Carola Long: Scrabbling all the way to the bottom

Maybe some young people are sentient enough to play by the existing rules

Share
Related Topics

During the three years I spent studying English Literature at university, I could only come up with one decent reason why dreary Old English was on the syllabus. Scrabble. One day, I mused, the fact that I spent precious hours trying to translate poems about warriors with frosty beards that could have been devoting to punting or binge drinking will come in useful. It might give me a grounding in those ancient two and three letter words that sound like Anglo Saxon battle cries delivered with a lisp that are the key to aceing the game. Scraps of arcane knowledge that are utterly useless anywhere else.

Now, however, my critical advantage has been snatched away, before I ever managed to use it. The rules of the classic word game have been changed to allow the use of proper nouns, ushering in people's names – notably celebrities as the makers eagerly point out – place names, company names, and brands. Previously, only a few proper nouns had been allowed, decided by a word list based on the Collins dictionary, but now linguistic anarchy has broken out.

The manufacturers, Mattel, have said that the new version of the game, which will come out in July alongside existing ones, will have no clear rules about whether a proper noun is correct or not. If that wasn't bad enough, they are even considering allowing players to spell words backwards and upwards, and place words without connecting them to other pieces. Basically, anything goes and this just isn't cricket. Or rather, it isn't Scrabble.

There are practical problems to consider. Whereas disputes over the validity of a word can currently be resolved with a flick through the dictionary, verifying dubious assertions about the names of long forgotten Big Brother contestants or members of the 1976 Canadian bobsleigh team would entail endless Googling or blind trust.

The real problem here, though, isn't that a finished Scrabble board could resemble the front page of Heat; it's that, like GCSEs, the game will get easier. And it's not exactly Mensa territory as it is. A spokeswoman for Mattel said that the new rules would, "enable younger fans and families to get involved," suggesting that the only thing preventing teenagers from trading playing their Wii in a locked bedroom for a word game en famile is the chance to spell out N-Dubz. Except that N-Dubz wouldn't be allowed because there's no hyphen in scrabble, so while Mattel are playing fast and loose with the rules, why not introduce exclamation marks as well, with extra points for emphasis? And what about Smilies? And text speak? Surely that would get the kidz off the streetz and playing Scrabble.

Maybe though, there are actually some " young people," and not so young people, who are sufficiently sentient to play by the existing rules, and who like a challenge. After all, there's no thrill in an easy win, which is why a recent victory in my local pub quiz was only sweet because it's a difficult one. In the rare event that I triumph at Scrabble I want to be filled with righteous smugness and snobbery, and the sense that I'm a Master of the English language, not the slightly shameful awareness that I won because I know Dannii Minogue spells her name with two 'i's.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore