Scrabble allows proper nouns; a nation mourns its lost innocence

Thanks to Change, this letter can now be used to score points on everything from Zappa to Zoltar to Zombie

.Island Packet — Not to sound like a jerk, but I am better than you at Scrabble. And I can prove it with shocking mathematics: In March I played a single word for 117 points, 117 nasal passage-melting points, a startling, Bob Huggins’ head-sized accomplishment that is difficult to process with your mortal human brain, so I will pause here to let you absorb it with reverent silence.

Go on. It’s OK. I’ll cool myself with tropical foliage while being hand-fed cheeses and star fruit while you stand slack-jawed with wonder.

OK, now that your heart rate has relaxed and most of the major sweating has slowed, I will tell you that the 117-point monster I conjured with my brain-wand was DOOZIES, a word which is far too cartoonish for the verbal firepower and childish gloating it unleashed. If you are not a Scrabble player, this is the equivalent of Albert Pujols hitting a home run that counted for 30 runs, or Duke’s championship victory coming in part because Jon Scheyer hit a 75-pointer (which NCAA officials would happily allow, incidentally, but whatever).

Indeed, at any given time, I am engaged in three or four games of Scrabble, mostly on my iPhone, where I play the free Scrabble app called Words With Friends (a name which no doubt resulted from Lawsuits Among Companies), a diversion that helps exercise my mind while causing considerable terror in the drivers behind me.

But this has all taken place under what will soon be known as Old Scrabble Rules, the board-game equivalent of the pre-‘roid era. Because a new edition of the game will for the first time allow proper nouns — including the names of celebrities, places and companies — because a board game adored by language enthusiasts for 62 years can’t possibly navigate the rocky transition to the iPad Age unless it can somehow work in “Beyonce.” (I note with no small degree of pleasure that the person who established the anti-proper noun rule was Alfred Butts, whose name is now worth a great many points and immeasurable awesomeness.)

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• Cameo – Word Up!

http://bit.ly/aZ6XH9

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A spokeswoman for Mattel and Big Tile said “These changes are the biggest news for Scrabble lovers in the history of the game and will provide a great new twist on the old formula.” That of course is THE BIGGEST LIE SINCE THE MOON LANDING, as it assumes that people who have been really really into Scrabble ARE THIRSTING FOR CHANGE.

No, this is not just the arbitrary adjustment of board games rules that you can totally ignore if you want to, this is GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER of Scrabble, although I haven’t seen mobs of elderly losers making wacky racist posters about this one for some reason. But there is a fair degree of relatively unhinged rage, such as this vulgar rant from Barbara Bryson, who runs a Scrabble club in Scotland:

“There was no mention of it in the last Scrabble News that was put out by Mattel in March and I’m sure I haven’t missed it anywhere. They have their own newspaper giving details of things like competitions so they could have told us.” You laugh, but I am pretty sure the Scrabble News will be the last print newspaper on Earth.

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Related, sort of

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But get this: It turns out that Bryson said the Scrabble News subscription base have faced big challenges before: “We had a great change when the Chambers Dictionary was ousted. They had the official Scrabble dictionary, but it was taken over by Collins and there were a number of changes.” You will remember, of course, the Edinburgh Chambers Dictionary Riots of 1968, 1973, 1988, 1989 and 1990. Many thousands were killed, most by sharpened tile holders.

Needless to say, I am … well, I can’t think of the word for how angry I am, but I know it has five letters and the fourth one is a P. Because there could have been many other ways of addressing this problem, such as deciding with your friends that you could play proper nouns on the existing board you’ve had for 30 years, but that would prevent the purchase of another game. But as change is inevitable, I will comfort myself by re-upping my Scrabble News print subscription and knowing that DOOZIES still beats SHAKIRA.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

74 responses to “Scrabble allows proper nouns; a nation mourns its lost innocence

  • blackwatertown

    doozies? doozies? that can’t be a word. Can it?
    But anyway. The scrabble changes – outrageous. Just wrong. Is this a late april Fool?
    Is nothing sacred, etc, etc – froths at the mouth….

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      I would have sworn it wasn’t a word, but iPhone Scrabble DOES NOT LIE. Also it turns out this is only the case for Scrabble in Britain, because pinheads like me would have lost their minds, but this factual revelation does nothing to tamp down my outrage!

      Like

  • Moranna

    Oh woe is me – I didn’t know about this change in the Scrabble Rules – but I don’t think it will make much difference to me – I shall ignore it!!

    Like

  • Casey

    I joined the facebook group “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet” a while back. If there’s a “When I was your age, proper nouns weren’t allowed in Scrabble,” I’m in…

    Like

  • Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Hmm… Inclusivity among letters? I had no idea uppercase letters had feelings. But, having taught elementary school, I know kids are saying, “Yes!!!” To kids, words are a mix of common and proper nouns. And the more they know, the better their chances of winning… as long as they have the tiles and the opportunity to play them.

