‘Sardoodledom’ meaning explained as Kennyi Aouad trends yet again

Bruno Cooke January 3, 2022
‘Sardoodledom’ meaning explained as Kennyi Aouad trends yet again
Photo by Robert Giroux/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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A now-historic clip of 11-year-old Kennyi Aouad having a giggling fit during a national spelling bee in 2007 is doing the rounds on social media, winning hearts and minds just like it did the first dozen times. So, what is the meaning of the word “sardoodledom”, and where is “spelling bee kid” now?

Sardoodledom meaning explained

Yes, it is a real word. Merriam-Webster defines “sardoodledom” as “mechanically contrived plot structure” and “stereotyped or unrealistic characterisation in drama”.

In other words, you might say sardoodledom is dramatic wish-washiness, or unnecessary narrative complexity – except, key to its meaning is that it is contrived.

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Synonyms include “staginess” and “melodrama”, but with more than a hint of pretentiousness. Complex without needing to be.

What are the origins of the word ‘sardoodledom’?

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw invented the word in 1895. 

He used it when criticising Victorien Sardou’s well-made plays. A “well-made play” is a specific genre of play, not just one that well made

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Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

Jacques A Bailly, who was the official pronouncer of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the time, sums up the meaning of sardoodledom as simply, a “really fun word for melodramatic playwriting”.

Where is ‘spelling bee kid’ aka Kennyi Aouad now?

Kennyi Aouad, of Terre Haute, Indiana was 11 years old in 2007, when he found himself giggling over the word “sardoodledom”.

Two years later, NPR interviewed him

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“Kennyi joked,” read the block, “mugged for the camera, bantered with the spelling bee pronouncer and looked like he was having a great time all around.” Which is why he was so likeable.

He went on to qualify for the National Bee again in 2008, and in 2009 tied for fifth place.

Aouad has a photographic memory. His mother coached him by quizzing him on words for two to three hours per day – but “you should see me during weekends”, he joked with his NPR hosts.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.