Spectacular Vernacular

How the Grid Kid Became King of the Online Spelling Bee

The New York Times’ Sam Ezersky breaks down how he adjudicates the Spelling Bee.


Episode Notes

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole Holliday and Ben Zimmer share their thoughts on Pfizer’s official name for its COVID vaccine. They also interview Sam Ezersky, digital puzzles editor for the New York Times, about its popular online game the Spelling Bee. And finally, we invite a listener to play our inspired version of the Spelling Bee. We hope you’ve been practicing! You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.

Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.

Produced by Jasmine Ellis.

Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:

Rewordable: https://rewordable.com/

BLABRECS: https://mkremins.github.io/blabrecs/

Lisa Davidson on Comirnaty: https://slate.com/technology/2021/08/comirnaty-pfizer-vaccine-linguistics.html

New York Times Spelling Bee: https://www.nytimes.com/puzzles/spelling-bee

Spelling Bee Forum: https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/spelling-bee-forum

Laura Lippman on her Spelling Bee obsession: https://slate.com/human-interest/2020/02/spelling-bee-new-york-times-praise.html


About the Show

Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

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  • Ben Zimmer is a linguist, lexicographer, and all-around word nut. He is the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a contributing writer for the Atlantic.

  • Nicole Holliday is an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on variation, intonation, and language in society.