Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scrabble Gets Dumber, Sort Of

Last year around this time, Mattel announced that Scrabble would now "allow" proper nouns in play. (Mattel owns the rights to Scrabble outside of the US, while Hasbro owns the US rights.) This was the outrageous outrage du-jour among the gaming community in general and Scrabble cognoscenti in particular.

Except that Mattel didn't do anything of the sort. They were merely creating a branded spin-off called Scrabble Trickster, and misleading the press just a bit in order to gin up controversy and thus get some free publicity.

It worked like a charm (searches for the phase "Scrabble proper nouns" yield thousands of links), so they decided to do it again.

The latest news is that stupid non-words like "grrl","innit", and "thang" are being added as "official" Scrabble words. Wellllll ... yes and no.

The Collins Official Scrabble Word Book, in a desperate attempt to get themselves permanently dropped as a resource for tournament play, is indeed publishing a new edition with 3,000 additional words, some of them quite stupid. "Innit" is a kind slang contraction, which would exclude it from play. "Grrl" is just an abbreviation that's not abbreviated. No word yet on whether "pwned" is included, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

The World Scrabble Championships uses the SOWPODS list as its official word source. SOWPODS is a combination of the US/Canadian Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (the OSPD) and the UK Chambers Official Scrabble Words (the OWL). In 2005, Mattel changed their preferred (non-US) dictionary to the Collins Official Scrabble Word Book, but as far as I can tell, SOWPODS remains on the OSPD/OWL standard. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me and I'll update this post.

The US, Canada, and Thailand still use The Official Tournament and Club Word List (TWL), a modfication of the OSPD for tournament play, so these changes affect US play not at all. One the other hand, WESPA, the World English Scrabble Players Association, appears to be getting ready to use the new Collins list for international play.

All this does is create maximum confusion for international play and further discredit the use of Collins as any kind of international standard. The US player associations were correct to maintain conservative standards for acceptable words, thus avoiding the desperate trend-chasing and regionalisms of the international Scrabble community.

None of this matters one jot, however, in standard play. If someone slams down "grrl" during a home game, you're quite free to shake your head in sad disappointment and refer to the OSPD or TWL. This is exactly why my ancestors fought the Revolutionary War: so I didn't have to suffer stupid British word standards during Scrabble play. Up the Colonies!


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