I once attended an English-language spelling bee where a speller, during her turn, repeated the same letter three times in a row, and she was judged to be correct. She spelled the word perfectly, without restarting, and without stuttering. In fact, none of the words from that day’s spelling bee had any of the same letter three times in a row. What was the word? There are two possible answers.


7 Answers 7


Assuming the contestants respond by stating the word, spelling the word, and then stating the word again:

The contestant was asked to spell either the word "I" or "a", to which the correct response would be simply stating the letter three times in a row.

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    $\begingroup$ If the contest were in Canada, this method can get you up to four repetitions: rot13(n n n, ru?) :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JeremyDover see also $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor Nice! In hindsight, I realize I may have inadvertently caused offense in attempting a joke...apologies if so. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ This is the intended answer, but there are so many other equally legit answers given that I'm a bit embarrassed for not considering all of the possibilities when I devised this puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – FlanMan
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ If this spelling bee were taking place in a French or Spanish (likely others) speaking country, and we used the Hawaiian word rot13(nn), you'd have the letter repeated SIX times: rot13(nn. n n. nn). (Doesn't work in English because that's not how we pronounce that letter, but in many other languages it does.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 13:35

The word could be something like

ESSENTIALNESS, where the speller would say:
"Essentialness. E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A-L-N-E-S-S. Essentialness".

Some other possibilities

given by Qat for this pattern are "escapeless" and "estrangedness". (It's possible that other letters give other words that work as well, but S was the easiest to find.)

  • $\begingroup$ Another possibility: "Evictee. E-V-I-C-T-E-E, evictee." $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 22:22

I think the intended answer might be:

Wuumu - a dialect of the Fuumu language. When spelled, one would say "double you you you em you". An alternative of this is "Iwuumu", which might be the alternative answer.

That said, I think Rand's and Deus's answers are better and more creative.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I meant to look for rot13(jbeqf pbagnvavat JHH) for my answer, but somehow forgot that possibility while checking the others. +1. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 18:11

The word...


... is in the dictionary.

Following the spelling-bee rule that one must repeat the word after it has been spelt, she would have to say

E-S-S. Ess.

Which would sound like...

S - S - S.

Another dictionary word where this would work is:

"Ell" - a measurement of length. Thanks to @JeremyDover for pointing this out.

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    $\begingroup$ rot13(RYY) would work by this same logic. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:02

One possibility is


because the speller would have said

"es ee see see oh" (emphasis mine - sounds like CCC).

Another possibility is


because the speller would have said

"ess kyoo yoo yoo ess aitch" (emphasis mine - sounds like UUU).

Another possibility, which only works in certain types of English:


because the speller would have said

"en zed ee dee dee ee ar" (emphasis mine - sounds like DDD). This works in British English but not in American English - I don't know about other types of English such as New Zealand English.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! We both came at this from different angles. I like your answer, too. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi Indeed! Yours is a bit more lateral, I think, as it involves more than just spelling the word. But interesting to see different ideas. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ "Bee" would work for this one too, and it's in the title three times! (Probably just coincidence, but still.) $\endgroup$
    – Skylar
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 17:52

Although this already has an accepted answer, a word which could give a similar effect is

eerie (adjective, strange and frightening)

This is due to the manner in which the word is pronounced - that is to say

When you hear "eerie", you 'ear "e" at the end

So, the contestant's answer would be

Eerie. E, E, R, I, E. Eerie.

Or, phonetically:

Ear-Ee. Ee, Ee, Are, Eye, Ee. Ear-Ee


Alternative answer

I don't know how often this comes up in a spelling bee but if the word is a compound word and one or other parts of the word are themselves part of an open compound, this justifies the use of the "en dash" in the compound word.

For example, in the phrase "pre-Islamic jinn–worshipper", the "dash" in "jinn–worshipper" can be justified to be an "en dash". I know that contestants in spelling bees often ask for words to be used in a sentence so this would clarify the form of the word.

In this case, when asked to spell the word JINN–WORSHIPPER it would read

jay, aye, en, en, en dash, double u, o, or, es, aitch, aye, pee, pee, ee, or

and thus sounds like three ens repeated in a row.


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