By now, you have probably seen the hilarious video of Scripps National Spelling Bee pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly quoting the lyrics to “Milkshake” by Kelis. When speller Sriram Hathwar asked for Bailey to use the word “feijoada” (a Portuguese stew) in a sentence, the pronouncer began, “”While Tabitha discovered that while her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard …”
Sadly, Dr. Bailly then realized he was reading the wrong sentence, so we never got to hear what a feijoada has to do with milkshakes. But the priceless Scripps National Spelling Bee moment still lives on thanks to YouTube.
Dr. Bailly’s error did not rattle Sriram Hathwar, possibly because the 14-year-old was not old enough to understand a reference to a 2003 song. Hathwar went on to spell “feijoada” correctly and eventually became co-champion of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee alongside 13-year-old Ansun Sujoe.
But there was still the question of how this “Milkshake” reference ended up in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the first place. Now, we have our answer, thanks to Bee spokesman Chris Kemper. Kemper told the media blog Romenesko that the event hires comedic writers to spice up some of the sentences. In fact, in the early rounds of the 2014 Bee, some contestants only wanted to hear their word’s sentence if it was funny.
According to Kemper, the Bee originally considered using the sentence quoting Kelis’ “Milkshake” before opting for a different, less amusing statement. It is still unknown how this rejected sentence ended up on Dr. Bailly’s screen during the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“There is a multi-layered review and approval process for the sentence content,” Kemper said. “The comedic sentence provided for the word ‘feijoada’ was rejected during an initial review. The Bee will review how the sentence came to appear in material served to Dr. Bailly after being rejected in our system.”
But maybe the Scripps National Spelling Bee should using “Milkshake” in a sentence during a future competition. After all, this reference to the Kelis song certainly got the Internet buzzing.