These Words Would Knock Your State Out Of the National Spelling Bee

How does your state bee-have when it comes to spelling? — (Photo: Getty, Photo Illustration: Robert A. Di Ieso/Vocativ)
May 27, 2015 at 5:21 PM ET

With 283 kids facing off in the finals of Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., Vocativ and Google Trends were eager to demonstrate just how accomplished these youngsters are. So we analyzed data detailing the most Googled spellings of words in each state. It turns out Arkansas can’t spell “diarrhea,” Wisconsin can’t spell “Chihuahua, and Hawaii can’t spell “Pterodactyl.”

While Scripps whiz kids (aged 9 to 15) said their favorite words included “flibbertigibbet,” “onomatopoeia,” “schadenfreude,” “syzygy,” “tchotchke” and “triskaidekaphobia,” regular Americans are forced to spellcheck much simpler words like “grey,” “cancelled” and “Hanukkah.”

Some states’ most Googled spellings included the typos they hope to eliminate. Maine, for instance, Googled “frusterated” [sic] the most often, and Wisconsin googled “Chiwawa” [sic]. Utah didn’t come close to spelling “ornery” right (they searched for “awnry.”) Delaware apparently has some foot fungus issue, because their most-Googled word was “Paronychia.” And no one really knew how to spell “hors d’oeuvres.”

To be fair, Hanukkah can–technically–be spelled two ways. And French apostrophes in any compound word (hors d’oeuvres–fourth most Googled) are likely to trip up even the most diligent wordsmith from time to time.

Out of all the states, Idaho turned to Google for spelling assistance most often, and when it did, the state’s most Googled spelling was “antelope.” Idahoans struggled with “cevilian” [sic] and stumbled over “tongue”. On the bottom of the list of spellchecking states, the confident writers and readers of Oregon resorted to Google least often, only using it for spellchecks 28% as frequently as Idaho residents, according to Google data.

The five most recent winning words in Scripps spelling bees were pretty obscure. Among them were “feuilleton,” which is a section of a newspaper with light fiction or criticism; “stichomythia,” a dialogue in Greek drama where two characters alternate verses; “knaidel,” a Jewish dumpling eaten during Passover; and “guetapens,” a trap or snare.

See the graphic below for the exact terms Googled with a spelling query most often by each state, (with the words they were aiming for in brackets where it’s not exactly clear what they were looking for).

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