But that certainly isn't true for 10-year-old Addison Hughes, the South Putnam Central Elementary School fifth-grade spelling sensation.
One year after winning the Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee and making it through two rounds of verbal competition at the national Scripps Howard Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., Hughes was back at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute Saturday to attempt a repeat.
Through 23 rounds and nearly two hours of competition, the demonstrative Hughes went toe to toe and letter for letter with all comers, including the 2010 champion, Sabin Karki, a Honey Creek Middle School eighth-grader.
In fact, by the 14th round, it was only defending champion Hughes, decked out in his lucky green St. Patrick's Day tie, and 13-year-old Karki still standing.
By the time the word "kuruma" had tripped up Hughes in Round 24, he had discarded the tie in the heat and humidity of the gym and the tension of the bee. The misspelling gave Karki the opening he needed to regain the title in his final year of eligibility.
Hughes, the son of Adam and Beverly Hughes, Greencastle, seemed somewhat surprised that kuruma was even a word on the approved list for the contest.
In fact, a paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not list kuruma among its 60,000 entries. Dictonary.com likewise does not list it. Wikipedia defines kuruma as a caste of Hindus who mainly were shepherds in the past. It is included in the Kuruba entry.
"The word kuruma (KU-ruma) is in the approved dictionary that the spelling bee uses and it was on the list," his mother, Beverly Hughes, told the Banner Graphic, "but Addison did not recognize the way it was pronounced.
"He did ask, 'Are you sure you're pronouncing the word correctly? I don't recall ku-RA-ma on the list,'" she elaborated.
Once the Central Elementary fifth-grader missed that deceivingly difficult word, Karki captured the contest by correctly spelling "maladroit" and following up with the final word "ostentatious."
Karki wins an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., where he will represent west-central Indiana at the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 27-June 1.
If, for some reason Karki is unable to attend the national bee, Hughes will take his place. For his efforts in earning runner-up regional honors, Hughes won the Encyclopedia Britannica on-line, a Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and a gift card from Amazon.
During last year's national contest, Hughes was one of the three youngest competitors in the nearly 300-speller field at age nine. Most of the semifinalists were in the 12-14 age range.
Spellers representing 23 schools were on hand Saturday, including another 10-year-old Putnam County contestant, Julian Anderson of Tzouanakis Intermediate School, making his first appearance in the regional contest.