Ew! Oi! Pht! Ok? The new language of Scrabble from one who knows ...
I’ve spent the day fielding phone calls and enquiries from newspapers and radio stations. Why? Because a new Scrabble dictionary is just out and I’m a bit of an authority on Scrabble. Well, I founded the National Scrabble Championships a while back and I am the proud President of the Association of British Scrabble Players.
This new Scrabble dictionary features 300 words new to the world of competitive Scrabble. Some will be allowed in the US, but not in the UK. I like new words - and I like variations on old words. I’m ok with abbreviations and comfortable with slang. I like to see the language evolving. The reason English is such a rich language is because it takes on new words and novel word variants all the time. My feeling is: don’t resist the new words: take them on board, relax and enjoy. After all, YOLO.
Here is a sampling of these new Scrabble dictionary words:
US edition — used to express disgust
UK edition - Not allowed
Ew joins another 106 two-letter words in the US Scrabble Dictionary: edition: the UK Scrabble Dictionary one has 124.
US edition – To approve
UK edition – Not allowed (but OKAY is okay)
US edition - showing a frown
UK edition - Not allowed.
The word was in earlier editions but apparently removed in 1961 because not enough people were using it.
US edition - a small plane used for business
UK edition - Not allowed
Played as a game-opener with an ‘s’ on the end it would score 120 points, with the 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles and the double-word star
US edition - a person who someone likes very much
UK edition – best friend
US edition - to dance by shaking the buttocks while squatting
UK edition – dance provocatively by moving the hips rapidly back and forth while raising and lowering the body in a squatting motion
(Thank you Miley)
US edition - resembling zombies
UK edition - Not allowed
(The US edition refers to the new Merriam-Webster sixth edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, used in North America. The UK edition refers to the Collins Scrabble Words 2015 edition, used in English-language tournament Scrabble in most countries except the USA, Thailand and Canada.)
I love Scrabble! I come from a family of word-lovers and board game enthusiasts. In 1936, my father (a lawyer) bought one of the first sets of Monopoly sold in Britain. He met my mother (a teacher) playing Monopoly. After the Second World War, when Scrabble was introduced to Britain my parents bought one of the first sets to be sold here. In the early 1950s, almost from the age I could walk and talk, I was playing Scrabble. Much of my life-long love of words I owe to this extraordinary game.
When I was thirteen I was sent to a boarding school called Bedales in Hampshire. The founder of the school, J H Badley (1863-1965), lived in the school grounds and on Wednesday afternoons I was sent to play a game of Scrabble with him. He was in his late nineties then and played a mean game. Invariably he won. I told him he was cheating because he used words that were obsolete. He claimed they had been current when he had first learned them. He was a remarkable man. In the 1890s, he knew Oscar Wilde, whose eldest son, Cyril, was a pupil at Bedales. In the 1960s he was playing Scrabble with me. At 100, he believed Scrabble kept his mind alive. It did. It does.
By the time I left university, at the beginning of the 1970s, I had become a Scrabble obsessive. I would go so far as to say I had become a Scrabble evangelist: I wanted to spread the word of the world’s most wonderful word game. That’s how I came to found the National Scrabble Championships in 1971. I was writing a book about prison reform at the time. I had visited Bristol Prison and seen some inmates playing Scrabble. I knew that The Queen played Scrabble. I thought, ‘This is game enjoyed by Her Majesty and those detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure: it’s a game for everyone. We need a national competition to find the best player in the land.’
From that first national championship, the Scrabble movement grew and grew: competitions proliferated, standards rose, sales soared. We had Scrabble on TV, Scrabble clothes (I had several Scrabble jumpers), Travel Scrabble, computer Scrabble . . . You name it, we found a Scrabble angle to it. Yes, there have been and are other enjoyable word games (Bananagrams is another of my favourites), but none can rival Scrabble.
The Association of British Scrabble Players was formed in 1987 as an organisation to oversee UK tournament Scrabble and its associated rating system. There are now one-day or weekend tournaments somewhere in the British Isles nearly every week, organised by local clubs and individuals with results rated by the ABSP. Check out www.absp.org.uk to find out more.
Champion Scrabble players have vast vocabularies. My friend Mark Nyman (a former World Champion at Scrabble as well as a former producer at Countdown) has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the words that are allowable in Scrabble. Many of them are pretty obscure. Many of them are abbreviations or foreign words that have crept into the Scrabble dictionary because they are so useful to the game. I knew that qi is allowed in Scrabble as an alternative spelling of chi, meaning the ‘life force’ in Chinese philosophy and medicine; I knew that zo is an approved Scrabble word because it’s one way of spelling the word for a type of Himalayan cattle; but I have only just discovered from Mark Nyman that za is permissible, as a colloquial abbreviation for ‘pizza’.
With a little help from my friend, here are some of my favourite useful and unusual words to play at Scrabble - every one of them allowed in UK tournament Scrabble. Enjoy!
a Spanish porcelain tile
born again middle-aged biker
someone who boos
short for ‘casual’
a scar on a seed
a hairy New Zealand beetle
a race on a frozen lake
a fortified wine
a stupid person
million instructions per second
yes ‘nonwords’ meaning ‘nonwords’ is allowed in Scrable!
a shout for attention
a sound to express irritation
a small Canadian fishing boat
a state of confusion
to make a dull thud
an Indian coin
abnormal dryness of bodily tissues
(some words just don’t live up to their promise)
a citrus fruit
(they allow ‘zzz’ for a sleep in Scrabble, so they have to allow ‘zzzs’. I know, I know, but it’s only a game)
If you care about words - and want to increase your vocabulary - there’s stuff that might intrigue in my new book, out on 4 October. You can ‘pre-order’ now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Have-Eaten-Grandma-Gyles-Brandreth/dp/0241352630/
[If you don’t like the word ‘pre-order’ either, you’ll really like Have You Eaten Grandma?]