Thursday, April 08, 2010

Relax (12 points)

Well, that one had me worried for a while.

Scrabble about to permit proper nouns, Bubba? Words spelled sdrawkcab? Un connected words? I caught more than a whiff of the international Scrabbler panic a few days ago, and suffered a couple of sleepless nights.

I'm not a traditionalist or a purist, just a Scrabbler who has played the game for (gulp) more than half a century. I played it constantly with both my ex and my late partner, who were consistently better players than I, by the way. Diluting Scrabble with various gimcracks and, Lord help us, Beyonce (14 points), is, frankly, a sign of End Times.

False alarm, as it turns out. Thank you,
Slate.

You can't improve upon the elegant simplicity of this game. I've seen minor modifications to the rules over the years, but these have been more in the way of clarification (not that an enormous amount of parsing didn't take place).

Take the modified "standard dictionary" rule, which did away with the restriction on "foreign words" in 1976.
A welcome change in the direction of inclusiveness and diversity. I, for one, depend on qua from time to time, and in some dictionaries the word is still considered "foreign."

But what of "standard?"
I was once successfully challenged because the battered old wordbook in use at my student co-op cited "zoo" as an abbreviation. After years of such uncertainty, Scrabble helpfully produced its own official dictionary, but this didn't put an end to controversy: there were even Facebook protests over the inclusion of words like "smoyle," "et" and, worse, "Pernod." (In our house the Complete OED is the standard, backed up with an authorized Scrabble list of two-letter words.)

The introduction of the double-challenge rule was also a welcome tweak; before that, a lot of time was wasted by persistent challengers with limited vocabularies and stroppy attitudes who risked nothing.

But that was just minor tinkering, as noted. Scrabble has escaped utter transmogrification for now--"the act of changing into a different form or appearance (especially a fantastic or grotesque one)."

Alfred M. Butts, rest in peace.

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