A moment of intellectual hubris made Jacob Williamson, a 15-year-old student from Cape Coral, Florida, into an instant viral video star.
Williamson, a home-schooled eighth grade student, advanced to the finals of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee in his final year of eligibility. On Thursday, he became a speller to watch after his exuberant reaction to the news that he had been selected as a finalist went viral. Over the next few hours, Williamson’s fist pumps and enthusiastic celebrations made him the event’s runaway star.
However, it took a misspelled word for Williamson to achieve true Internet immortality. With just seven spellers remaining, Williamson learned that he’d have to spell the word “kabaragoya” -- a large lizard -- to stay in the competition.
When he heard the word, Williamson was supremely confident, exclaiming, “I know it! I totally know it!” to the laughing judges. Unfortunately, his self-assuredness was a bit hasty.
Williamson proceeded to spell the word with a “c” instead of a “k,” prompting the judge to ring the bell that designates a misspelling. The stunned eighth-grader yelled “What?!” before regaining his composure and exiting the stage.
“It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it,” Williamson said after his spelling misstep, via USA Today. “I thought I knew the word but I guess I didn’t.”
Almost immediately, Williamson’s reaction went viral, with countless websites posting Vines and videos of his “What?!” exclamation. Deadspin even remixed the moment into a makeshift rap video.
According to the Scripps National Spelling Bee’s official website, Williamson is an “avid numismatist—a student of currency” and coin collector. He’s also plays fantasy football, and his favorite athlete is former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
Williamson’s spelling bee video can be viewed below.