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      Well now here’s something I hadn’t thought about, mostly due to my not having a large education degree. Luckily, it seems that this will be the case only in Britain, since the idea of changing Scrabble in the US has caused MASS CHAOS

      Like

  • Grandma Flea

    So why wouldn’t they? They allow everything else. The rules say no foreign words – HA! HA! – most of words in the the Scrabble official dictionary are nonsense words, foreign words or gross abuses of the English language. Those 2 letter words are woeful – but try playing a game without them – boring.

    PS I apologise – they don’t allow EVERTHING else – “Dux” isn’t a scrabble allowable – it’s the word we use in Australia for the person who is top of the class or year at school – ?your veladictorian?

    Like

  • kkellehe

    This Scrabble thing is a huge progression for we lazy people…oh scrabble, how could you sell out like that?

    Like

  • Summer Embee

    You know how this will end: A West Side Story showdown between the “original” and “new” Scrabble players.

    Like

  • Gabe

    *sigh*
    A generation of kids who can’t think of any words beyond “T-Pain” makes me truly sad.

    Like

  • Melme

    I felt a similar shock when we played Monopoly the other day with friends. The person that provided the board had bought it recently and wasn’t an avid player. I started divvying up the money in the old way when she stopped me. Apparently the rules on money distribution have changed and I was “doing it wrong”. I would have balked but there weren’t enough of the smaller bills to go by the old method!

    Like

  • CliffL

    I played Kudzus for 120.

    Like

  • Gregg

    I play bi-lingual Scrabble with my Spanish-speaking friends. I wonder if that’s allowed?

    Like

  • Katie

    I’m sputtering! I’m filled with nerdy righteous indignation!

    I just read this to my kids, and we agree that we are just NOT having it. No sir. No proper nouns in our Scrabble games. What’s next? Allowing suffixes and prefixes? Ignoring hyphens? Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria?

    Like

  • dcmjlive

    I’ve been playing scrabble as a kid and back then, I wished proper nouns were acceptable. Now that I’ve grown, I’ve been accustomed to not having proper nouns and I’m damn proud to have been making words even without it. But now, I’m outraged that they’re going to allow it. Call me a scrabble purist but this shouldn’t be allowed.

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      You’re a Scrabble purist. Luckily, though, this apparently is only the case in Britain, mostly because the news has caused tremendous outrage in the US, particularly on the Internet, I’m told

      Like

  • SJ Whipp

    I feel it’s always words like “doozies” that end up racking up the most points. 117 points, impressive! The largest scoring word I ever experienced was “queen” and I think that was somewhere in the seventies.

    Scrabble is going to allow proper nouns?!? I’m in shock and disbelief!

    Like

  • Michael

    A good example of both the slipping standards we see on a grand scale today (e.g. in “grade inflation”) and the presumptuous attitudes many companies have.

    It further reminds me of an incident from my own school-years, with the moral that while rules may be arbitrary, they must be consistent:

    The class was divided into a number of groups and the groups put into the competition of finding the most nouns describing objects in the class room (e.g. “chalk”, “table”). My group included the names of all the students. These were disallowed, turning a clear victory into a last place (the time needed to collect the names cut deeply into the time available to find regular nouns, giving us a severe handicap). We protested to no avail. The teachers rationale: “Obviously” names were not allowed, because they made the game to easy.

    At a later stage we played the same game with another teacher. The group I was now a member of considered using names, but explicitly chose not to: The previous ruling was remembered. Unfortunately, another group did include names—and this time they were allowed! We again protested; again to no avail. The teachers rationale: Why should the other team be punished for thinking outside the box?

    Like

  • thatgirlwithablog

    The shout out to Cameo just made my day. 🙂

    Like

  • bmj2k

    I can’t wait to play all rap Scrabble, with Fabolous, Chamillionaire, Bubba Sparxxx, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, any group that spells “boys” with a “z,” and rap groups with numbers in their names.

    Like

  • katie o.

    congrats on being freshly pressed! 117 point word doozie. i’m not sure if that makes you a nerd or just incredibly lucky. 🙂 i’m guessing a little bit of both.

    Like

  • wordofabe

    Underlying your humorous blog is a sad commentary on life. Heh….
    Why does everything we love have to change?
    Why change a good thing?
    If it ain’t broke…

    That about sums up my sentiment. Congratulations on your doozie of a word! I hope you did not brag about it for too long. Bragging isn’t nice at all and will cause those around you to distance themselves…trust me.

    Like

  • Ryoko

    Mmmmmmmmmm, my friend just slapped me with a 158 pt word on Scrabble on Facebook. The word was “wielders”. Needless to say, I lost that game. Maybe the two of you should play.
    I may have a fighting chance then with the proper nouns. I can’t tell you how many proper nouns I could have used against her and WON.

