12 May 2011

New "words" for Scrabble

Wordies and game enthusiasts are offering mixed responses to a report that several thousand new entries are now acceptable for the game of Scrabble.
Staff at the Glasgow-based Collins Dictionaries have introduced nearly 3,000 new words to the list, including street slang such as “thang,” or thing, “innit,” short for isn’t it, and “blingy,” used to describe flashy jewellery, according to the website of parent company HarperCollins. The addition of the slang term “grrl,” or “grrrl,” also known as a female with attitude, may come as a welcome relief at times when players run out of vowels.

The new list also includes tech terms such as “Myspace,” “webzine,” “Facebook,” “Wiki” and “blook” (a book published via a blog). New non-English words also made it onto the list, including Indian terms for potato and cauliflower, “alu” or “aloo,” and “gobi,” respectively, as well as “wagyu,” the breed of Japanese cattle.

Meanwhile, HarperCollins says several words related to Islam were added, reflecting the increasing role of the religion in world affairs, such as “umma,” an Islamic community, “shahid,” meaning witness or martyr, and “nikah,” or marriage contract. 
I also have mixed feelings about the changes.  I understand why this is happening; its an effort to widen the popularity of the game and to make it more "timely" for a younger generation and for a broader ESL audience.  The "traditionalist" in me has been playing for over 50 years and would like to agree with a comment made last year when Mattel announced that proper nouns would now be acceptable:
"Just because people these days are finding Scrabble too hard to play, the rules shouldn't be changed."
On the other hand, I've noted previously in this blog that Scrabble rules are not just bent, but flagrantly broken, in our home, where house rules encourage an "open book, double bag, triple return, blank start and recycle" variant of the game.

It will be interesting to see which of these changes make their way into the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary, which is the Bible for tournament and international play.


  1. Jerry in and around DallasMay 12, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    To avoid conflict, the wife and I agreed to stick with the words found in our dictionary, a Merriam-Webster.

  2. The examples chosen (which just happen to cross class lines that in the past have mostly contained Scrabble players) illustrate a more important goal than trying to recruit new demographics of players. Scrabble is fundamentally a game about words, and words are fundamental units of living languages. The game was never intended to involve a frozen crystallization of English as it existed in the 1940s. If that were the case, the game would be destined for obsolescence, increasingly accessible only to those who make a study of archaic vocabulary. Imagine people 300 years from now trying to play based on our dictionary! It would be incredibly frustrating; just as we employ many words today in conversation, journalism, and scholarship that didn't exist when the game was invented, future generations of players will speak a different English from what we speak today.

    Slang terms have long been acceptable to most players (and in tournament play). Passing judgment about what slang is acceptable and what isn't should be on linguistic usage grounds, not on what "feels" right or wrong to you in your particular demographic slice. Just as part of the fun of competitive Scrabble is discovering slang terms of the 40s, imagine the fun of discovering new slang words in common usage in circles outside your own!

  3. Adding a few (or even a few dozen) new words isn't changing the game at all. Language evolves, and fossilizing the word list in any particular year is silly. Allowing proper nouns is changing the game. Especially given the plethora of transliterations available for non-European names.

  4. Scrabble Rules, 2040:

    1. ne werdz u cn spel iz pt

    2. moar ptz 4 werdz wut 3 ltrs o longrr

    4. spel "brawndo" 1mil ptz

  5. There was a kerfuffle about this some time ago. Turns out these changes are for a new, kid-friendly version.


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