It’s National Scrabble Day. Want to Play?
Every other Tuesday throughout the winter and early spring, I meet up with a friend. We take turns hosting, which means preparing lunch. We also take turns winning (although she wins about 65% of the time) as we play one or two games of Scrabble. Since today (April 13th) is National Scrabble Day, it’s the perfect time to share some facts about the game. Perhaps you’ll even dig out a board and have a game in honour of today being inventor Alfred Mosher Butts’ birthday.
History of One of the World’s Most Popular Board Games
Scrabble was invented in 1931 by Butts, an out-of-work architect. It was initially called Lexiko–the same game but just with tiles, no board.
Butts determined the number of tiles and the point value for each letter by calculating how many times each letter appeared on the front page of The New York Times.
Several game companies rejected Scrabble. Butts eventually sold the rights to James Brunot, an entrepreneur who, along with some friends, assembled twelve games an hour, stamping each wooden tile by hand.
Scrabble was a losing proposition until the president of Macy’s department store played it while on vacation in 1957. He placed a huge order, which Brunot could not fulfill. Scrabble was sold to various game manufacturers, finally ending up with Hasbro where it is today.
Butts did such a great job of calculating letter frequencies that the basic game has remained unchanged for more than sixty years.
Scrabble is produced in 31 languages. Welsh, the most recent, was added in 2006. Scrabble is not available in Japanese or Chinese.
English Scrabble has 100 tiles. Italian and Portuguese Scrabble each have 120 tiles. The most marked difference in letter distribution comes in the Malaysian version where 19 of the 100 tiles are the letter ‘A’.
In 2008, Hasbro considered adding hyphen and apostrophe tiles. That never happened, perhaps because some diehard Scrabble players revolted.
Every Scrabble game includes at least a couple of blank tiles. Blanks are valuable because they can often be used to get bonus points. Feeling around in the bag for a blank tile – smooth on both sides – is called brailing, and is forbidden. All of the tiles used in tournaments are smooth to prevent brailing.
There’s a weird variation of Scrabble called Clabbers. It’s the same board, the same tiles, but the rules are that you can play letters in any order as long as the letters make up an anagram of a word.
Jeff is the annoying kind of Scrabble player who plays a lot of obscure two-letter words that shouldn’t count but for whatever reason are considered legitimate. I am the perfect Scrabble player, both serious and considerate. Obviously I lost by a lot.Bennett Madison
To me, many of the words that appear on official Scrabble word lists might just as well be anagrams. I have trouble accepting that “aa” is a rough, cindery lava, or that “qanat” is a legitimate word without a ‘u’ after the ‘q’. Apparently it refers to a system of underground tunnels and wells used in the Middle East.
I could not play tournament level Scrabble, not only because I’m not good enough, but because I want to use only English words found in a standard dictionary. Fortunately my Scrabble friend agrees so we ignore the 124 playable two letter words that are in the Scrabble dictionary. At my urging, we also ignore the so-called ‘word’ that spells a letter like ‘f’ spelled ‘ef ‘ or ‘c’ spelled ‘cee’.
Unusual Facts in Honour of National Scrabble Day
Tom Cruise, Kate Hudson, Queen Elizabeth II, and Sting are Scrabble enthusiasts.
When you use all seven of your tiles to make a word, it’s called a Bingo.
The highest number of points attainable on the first turn is 128. You get that for the word muzjiks, which means a Russian peasant. Remember that the first word played on a Scrabble board scores double the points. That’s another rule my friend and I ignore since the determination of who plays first is dependent on chance, not skill.
On Scrabble’s fiftieth anniversary, a game was played in Britain’s Wembley Stadium. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest game, no surprise since each tile measured six feet square and required two men to lift it.
A five year old boy in Leicester, England phoned the police to complain that his sister was cheating at Scrabble. Perhaps she was using aa?
In Atwoodville, Connecticut it is against the law to play Scrabble while waiting for a politician to speak.
Scrabble as Self-Care
If you haven’t played Scrabble for a while, National Scrabble Day is a great reminder to enjoy a game or two. Hopefully you’ll want to do more than that. Word games, like Scrabble, improve our vocabularies and keep our brains working as we strategize how to maximize points. They’re a good opportunity for socializing if you play online against others, and a great one if playing face-to-face. Perhaps you’ll even combine your Scrabble game with lunch or dinner so you can try out some new recipes.
If all of this sounds appealing but you’ve never been particularly good at Scrabble, this site offers useful tips to help you play a winning game.
Do you enjoy Scrabble? What’s your take on two letter words?