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Queens Chronicle

Arvind Mahankali wins spelling bee

Bayside 8th-grader takes Scripps national championship with ‘knaidel’

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:41 am, Thu Jun 13, 2013.

Arvind Mahankali, an eighth-grader at MS 74 in Bayside, was showered with confetti after he spelled “knaidel” correctly, winning the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Mahankali competed against 281 other contestants, who hailed from all 50 states, eight other countries and several U.S. territories, according to Chris Kemper, a spokesman for Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The contestants competed through computer testing, which has been in use since 2002, and the on-stage spelling competition, which was televised on ESPN.

For the first time in spelling bee history, the contestants were also tested on their knowledge of vocabulary this year through multiple-choice tests on the computer.

The competition began on the morning of Tuesday, May 28, with preliminary spelling and vocabulary testing. All of the contestants participated in the first round of on-stage spelling on Wednesday, during which spelling a word incorrectly resulted in elimination, according to Kemper.

Only 42 semi-finalists advanced after the two rounds on Wednesday night, to go back to the computer room for another round of tests, Kemper said.

On Thursday night, there were 11 finalists on the stage, but after 2 hours and 20 minutes, Mahankali was the lone victor.

This was Mahankali’s fourth trip to the Spelling Bee, where he came in third the previous two years, both times knocked out by German words, according to The New York Times.

“Knaidel” is the Yiddish word for matzo ball. While some Yiddish speakers believe this spelling is incorrect and that the word is more properly transliterated “kneydl,” Kemper said the Spelling Bee uses Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and that Mahankali correctly provided the only spelling in that edition.

At the time, Mahankali had never eaten a knaidel, but he tried one at the Carnegie Deli on Monday, according to the New York Times.

According to Kemper, a word panel works year round to generate a list of words for the Spelling Bee by drawing from their experiences and reading material.

Mahankali also spelled “tokonoma,” “dehnstufe” and “glossophagine,” among other words correctly over the course of the Bee.

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a celebration of the English language, not just a competition,” Kemper said. “There’s also a lot of comradie between the spellers.”

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) issued a joint press release congratulating Mahankali. “Arvind mesmerized us all with his impressive command of spelling and language.”

Mahankali won a $30,000 cash prize, in addition to the trophy, a $2,500 savings bond and a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster and $2,000 worth of reference works from Encylopedia Britannica. He will attend Stuyvesant High School this fall.

Mahankali could not be reached for comment because he is currently in Los Angeles, where he will appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” which airs at 11:35 p.m. on ABC on Thursday night.

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