Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Shizzle That is Scrabble

 "What the h*** is that?" I bellowed in indignation at the doe eyed Scrabble geek in front of me.
"Errr...cat," he replied tremulously.
"Cat? CAT??????? But it has a 'Q' in it!!!!" I shrieked in disbelief.
"Oh..yes, 'qat'," he replied, "it is a word..."
"I KNOW it's a word ("you blithering idiot", I restrained myself from adding)!!! I also know it's usually spelled with a C!!!!!"  I was out of all charity by now.
"Yes, but it's not cat as in cat, it's qat," he attempted to explain.
"Qat??? QAT????WTF does THAT mean????" I challenged.
"Errr, I don't know. But I know it is a word!" he added helpfully.
"Listen buddy, if any kid in my class had spelled 'cat' with a 'q'...I would have MARKED THEM WRONG!!!!!!!!!" 
The doe eyed geek took his 12 046 points for 'qat' and gave me a hesitantly encouraging smile.
"I know a lot of words," he said, "but I don't always know what they mean."

When I was a little girl my parents taught me how to play Scrabble. It was pretty straightforward: no slang, no proper names, no foreign words and no initials or abbreviations. My philosophical difficulties began the day my Bestie bought herself a Scrabble dictionary and started using words like 'joe' on a triple letter score. Now in my book, 'joe' is a name. Names are not allowed. Ah-hah! says the Scrabble buff; a 'joe' means a bloke or a lad....or, if you spell it 'jo' (ALSO a name! I point out)...a sweetheart! But that would be slang wouldn't it? And slang is NOT ALLOWED!!!!! You see where I'm coming from.

In addition to my objections on principle, whenever my Bestie and I, or Himself and I, play Scrabble, they end up leaving the room or making a cup of tea whilst I ponder the best possible move I could make with the letters in my hand. The old adage, 'a fast game's a good game', has been flung my way on numerous occasions! With all of this in mind, saying 'yes' to the invitation to join a friend at her weekly pub Scrabble tournament was probably my first mistake. It was certainly not my last.

In my defence, I had warned my geek friend that I was crap at scrabble.
"I spend hours trying to make ONE move" I protested.
"Don't worry," she said,"you've got a good knowledge of the English language, you'll be fine!"
"But I don't think strategically," was my next counter,"I can't do all those 'making words in two different directions in a corner' things that score huge points..."

"It's just a bit of fun," she said,undeterred,"it will get you out of the  house."

I knew I was in trouble when the gentleman in charge introduced me to a two button timer next to the game board.
"We each have 25 minutes to play. When you put down your word, you announce your score and then hit your button, that starts my timer.  A good turn should take only a minute or two."
He proceeded to draw an 'E', and before I had even drawn my seven tiles and put them onto the rack, he had kicked off with 'ulu', hit his timer button and was looking at me expectantly. Aside from the fact that I was now chewing up valuable seconds fumbling my tiles onto the rack, I had never heard of the word 'ulu' in my life! I didn't even bother to challenge him. As it turns out, ulu is a type of Eskimo knife. Obviously.

I tried valiantly to begin with, but the longer I took to come up with my 20 point word, the more time he had to put together a 65 pointer that stuck an 's' on the end of something I'd done and ran in two other directions utilising the double letter and triple word score and using up all seven of his tiles for a bonus 50 points. Outclassed, is putting it nicely. When we got to 'qat' I lost all charity and reached for my 'ulu'.

You see my difficulty with Scrabble is that I was lead to believe it was a game of vocabulary and spelling (I blame my father) but last night I was beaten by people using words such as 'de', 'aua', 'qat' and 'rep'. I was also reliably informed that 'mofo' is now an acceptable Scrabble word. I am speechless. Vocab and spelling, my posterior!!!!

I mean, look at this list of acceptable two letter words as printed on the Scrabble Bookmark from 2007?

AA: rough lava with holes. Really? I thought that was called pumice, or scoria. I'm pretty sure that, as my geologist father dragged us around volcanic sites in my childhood, he never picked up a piece of rock and declared,"Look girls, here is a piece of aa!!!!!" He might have called out AA when he dropped it on his foot of course but then, we already have a word for that. And anyway, I have read through a wikipedia article on igneous rocks and they did not ONCE mention 'aa'. Ergo, it is a probably a regional term (Hawaiian perhaps?) and therefore a foreign word and therefore NOT ALLOWED!!! (Of course on searching wikipedia for aa, I did come across this which confirms my opinion that it is a Hawaiian word and should therefore not be allowed. Clarence Dutton has a lot to answer for I'd say.)

