Archive for Contests

Once more on the mystery of the national spelling bee

Looks like this year's winners are again co-champions and of Indian (South Asian) origin. Guessing from their names, one of them has a Karnataka heritage and the other an Andhra background.

Quoting from "National spelling bee ends in a tie for third consecutive year" (USA Today, 5/27/16):

For the third year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended with two champions.

Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y., were declared co-champions Thursday night after fighting to a draw during 39 rounds of competition.

“It was just insane,” Jairam* said as he and Nihar triumphantly hoisted the golden winner’s cup into the air.

“I’m just speechless,” Nihar said. “I’m only in the fifth grade.”

—-

*The younger brother of 2014 co-champion, Sriram Hathwar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

LipsyncHK

Near the Star Ferry terminal on the Hong Kong Island side, Bea Lam noticed a number of fantastic, huge, colorful posters plastered on the walls as part of a “LipsyncHK” project that showcases Cantonese phrases and encourages visitors to try them out.  Bea was (very happily) surprised to see this large and open demonstration of Cantonese pride in a government-sponsored project, given the political environment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

Chinese phrases of the year 2015

We've already had a look at the candidates for Chinese Word of the Year 2015, but apparently that is too tame and lame, so now we also have to think about the top Chinese phrases of the year.  This photograph illustrates (or perhaps I should say "spawned") one:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

Chinese characters and words of the year for 2015

China Daily has published "Top 10 shortlist of Chinese character of the year announced" (12/17/15).

Since this is only the short list, I will not describe it in detail, but will wait till December 21 (tomorrow) for the the winner to be announced.  For the moment, however, I'll just note that — after some years of confusion about the difference between a word and a character — China now seems to have settled on a clear division between Character of the Year and Word of the Year, so that they are running two contests simultaneously.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Jugendwörter

In the online newspaper, Politico, Jules Johnston has an article about new German words coined by youth:

"In the words of young Germans, just ‘merkeln’ " (8/3/15)

The German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt came up with the idea seven years ago to create a list of new words and expressions invented by teens by selecting the “Jugendwort” (Youth Word of the Year). And since then, young Germans have been invited to submit terms to an online board.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

Brain imaging and spelling champions

Spelling bees have been a staple of discussion at Language Log:

"Spelling bees and character amnesia" (8/7/13)

"Spelling bee champs" (6/1/14)

"Of toads, modernization, and simplified characters" (8/16/13)

"Il ne parle pas français" (7/23/15)

One of the major subthemes of our debates on this topic has been the dominance of individuals of South Asian (Indian) descent in the spelling bees.  Many possible explanations for their superior performance were proposed (memorization techniques, tradition, family pressure and support, social and cultural models, etc.), but nothing approaching empirical evidence was adduced.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Il ne parle pas français

It seems impossible, but the news is being trumpeted all over the world:  the reigning champion of Francophone Scrabble cannot speak French.

"Kiwi Nigel Richards wins French Scrabble contest, doesn't even speak French" (7/21/15)

President of the Christchurch Scrabble club Shirley Hol said the French win was "quite remarkable".

She was told about his victory on Monday and said from what she had heard the French were quite "gobsmacked".

"I think one of the comments was 'Are you extra-terrestrial or something?' Because it was so amazing."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Kanji of the year 2014

As chosen by ballots to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Public Interest Foundation (Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Kyōkai 日本漢字能力検定協会, more commonly known as Kanken 漢検), the annual "Kanji of the Year" (kotoshi no kanji 今年の漢字) for 2014 is zei 税 ("tax"), with 8,679 (5.18% of the total) votes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Chinese WOTY 2014

Three years ago, Language Log covered what we referred to as the "Morpheme(s) of the Year" (12/17/11).

Two years ago, we advanced to "Chinese character of the year: mèng 梦 ('dream')" (12/25/12).

And last year, we looked at "'Words / Characters of the Year' for 2013 in Taiwan and in China" (12/26/13).

Toward the end of last month, the tension began to build in the selection process for this year:  "APEC Blue, Tigers and Flies: What Chinese Phrase Best Describes 2014?" (11/28/14).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Ben Zimmer on Jeopardy

"Jersey City man to compete on Jeopardy", Hudson Reporter 6/29/30:

Ben Zimmer, a linguist and language columnist from Jersey City, will compete on Jeopardy! on June 30 at 7 p.m. on WABC-TV.

 

 

Comments (13)

Spelling bee champs

We have often discussed spelling bees and related phenomena on Language Log, e.g.:

"Spelling bees and character amnesia"

"Character amnesia and the emergence of digraphia"

"Of toads, modernization, and simplified characters"

Especially in the first post cited above, we have noticed the amazing domination of students of Indian descent in spelling bees.  Even though we had a very lively, lengthy exchange on this subject, with many different hypotheses being put forward, no consensus was reached for why Indian students are so overwhelmingly successful in spelling bees.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (47)