.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.)
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.
Related, sort of
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.