Sriram, was the 2014 co-champion.

Some of the words included in the competition include:

  • Feldenkrais is a method of education
  • Tetradrachm is a kind of coin
  • Gesellschaft is a type of social relationship
  • Mischsprache is a fused language
  • Biniou is a Breton bagpipe

The final round was introduced by the host as follow: “This is a beautiful moment. If you both spell the next word correctly, you will be declared co-champions.”

Both buys got their words correct, and the crowd, their families and the organisers celebrated with delight.

However, if you thought they were young, check out this little fella: the youngest entrant, 6 year old Akash Vukoti.



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