Panglossian. Picaresque. Zephyr. Perestroika. Baedeker. Sarsaparilla. Pernicious. A list of words most adults would have trouble defining, let alone spelling.
But Edith Fuller, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, got all of them right. And she’s only five years old.
Fuller is, as of the weekend of March 4th, the youngest ever qualifier for the famous Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her winning word in the Green Country Regional? “Jnana.” A loan-word from Sanskrit meaning “knowledge” (specifically, philosophy or religious knowledge).
The home-schooled first-grader beat more than 50 other students in the regional spelling bee, some as old as fourteen. She credits her morning routine with her parents, which includes daily word games and study.
“Mommy asked me the words,” Fuller said in an interview with the local news. “And every time I missed one, I would look at it.” But she’s not a spell-bot. She also spoke about loving to play outside and learning about animals. Her parents also spoke about being grateful that they had the time and freedom to pursue this with her.
The final level of the spelling competition will be held near Washington D.C. later this year, between May 30th and June 1st, for a grand prize of a $40,000 cash prize. Winners also take home a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, and a library-worth of university-quality research books.
If Fuller wins, she will unseat the previous record for youngest winner by over a year. Statistically, most competitors are 13.
The Scripps Spelling Bee has been run nearly continuously (they missed three years in WWII) on an annual basis since 1995. Originally called the Courier-Journal Spelling Bee, Scripps Howard Broadcasting Company took over sponsorship of the competition in the early 40s. Unlike many educational competitions, the victors in the competition have remained nearly equal between girls and boys since the Bee’s inception.