You may not know Dev Jaiswal’s name, but there’s a very good chance you’ve seen his face, or heard him try to pronounce and spell a very difficult word:
Jaiswal almost instantly gained online fame after his pronunciation of iridocyclitis was captured by a popular Vine account in 2015, and spread throughout the platform like fire. People found ways to remix the clip, turning the word into a punchline or using it to hype up a Kendrick Lamar track. Jaiswal became a sensation, but his commitment to the spelling bee competition and his involvement reaches far beyond a quick six second clip.
Jaiswal was in the eighth grade back in 2015, and placed fourth in the competition. Since then, he’s become a coach to other students hoping to make it to the National Spelling Bee, making anywhere from $110 to $220 a session, according to the Expert Coaching Network. On the site, Jaiswal explains how he prepared for the Spelling Bee:
I began to study extremely hard for my 8th grade year, my last year of eligibility. I won the state bee in 2015 and was so happy that I had made it back to Nationals. Bee Week was full of meeting old friends from 2012, making new friends, and plenty of surprises. I got a perfect score on the Preliminaries Test and had the highest overall test score going into the finals. I ended up tying for fourth place, a rank that completely took me and my family by surprise. My hard work paid off in more ways than I could have imagined. The spelling bee is a truly worthwhile endeavor that has impacted my life immensely.
Today he’s readying for his senior year at a specialized school in Mississippi, but still manages to get out to the Spelling Bee every single year.
Jaiswal’s meme affiliation never really gets brought up on his social media accounts, but his Instagram is public. It’s difficult to tell if the attention bothers Jaiswal, or if he’s accepted the meme but doesn’t want to play into his internet stardom. There’s only one Instagram post from July 2015 that acknowledges the meme, and a fan page set up by his closest friends, which includes a iridocyclitis reference. Still, he boasts close to 10,000 followers on Instagram, many of whom simply post the word iridocyclitis over and over again on his photos.
It’s not too surprising that Jaiswal isn’t letting the fame go to his head. A Q&A on the aforementioned coaching page only features one question, but Jaiswal’s answer is pretty good: What did he learn from his time on the main stage at the National Spelling Bee?
“I learned that one should be happy and humble no matter what happens, even if you are not that one lucky individual who holds the trophy at the end,” Jaiswal said.
Jaiswal may only have placed fourth in the 2015 Spelling Bee, but his legend continues year after year.
This year’s Spelling Bee championship will continue at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.