He slipped on "solecism," but that's fine with area spelling savant Joe Sheperd.
"I just got back from the Spy Museum," Joe said Wednesday after finishing his run in the 77th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Joe advanced to Round 4 and ended up tied for 47th place, 20 spots higher than last year.
"We're quite pleased," said Sydney Sheperd, Joe's mom, who accompanied him, along with his dad, Scott; sister Gracie, 14; and brother Cam, 10, on his third trip to the national bee.
Joe is a three-time winner of The Augusta Chronicle qualifying bee. The 12-year-old home-school pupil from Burke County has improved each year at the national level.
"He got 19 of 25 right on the written test," his mom said, "and he could miss up to 11."
The written test was the first round this year - a change from last year.
Joe sailed through Round 2, correctly spelling "cephalalgia," a pain in the head caused by the dilation of cerebral arteries, and made quick work in Round 3 of "macropodous," an adjective meaning having long legs or feet.
It was in Round 4, televised on ESPN2, that "solecism," which means a minor blunder in speech, tripped Joe up. He substituted an i for the e and was eliminated from the contest.
Now it's time for touring. The family will visit the Capitol as guests of Congressman Max Burns and will visit the White House.
But all that will be tough to top the Spy Museum - a favorite of Joe's from previous visits.
"They have this training movie at the museum on picking locks that I really like," he said Wednesday night.
And why, pray tell, does Joe need to know how to pick a lock?
"You never know," was the cryptic reply.
Reach Amy Allyn Swann at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.