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UVM’s Bailly Presides Over Washington Post’s Opinions Page Spelling Bee

Event Honors Cancelled Scripps National Bee; Pits Editors, Columnists Against 2015 Scripps Co-Champ

Visual of Bailly and spelling bee contestant in squares.
Pronouncer Bailly and contestants in the Post Opinions Spelling Bee. Watch a video of the bee at wapo.st/bee.

UVM Classics professor Jacques Bailly presided over a different kind of spelling bee this year. Bailly normally serves as the official pronouncer for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was slated to take place this week. The event was canceled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead he served up exotic, multi-syllabic words to an array of Washington Post Opinion Page editors and columnists, including editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus, and columnists Christine Emba, Dana Milbank, Alexandra Petri, Molly Roberts and Erik Wemple. 

The Post Opinions Spelling Bee pitted those talents against 2015 Scripps co-champion Vanya Shivashankar.

Watch The Post Opinions Spelling Bee at wapo.st/bee.

“The Post Opinions Spelling Bee is our tribute to the eighth-grade students who after tireless preparation can no longer compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. “After conducting our version, I have more respect than ever for how hard the spellers worked to compete each year.”

“Everyone involved with Scripps is heartbroken that the Bee had to be canceled, because we lost an opportunity to celebrate so much effort and achievement,” said Bailly. “Spelling is a great springboard, but not a main event. And as these Washington Post writers know, what words mean and how you use them is much more important.”