And what about this?
BO: man (US slang)...YOU SEE???? SLANG AGAIN!!!!!!!!!
(and anyway...shouldn't it be Bro...but no...THAT would be an abbreviation!!!!!!!!)

And in what language is SI a musical note???? Another quick check of wikipedia confirms that is not a part of the sol-fa tonic scale! Alright, it may have originally been the seventh note....but it NO LONGER IS!!!!! Some may say that a si is an ancient mythological being but again, that is a Celtic word and Celtic words are NOT ENGLISH! Which also rules out 'ae' (one: Scots),'oe' (a grandchild: Scots) and an 'oy' (grandfather: Scots). And what about allowing 'ja'...(yes: from the German)???? FROM THE GERMAN?????? IT IS BLOODY GERMAN!!!!!!!
Foreign language and therefore not allowed.

Do not even start me on 'wo' (grief, misery). What happened to the 'e'?

My outrage increased throughout the next game, to the point that I couldn't really be bothered any more. And when my timer went over into the negative whilst the other player still had 10 minutes to go, there may have been tears. After all, I mean, when someone puts down 'wifey' as an acceptable word.....(slang? hello. anyone? slang!!!)

When I got home and showed Himself the 2007 Scrabble Bookmark, he wrapped me in his huge, warm, comforting arms and announced that we ought to start a 'Fairplay' Scrabble league.

 I'm with him.


The Honourable Husband said...

Qat is an old favourite. It's a kind of hemp used in making rope. Qat was why I always chose the Macquarie Dictionary to play by.

By the way, you might like to curse the wicked game of Scrabble in a comment on my recent post about playing Scrabble in German.

Bonnie Schupp said...

I enjoyed your post! (You're from Adelaide? I've been there, all the way from Maryland USA!) Since I wrote my Scrabble blog in 2009, I've been playing Words with Friends on my smart phone and usually have at least a dozen games going at any one time. The people who know all the strange words and who use them strategically are the people I can never beat! Thanks for your comments on my blog. http://bjschupp.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/qxwvwzv/

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

I always wondered how I could like reading and words and still dislike scrabble. I never though of the strategy part as being the problem.

carrie said...

Oh, I love you even more now (if that is possible!!) after reading this. Totally laughed out loud. I LOVE playing scrabble but have burned through everyone to play with - so now I'm stuck playing against the computer on my ipad. I have used qat before though...

Arizaphale said...

Carrie. I can give you the address of the pub if you like.
HH:I do not believe qat is available for purchase in Australia and should therefore not be allowed. Foreign plant, foreign word,NOT ALLOWED!
Jill: I knew we were kindred spirits.
Bonnie: If you play WWF (as almost everyone seems to!) you are a better woman than me Gunga Din :-D. Hope you enjoyed visiting our little town here btw!

Anonymous said...

LOL - what a hoot (6 points except on double/triple letter scores which I always seem to get when playing you, bestie!). A couple more for you... Zo has always been a great standby and accepted on almost all scrabble sites, but not WWF! There it's Za - and no - I don't know what either of them mean.
However, I must tell of the infamous "rebwarvy" - my great friend the DIVA and I play regularly and on this occasion she was so annoyed with losing she just put all her tiles down on a triple word score, making out "rebwarvy" AND THE GAME ACCEPTED IT!!!!! 4,379 points for a word that's never graced any dictionary that I know of. But that's the game ...

Arizaphale said...

As far as I can tell, a word being meaningless does not seem to matter to most scrabble buffs.

Stacy said...

Is it bad that I knew that Aa was Hawaiian and what it meant? I learned that from a romance novel, so obviously they aren't all crap. ;)

I would be the same way, so I can feel your frustration. I was taught how to play scrabble the same way as you were.

Elisa said...

That's for the giggles reading this today! I can totally feel your indignation but that didn't make your post any less amusing. :)

Hope the shoulder is recovering well!!