Scrabbling

When Marcia and I first started hanging out together back in 1987, we regularly played Scrabble, and have continued to do so on an on-and-off basis for the ensuing 21 years. When we started playing regularly, we purchased the original first edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD). At some point soon thereafter, Marcia went through the book manually and hand-wrote a listing of all of the legal two letter words (knowing them all is crucial for serious competitive Scrabbling), because this was back in the dark ages before the Internet pipes reached our homes, making such information readily attainable at the click of a mouse.

For over 20 years, we’ve played with that same original issue of the OSPD, using the same basic list of 85 two-letter words contained in the original book. This situation changed about a month ago, when I realized that there had been three subsequent editions to the OSPD over the years, and I went out and bought the latest, Fourth Edition, which suddenly gave us 16 two letter words that we’d not been allowed to use to date:

AB, AG, AL, ED, HM, KI, MM, MO, NE, OI, QI, UH, UM, YO and ZA.

Having played with these new words for a few weeks, I have to say that I feel dirty and compromised by doing so, especially the words QI and ZA. When the powers that be decided that these words should be admitted to the dictionary, they should have reduced the point value of the Z and the Q to 8, from 10, making it equal in value to the J. It just seems wrong for the Q and the Z to be so easily playable now. If you get stuck with one or both of them at the end of the game, it’s no big deal: odds are that there will be an open I or A on the board and you can fob them off for a easy 11 points, no sweat, no hassle. You no longer have to hoard U’s either, since there’s an easy way to play a Q without them. This feels wrong. I do not approve on some sort of purist, philosophical basis.

Frankly, if they were going to tinker with the dictionary, I would have preferred that they create the Whale Song version that would allow me to play words like EEEEEAAI or AAAAIEEEOO. That’s useful. More than ZA or QI anyway. I would also welcome the Orc Dictionary, that would allow KRZXBRJG and RGGBUZJK to be played. That would also be useful and legitimately challenging. No longer would a rack full of all vowels or all consonants be of concern, when you knew the languages of whales and Orcs.

I’ll keep my eyes out for those revisions, but until they come out, I’m not updating from the Fourth Edition of the OSPD, because I feel pretty sure that the Fifth Edition is going to include such exciting new two-letter words as QJ or ZK. I want no part of that. None whatsoever.

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