    Like

  • BigLittleWolf

    The world, as I know it, has just ended.

    This is divisive on a grand scale. A classic, defiled. Like Star Trek the original, and everything that came after.

    We who revel in change (in some things) will, indeed, mourn this alteration to a game that has been played for generations, as is.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Like

  • Lindsay

    Vixens. 132 points. Humble is a very low scoring word, incidentally.

    Like

  • The Necromancer

    Proper nouns? Ridiculous. Why make everything easier because people are getting dumber and playing Scrabble on their iPhones. I won’t play you on the phone, and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I’m probably better at Scrabble than you, your DOOZIE notwithstanding.

    Like

  • Kris

    Allowing NAMES OF CELEBRITIES??!! So you mean now I have to fight waves of Paris Hilton nausea even whilst playing Scrabble?!?! Oh, wait… that’s a place and a company and a “celebrity”…. three in one, baby, three in one…

    Like

  • Geek Proposal

    Next thing you’ll know, they’ll allow elevators in Chutes and Ladders or force the Hungry Hungry Hippos to go on Weight Watchers.

    Like

  • hanneymonster

    Shocking change to the rules. Scrabble. What a joke.

    Like

  • Barncat

    First, I do appreciate your humor. I like it when Scrabble gets this kind of coverage. It can only be good for the game. Second, the rule change is simply a rumor. Mattel is releasing a Scrabble variant that will allow proper nouns in certain situations (among other bends in the rules). This variant, as far as we know, won’t be released in the US since Hasbro controls Scrabble here, not Mattel. WTOP in D.C. misreported this as well.

    The OSPD4 (the official North American word list) does include some proper nouns already that either have other meanings (e.g. JAPAN is a glaze) or are brand eponyms (XEROX, BENADRYL, etc.). Allowing words from the British dictionary (Collins) in rated North American tournaments is is currently the bigger controversy in competitive Scrabble circles.

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      Hi Barncat, yeah, I got a few things this morning about how, um, this entire post is factually inaccurate unless you live in Britain, which I am going to PRETEND TO DO, so I can stay irrationally angry. How are these sorts of competitive controversies most often solved?

      Like

  • Scrabble Allows Proper Nouns « The Ground Zone

    […] tidbit I found on the Internet Machine on some really cute guy’s blog. I know that this doesn’t exactly fit into the schema of my blog, but I’ll go on ahead […]

    Like

  • Super_Bre

    Hope you don’t mind, but i Tweeted your blog along with the BBC’s original post. This is sacrilege and i won’t allow these new rules into my home…lol. i refuse.

    Like

  • Emily

    i got “quartzy” on a triple word score once for somewhere around 250 points. it was impressive.

    Like

  • Michael

    “quartzy”, got me thinking on using Mister Mxyzptlk—or any number of names from e.g. the Cyrillic countries. With proper nouns being valid, the entire point system becomes unbalanced, because the relative rareity of the letters is altered.

    Like

  • Irene Manahan

    I’m outraged. Great post though. It lightens the terrible mood that this news just put me in.

    Like

  • dftbaasap

    I read that this in fact was just a rumor and that the new proper noun rule that everybody was buzzing about was a rule in a new, defy-all-rules Scrabble game made by Hasbro called Scrabble Trickster where you can play words backwords and use proper nouns, stuff like that.

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      You’re absolutely right, but I refuse to let this factual accuracy ruin a series of faux-outraged punchlines!

      Like

      • dftbaasap

        I was put in a similar situation. I wrote the entirety of a blog about the Scrabble switch ranting about how this was ruining the entire point of Scrabble until I checked my facts. I kept the blog anyways.

        Also, 117 is amazing. My best is I think 84 or 94.

        Like

  • Lost For Words? (haha that’s clever) « Brad Zimmerman

    […] Here’s an article about someone who cares about the change. His name is Jeff Vrabel. He seems like an intelligent fellow. Check out his “Doozies” score on Scrabble. You won’t believe your eyes. Actually, you will. It’s not that impressive. I once played the word “thisisreallysadweshouldbeoutsidedoingstuff” on a Scrabble board. My friends tried to stop me making a (clearly) illegal move, but they were only imaginary so I wasn’t gonna take any crap from them. I went “upside their heads” with the bag of leftover letters. That'll learn 'em […]

    Like

  • emmylu

    so amazing. love the article, though the comments below made it that much more amazing.

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      Right? Although I am looking for independent verification from the international Scrabble junta on this person with the outrageous claim of a 250-point word, and some external object that could be described as “quartzy”

      Like

  • Daniel

    It’s a very silly decision, proper nouns have nothing to do in scrabble ! But happily I can still choose the rules I want to apply.

    Like

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