Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “nisi” as “taking effect at a specified time unless previously modified or avoided by cause shown, further proceedings, or a condition fulfilled.”
The word has Latin roots and its first recorded use dates back to 1738.
On March 17, it became known as the word that eliminated Druid Hills Middle School student Aditi Shankar from the 56th Annual Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) State Spelling Bee competition at Georgia State University.
Shankar competing on March 17 means she outspelled more than 69,000 students in Georgia that come from 1,112 public schools, 81 private schools, 16 parochial schools, 15 charter schools, and four homeschools.
Shankar was also the only student to represent DeKalb County.
Shankar, 12, was the 10th contestant eliminated overall and one of eight students eliminated in the ninth round. Shankar successfully spelled “macaroni,” “praline,” “denture,” “rupee,” “tatami,” “vernacular,” “ameliorate,” and “vaquero” until faced with “nisi.”
Other troublesome words for students were “quesadilla,” “junco,” “succotash,” “embarcadero,” “vapidity,” “solace,” “hoick,” “exigible,” “minestrone,” “panary,” “epistrophe,” “hircine,” “vireo,” and “fluoroscope.”
Dozens of parents looked on as students were eliminated.
Certain parents appealed words, found favorable spellings online, but could only look on as words knocked out one student after another.
For example, one parent found a favorable spelling for “hoick” online, but judges referenced a giant Collegiate Dictionary as the central authority. In another instance, parents swore they heard a child spell a word correctly but judges blamed the false acoustics of Georgia State’s State Ballroom.
More than 30 minutes passed between rounds 10 and round 16, which featured students Sophie Fang (Cobb), Aya Salma Haddad (Gwinnett), Jahnvi Bhagat (Cobb) and Abhiram Kapaganty (Gwinnett) spelling such words as “balalaika,” “pfeffernusse,” “zwinger,” “pogrom,” “engastromythic,” “zeitgeber,” “prosciutto,” and more.
“Reniform” knocked out Fang, while “autophagy” eliminated Haddad in the 20th round. The pair faced-off until round 23, when Bhagat misspelled “vorlage” with an “f”.
Kapaganty, who was required to spell two words correctly to claim victory, then spelled both “schipperke” and “wedel” without fault, and won this year’s state title. The Burnette Elementary School 11-year-old earned a place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland in May, representing Georgia.
“I feel really good about going to nationals,” Kapaganty said. “I have never been to the Washington [D.C.] area. I thought I wasn’t going to win because so many others were in the spelling bee last year.”
The 23-round competition—one of the longest in memory, according to event proctor and GAE Spelling Bee chairman Richard McIntyre—featured more than 200 words, including law terms, Itlalian dishes, German terminology and unheard-of adjectives.
“Usually, the competition goes about 15 rounds,” McIntyre said. “This year, because the students are so smart, it’s gone well over 20 rounds.
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