A Spell Checkmate? What’s Your Kabaragoya?

See what I did there with the title? That was clever right? For the first time in 52 years the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie.

Kabaragoya? That’s what’s wrong with the spelling bee. There has never been, in the history of planet Earth a practical reason for anyone to use the word kabaragoya in any context. The fact that I’ve used it twice in this paragraph is already a new world record. Here’s your chance to win something. I’m trusting that you’ll be honest. The first commenter to tell me what the word kabaragoya means, without looking it up, wins a free copy of one of my books. All three are in e-book format and the two novels are also in paperback.


It’s a good thing the contest ended in a tie. I doubt that any single spelling bee contestant has the muscle mass required to lift that trophy by themselves. It ended in a tie? Apparently after the competition was whittled down to two, the contestants both spelled twelve words correctly before it was declared a tie. Really? Twelve words? Are you telling me there wasn’t an adult somewhere in that room that couldn’t have cracked open a dictionary and pulled out a few more words?  How about if you asked the contestants to spell the word “girlfriend” or “social life.” I’m pretty sure those are terms they’re not familiar with. Did they have to declare it a tie because the competition is so physically grueling that the contestants couldn’t go on? Were they worried that the audience was in danger of literally dying of boredom?

When I’m elected President, or Sexiest Man Alive, whichever comes first, I’m going to pass a law mandating that if the spelling bee is down to two contestants and they’ve both spelled two words correctly the tie will be broken by a physical competition. The first contestant to successfully demonstrate any actual dance move wins. Moonwalk, Gangam Style, Harlem shake, anything close wins.

Now I know that you may be thinking that I’m just a mean jerk for mocking these kids. I may be, or perhaps it’s just green eyed envy. I was almost one of them. Almost… That’s right, as a 13 year old I was my school’s alternate to go to the county spelling bee championships. Had I gone and won, it would have sent me to the state championship and then the National Spelling Bee. We took a written test that we never got back, so I don’t even know what my kabaragoya was. It will haunt me forever. One more correctly spelled word, or a convenient “accident” to my in school competitor and fame and fortune could have been mine. Instead I’ve just got this blog, so please leave a comment to help me overcome the demons of a spelling bee past that has scarred me lo these many years.

As always, if you enjoyed #ThePhilFactor please share by Facebook, Twitter, or re-blog. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

42 responses to “A Spell Checkmate? What’s Your Kabaragoya?

  1. How’s this? I don’t kabaragoya what kabaragoya means…or even that I am getting those red lines from spell check even though I seem to be spelling it correctly!! How’s that for irony?

    • I can always count on you. I don’t think this post is going over very well. Not very many likes or comments. Did I come off as too mean spirited?

      • I thought it was a great blog. Sometimes things just don’t go over well for no rhyme or reason but I am also seeing a lot of blogs that didn’t get many likes today. Maybe something in the air. I did not find it mean spirited at all but you know me. F**k ’em if they can’t take a joke.

      • Exactly! Thank you.

  2. I think it is a great blog, filled with irony and humor and common sense (what’s that?). In fact, I’d like to re-blog it, with your permission of course.

  3. Reblogged this on The English Professor at Large and commented:
    This is a post for all the spelling bees out there who need to know what “Kabaragoya” is.

  4. Garry Armstrong

    Spelling is a lost art. During my years as a TV news reporter, I kept several books on my desk in the newsroom. One day a colleague walked by, paused and asked why I had dictionary.

    • I agree that spelling is a lost art. Like you, one of my prized artifacts is a dictionary I was given as a high school graduation present. I may donate it to the Smithsonian some day.

  5. Shazam!!! That there writing be some good reading.

  6. Looking at Jacob’s mannerisms, rapid eye movement, slight tick of the shoulder and his sniffing, not to mention his extreme reactions, I would hazard a guess that he’s autistic or Aspergers (I’d be surprised if that’s not the case).
    Maybe you could be like the guy in the film ‘Bad Words’ and go back to participate in a spelling bee?! 🙂 x

    • Wow, you are very observant regarding Jacob’s Asperger symptoms. Good call. Even if he was wrong I loved his bravado. It’s probably what I would have done although in a slightly lower pitch. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to reading you.

