Obscure baseball word puts Yeager out at third base

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

OXON HILL, Md., May 30, 2013

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(Times photo - Cindy Yurth)

Samuel Yeager (No. 6, in turquoise T-shirt) incorrectly spelled "yannigan," eliminating him from the rest if the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

T he Navajo Nation's contestant, Samuel Yeager, misspelled an obscure sports word in the second round of oral competition at the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday, eliminating him from the competition.

After misspelling "yannigan" (a baseball player who plays as an individual rather than as raft of a team) with an "a" in place of the "i," Yeager pronounced himself "kind of relieved" and said he was going to "enjoy the rest of bee week."

Yeager, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Chinle Junior High School, correctly spelled "facetious" (joking or jesting often inappropriately) to survive the first preliminary oral round of the bee. He was one of 266 of the 281 contestants to spell their words correctly and advance to Round 3 (Round 1 was a written test in which, for the first time in bee history, the contestants had to not only spell the words correctly but select the correct definition).

The contestants were numbered according to alphabetical order of their state or nation, so Yeager, one of two contestants from Arizona, was Number 6, meaning he got his word over with fairly soon in both rounds.

"It was nerve-wracking up there until I realized I didn't have to spell again until 1:15," Yeager said after Round 2.

Although it's billed as a national contest, the bee is open to qualified contestants from anywhere in the world. Contestants in Yeager's round hailed not only from the U.S. but from Canada, Jamaica, Ghana, Europe, American Samoa, Japan and China.

Although "facetious" is a difficult word, Yeager recognized he lucked out compared to some of the contestants. Other contestants correctly spelled such words as "bobbejaan" (an African baboon), "hoomalimali" (something designed to attract favorable attention) and "jnana" (Hinduism).

Words that tripped up the misspellers included "cynosure" (a center of attraction or attention), "commissar" (a Communist Party official), "graupel" (granular, hail-like snow), "Voortrekker" (a South African pioneer), and "weissnichtwo" (an imaginary city).

"Lokshen," the Yiddish word for noodles that had cost Yeager the Central Agency Spelling Bee (although he came back to win the Navajo Nation Bee), was successfully spelled by a fellow contestant.

So far all the words, however, have been drawn from the list given to contestants to study. In the latter stages of the competition, some of the words may not be from the list.

Yeager said he was impressed with his competitors and said after Round 2 he wasn't sure he would make it through Round 3.

Just making it to the national bee, however, put him in the top .00026 percent of the 11 million students who participated in their school and local qualifying bees this year.

Yeager, who has been participating in spelling bees since grade school, is a son of Kevin and Linda Yeager of Chinle. Linda Yeager is a surgeon at the Chinle Comprehensive Health Facility.

The semi-finals of the bee will be broadcast today (May 30) from noon to 3 MDT on ESPN2.