— Elise Hu (@elisewho) May 30, 2014
Not even the Bee people can do that, Elise.
What happened, ICYMI: Contestant (and eventual co-winner) Sriram Hathwar asked for the definition of “feijoada” after getting the word in the Scripps National Spelling Bee last Thursday.
Bee pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly (left) began reading lyrics to Kelis’ 2003 “Milkshake”: “While Tabitha discovered that while her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard -”
Laughter broke out.
“Oh, boy,” said Bailly. “Oh, I’m sorry, I was reading the wrong sentence.”
Twitter exploded after the mistake. Some of the reaction:
* “The funniest thing to happen at the National Spelling Bee.”
* “‘Milkshake’ quoted in Scripps Spelling Bee because kids love BJ jokes”
* “By far the weirdest pop culture reference to ever show up in a spelling bee.”
* “The spelling bee got interesting once the announcer said ‘tabitha’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.'”
I asked Bailly what happened, and he passed my question to Bee spokesman Chris Kemper, who tells us:
There are many references to pop culture in the sentences used at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In fact, we employ comedy writers to develop these sentences. It’s one way we make the sentences entertaining and, therefore, the Bee more engaging.
There is a multi-layered review and approval process for the sentence content. The comedic sentence provided for the word “feijoada” was rejected during an initial review. The Bee will review how the sentence came to appear in material served to Dr. Bailly after being rejected in our system.
On another matter: I asked Kemper about press interest in this year’s bee. “We had 177 journalists onsite this year – very much in line with the 175 we had at the Spelling Bee last year,” he said.