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.

Scrabble Tiles

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.

Scrabble Words

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

At least 30,000 Scrabble games are started every hour.

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.pile of Scrabble tiles

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?

 

 

14 comments

  1. I love playing word games. It keeps your mind alert, as reading does. I find it still fascinating to learn new words each and every day. It makes me feel a part of today’s world.

  2. Now we are talking! Scrabble is one of my favorite games since I favor word games as opposed to say Monopoly (which I find stressful and conducive to fights). I could play Scrabble for hours. I find learning words, their meaning and their correct spelling fascinating.

    I would love to have a board here at home, perhaps even one of those elaborate spinnable ones with the deluxe tile racks, but alas, I don’t have anyone to play with here. My husband refers to me as the walking dictionary and I am often called from another room to be asked for the spelling. I even get volunteered the word used in a sentence to get the usage clarified.

    I do enjoy playing Words With Friends online or on my phone to play with my sister-in-law, Maggie. I think of it as electronic Scrabble although there is a trademarked Scrabble game that can be played the same way as Words With Friends.

    I just checked my current stats in the game and here are the numbers.

    Won 198 Tied 1 Lost 247 for a total of 446 games
    Average Classic Game Score 322 Highest Game Score 468
    Distance of Tiles Played 6754 M (I take it that means meters)
    Unique words played 4750
    Played all 7 Tiles 167 times
    2 Letter Words Played 98% 3 Letter Words Played 51%
    Number of JQXZ Words 627

    You know that is the one advantage to playing an electronic version it keeps your statistics updated. LOL, Still I would love to play in person over a lunch or even with a cup of tea for the social aspect as well as indulging in my favorite game.

    1. I’ve never played Words with Friends, Susan, but I already love the fact that you can keep stats. The distance of tiles played does nothing for me, but some of the other stats, like unique words played, are just terrific.
      I just noticed – you and Donna have played the exact same number of unique words. Hmm, should we be suspicious of the veracity of that particular statistic?

      1. The distance of tiles played doesn’t do anything for me either but it is part of the stats they keep. Hmm, maybe Donna and I have played the exact same number of unique words because we are pretty evenly matched in ability. It can happen… 😉 Anyway if you were to play Words With Friends you and I could play “Scrabble” long distance. What I also like is for people with busy schedules you make your move then leave it until the other person plays and come back to it when you have a few more minutes. It can also be played non-stop like an in-person board game if you both have the time to dedicate to a game. The app allows you to totally customize how you want to play to whatever you are up for.

  3. Hi, Karen – I too am a scrabble fan! The board that we currently have at home is the one that my family played when I was a little girl. It was a ‘deluxe edition’ (back in the day), so the board swivels easily from player to player. In addition, the board contains ‘raised slots’ so that you can neatly fit each tile into its own space.

    Like Susan, I also play WWFs. Taking her lead, here are my stats:

    Lost more than I have won (but only slightly)
    Average Classic Game Score 320
    Highest Game Score 495
    Distance of Tiles Played 22301 Ft
    Unique words played 4750
    Played all 7 Tiles times 134

    Happy Scrabble Day!

    1. Hey, Donna! A fellow WWF player…wow, small world. LOL, I just looked at your stats and what I said to Karen about us being pretty evenly matched looks to be spot on. 😀 We should play a game together sometime. I think it would be interesting.
      I am so jealous of your deluxe game board especially with the raised slots, especially with being able to spin the board around to each player. With no raised slots that could get tricky. LOL. 🙂

  4. Happy Scrabble Day to you, Donna!

    I’ve got about ten boards at home – they don’t swivel, but do have the raised slots which I really like. I bought a classroom Scrabble pack when I was a teacher so that my students could play. Alas, even in the gifted class I taught, too many struggled with spelling to be able to play and enjoy the game.

    I was just commenting, in response to Susan, that the two of you have the exact same number of unique words played. That looks a touch suspicious to me – the identical number. But having access to all of the stats is neat. I might have to try Words with Friends sometime. Unfortunately, it’s a Facebook app, isn’t it? I detest Facebook.

    1. Hi Donna,
      I’m sorry. I forgot to acknowledge and thank you for sending along the non-Facebook app for Words with Friends. I’m definitely interested in checking it out.

  5. My brother is an aficionado of online scrabble (or maybe it is words with friends). I love the idea of playing online, or, for that matter, the old fashioned board game version. Now that I will soon have more time in my life, I think I will try out that link that Donna provided. However, my pet peeve about scrabble is when people look up words online (e.g., consult the two letter word list) before taking their turn each time. To me, that seems like cheating and takes the fun out of the game. In the old days before the World Wide Web, I had a friend who was endeavouring to memorize the scrabble dictionary. Needless to say, she beat the pants off me.

    Jude

    1. I’m with you, Jude. Looking up words online or consulting the Scrabble dictionary before each turn is cheating as far as I’m concerned. I have trouble understanding how it could be thought of as anything other than cheating.

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