  7. Phil,
    I was introduced to you via The English Professor at Large, whose blog I love, so you may thank her for spreading your word, and I will thank her for getting me to read your blog.
    This post is hilarious and perfectly true, all around. When you’re elected President, the world is definitely going to be a better place.
    I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings by suggesting that this is more likely than the other possible scenario, but you have to admit – you have some righteous competition in the Sexiest Man Alive category.

    • Hi Shari, thanks for the like and comment and I’m now following your blog. I think you may be selling me short in the Sexiest Man Alive competition. If you go back to my Sexiest Man Alive posts from each of the past Novembers you’ll see that I make a strong case for myself. If I wasn’t replying from my phone I’d have found the link for you. Anyway, it’s nice to meet you and I look forward to reading you.

  8. I am here via The English Professor. I want you to know that you just made me snort some Coke Zero (emphasis on Zero) through my nose as I was reading this wickedly funny and perfectly snarky post. It happened at the “have them spell girlfriend or social life” remark, fyi. It was painful but worth it….oh, so worth it. Note to self: put drinks down before reading The Phil Factor in future.

  9. I have to admit I have no idea what kabaragoya is – and I’m an English teacher! Embarrassing 😉 Well, not really. I’ve survived 36 years without it, so I’m sure I can go another 36 quite easily! Linda.

    • Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. I was also going to add to this post that spelling is becoming an archaic skill like weaving a blanket on a loom. Thanks to computers, smart phones and spell check everywhere it won’t be long before only the Amish know how to spell “manually”. As an English teacher, in your classroom do you see evidence of a loss of this skill?

      • I teach foreigners so their spelling is a bit iffy at the best of times! But I notice it with my native-English speaking friends. I don’t know if it’s just laziness or they genuinely don’t know how to spell, but standards are definitely slipping all the time. And these text abbreviations, etc. drive me insane. Spelling is so important but I just don’t think people realise that any more.

  10. OMG. This is a riot. I laughed out loud when I read the part about first kid to do a dance move wins! Perfect!

  11. Man, those spelling bee contests are cut throat. I’m so glad we don’t have them in the UK!

  12. This cracked me up! Even before I read it, I nominated you for a Liebster Award, and this just solidified the fact that I did well in doing so. http://paulainthecountry.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/liebster-liebster-liebster/

  13. Great post thanks Phil .. also came by you via the english professor. So, please tell? Any idea what a karabagoya is? Anything to do with Goya going mad with the paint .. something like cowabunga?
    Garden of Eden Blog

  14. I too thought Jacob showed a number of hallmarks of Aspergers. As far as spelling skills go I’m working just now on why there has been such a decline in the skill for some years now. At the moment, all evidence suggests that many teachers are not trained in phonics and methodology of teaching several key aspects of spelling and reading. Nor does child development seem to figure too highly in the coursework of teacher ‘training’. Children apparently do ok up to about the age of 8, primary three level here in Scotland, then gaps begin to appear in phonological awareness.
    I’m still working on it but it does look to me as though the fault does not lie with the children.
    I’m amazed there are children taking part in spelling bees at all and succeeding….despite words that sound totally made up. Hadn’t a clue myself on this one!

  15. I enjoyed the post–after you admitted your possible envy motive : ). And despite making fun of the probable Aspie (Aspie solidarity and all that)–you’re neatly got off the hook there when you said it coulda’ been you.

    I’ve been wondering about that boy. Happily, it seems like he weathered not only the bee failure, but the merciless public ridicule he was subjected to afterward (not yours–that was mild, sir). He took away only the positives:


    • Good to hear he weathered the public jokes. I was worried about that. I wasn’t kidding. I loved his bravado and would probably have done the same.

  16. You do make me laugh! I think you’re right though – why couldn’t they have had a sudden death (not literal) round where they had to spell more words? There’s more than 12 words in the world!!

  17. Karabaragoya is the feeling I get when I’m almost 5 years cancer free. (Tomorrow) Or maybe that’s cowabunga. I forget…

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