Dom Joly: Britannia rules at Scrabble (and that's my final word)

Share
Related Topics

Every year we spend part of our summer holidays with friends in their cottage on Bruce Beach on the shores of Lake Huron in Canada. Entertainment is sparse around here so, once the kids are in bed, we hunker down to some marathon games of Scrabble.

Over the years this has developed into quite a tradition, with a garish tartan cap the prize for the winner. There is, however, one enormous problem with playing Scrabble with North Americans – they don't speak English. We are, in Oscar Wilde's wise words, "two nations divided by a common language".

There are two Scrabble dictionaries, one for North Americans, one for Brits. If you go on to the official website it asks you to choose one before accessing the word checker. This has actually not been a problem until last night, when I used the two-letter word "qi". This is one of my stock two-letter get-out words, and means life force. To be precise, I used the plural, qis.

"I challenge," said my host, who claimed to know every legitimate two-letter word. This was quite a step for a Canadian – normally a very un-confrontational people. I sat back smugly, confident in the knowledge that this was a winner.

He thumbed through the little leaflet that comes with the game. It listed all the two-letter words – qi was not there. I demanded to see a dictionary. One was eventually produced and, once again, qi was not there. In desperation I went online to check the Scrabble website. I checked the North American version and qi was not there. On the European version, however, it most certainly was, and the plural was listed as well. I demanded that he withdraw his challenge and apologise. He refused and reminded me that we were in Canada. "When in Toronto, do as the Torontonians do." Quite apart from the fact that we weren't even in Toronto, this comparing Toronto to Rome riled me further. Our positions were drawn and the game stalled – we were at loggerheads, a Scrabble-off.

Suddenly, a diplomatic breakthrough. Stacey suggested that I use my Facebook and Twitter accounts for something useful for once. Why didn't I put the problem up online and we'd get an independent ruling? Even though it was three in the morning back in the UK, I know enough insomniacs and internationalists to feel confident that we'd get a good answer. So online I went, and up went our situation

There was a deluge. I've never had such a huge amount of replies. They were mostly along two lines. The first was that it was ridiculous that North Americans can't speak proper English but, since I was playing in Canada, local rules apply. I ignored these – they were clearly the work of turncoats. The second consensus was summed up best by one that read very simply – "Queen trumps colony." I howled with laughter and passed this on to my hosts who looked at me with sour expressions. Another missive expressed deep concern that Canada, a country that still has our beloved Queen as their figurehead, should choose not to speak her English. The sender was appalled that they should share a Scrabble dictionary with America, a country that, in his opinion, is barely able to read, let alone play Scrabble. I was forced to remind him that the game was actually invented in the US.

In the end, after several hours of negotiation, we agreed to accept words that appeared on either side of the pond and "qis" was allowed. Not only that, it turned out to be the winning margin, and I am one step nearer to wearing the hallowed tartan cap.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The appearance of Miguel Arias Canete at a Brussels hearing last Wednesday caused 100,000 people to sign a petition to prevent his appointment  

TTIP is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the EU's suspect relationships with corporations

Lee Williams
 

Being catcalled, groped and masturbated at is a common part of the female experience

Bryony Beynon
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain