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OXON HILL, Md. – Some belong to The Order of the Squushy Carrots. Others are "Ghetto-pens" — a play on last year's winning word, "guetapens" (GEHT'-uh-pahns).
Those are just two of the informal groups formed by youngsters at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The groups allow the spellers, who come from across the world, to stay in touch the other 51 weeks of the year when they aren't competing. The children use social media, email, texts, chatrooms and other means to talk about life, school, friends — and sometimes spelling.
Nearly 300 spellers have converged this week to compete for the title of top speller in the English language — and to soak in an invaluable social experience. The competition began Tuesday with a computerized test, with onstage rounds beginning Wednesday on the way to Thursday's prime-time finals.