The Hammock spelling bee team swapped paint with 10 other great teams in the 15th Annual NALC Spelling Bee on Sept. 9, and, after sustaining some sheet metal damage, finished out of the money for the first time in 4 years.

The evening’s theme was NASCAR, so the track was littered with racing terms. Hammock ran into trouble on the word “monocoque,” literally “single shell,” which is a term used in auto and other kinds of design. We overcorrected by spelling it “monococque,” and spun out in the “chicane,” another racing word we heard last night.

A non-racing word that quickly became the most-uttered term of the evening was “Pshaw,” a somewhat archaic interjection that was more polite to say as teams fell by the wayside than what most of us were thinking.

The winner of the evening was the law firm of Neal & Harwell, who ran neck and neck with Davis-Kidd Booksellers until nosing ahead on the word “inchoate.” They sealed their victory by correctly spelling “shibboleth.”

Beemasters were author Ann Patchett and her husband, Karl Vandevender. Both of them struggled at times with pronunciations and joshed with each other throughout the event, which was entertaining—when it wasn’t distracting.

Hammock congratulates Neal & Harwell on their victory, but cautions them not to get too attached to the traveling trophy. We’ll be back next year to reclaim it.