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Youngest Speller Is Out Of The Bee; Tripped Up By 'Ingluvies'

Six-year old Lori Anne Madison during Wednesday's competition at the National Spelling Bee.
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Six-year old Lori Anne Madison during Wednesday's competition at the National Spelling Bee.

The youngest contestant ever in the National Spelling Bee, 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Woodbridge, Va., was foiled by a word most of us have probably never heard of before.


Definition: "The crop, or craw, of birds."

Lori Anne, as we reported earlier this week, is a precocious young girl who started reading at the age of 2 and was in her first spelling bee at the age of 3. Wednesday at the National Bee, she successfully spelled the first word she was given — dirigible. But in the next round, she began ingluvies with an "e" instead of an "i." That was enough to knock her out of the competition.

She had quite a day at the Bee, though. As recounts:

"ESPN reporter Samantha Steele was offered a chance to spell a word once the second round closed. ...

[Pronouncer Jacques] Bailly, the 1980 Scripps champion himself, gave Steele a word she was convinced was a nonsense word [slobberhannes]. Taken aback, she decided to enlist her fellow blond contestant. 'Lori Anne, could you help me out?' Steele said with a laugh. 'I can get a shout out, right?' ...

" I think it's a joke," Lori Anne told her, getting a chuckle from everyone . Steele, holding Lori Anne's hand, didn't get very far with the word, guessing 'S-C-H-L-A-U-B-E-R- ...' before her time was up."

The semifinals of the Bee are set for today, starting at 10 a.m. ET, on ESPN2. the finals are set for tonight at 8 p.m. ET, on ESPN. We're planning to follow the news in a fresh post this evening.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.