Is this what's great about the U.S.--or what? UPDATE

The winner of the National Spelling Bee is from Queens, NY--a so-called "outer borough" of NYC. Arvand Mahankali, 13, won by accurately spelling "knaidel," a Yiddish word (of German origins the NYTimes explains!). It means dumpling (but I'm wondering if it doesn't mean "matzoh ball" in Yiddish-cooking households).

Mr. Mahankali has reached the age limit for the National Bee so he can't compete again (think of all those unspelled words circling in his head). He is philosophical about this: "I am retiring on a good note."

So what's so great? An Indian-American living in the middle of Queens wins the bee by spelling a Yiddish word of German origins, and the New York Times explains it all.

This reminds me of Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, which combines the Kabbala and the national spelling bee and sustains the magic realism of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story.

Right dumpling, wrong spelling. Yes, knaidels are matzo balls, but according to the Forward, the proper Yiddish spelling is knidel, or knydel. The Spelling Bee judges use the Merriam Webster dictionary, which does spell it knaidel. However you spell it, they're still matzo balls.

Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

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