The agony of online Scrabble

Blog Name: Lewis Grossberger
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This blog has been active since: September 2009
Post: The agony of online Scrabble /Dec. 5 2009

The agony of online Scrabble

I play online Scrabble. I never play offline Scrabble. Online is better. You don’t have to sit over the board tapping your toe while the opponent thinks. And thinks. And perhaps is dead but still looks like he’s sitting there thinking.

And if I’m the one thinking, I’m so conscious of how much time my thinking is taking, it interferes with my thinking.

That’s the flaw of most face-to-face board games. Online, you go live your life and come back to the virtual board whenever and poof! The foe has played. It’s your turn. Peachy!

Also you can play multiple games. Why plod through one at a time? I currently have eight games going with four (invisible) people. Or maybe vice versa.

For boring legal reasons, these games are called Wordscraper or Lexulous, not Official Scrabble, registered trademark, pat pending, etc. But they’re Scrabble.

I play on Facebook, which seems to be the most convenient online version.

Even with your opponent neatly out of sight, though, Scrabble is frustrating. You have a great scoring opportunity but bad letters. You have good letters but no place to put them. You have all vowels. All consonants. Four Is, two Vs a K and a U. Your opponent gets an S before you do and slaps it on the word that’s sitting there begging to be pluralized. You have a great word and a perfect place to put it but the word is only a word in Hungarian.

Endless suffering is the lot of the Scrabbler.

But the most vexing thing of all is the Official Word List.

The uninitiated think the key to Scrabble victory is a big vocabulary. No, the key is a big vocabulary of words found on the Official Word List. Those are the only words that are “valid.” I have come to hate the word “valid.”

I don’t know what demented lexicographer devised the list, but if you ask me, it’s ridiculously arbitrary. Of course, so is the English language but that’s no excuse.

The OWL is full of words that do not exist in any other time or place but Scrabble. Some of them sound like the names of planets explored by the Starship Enterprise. Zax. Gox. Amu. Bree. Souari. Sha. Azo. All of these, according to the OWL, are real English words. Yeah, right. Microsoft Word spellcheck just nixed all of them.

Then there are the goofy alternate spellings. Nobody spells the cat’s meow as miaou, miau or mew. Scrabble does.

Baal is allowed—why? It’s a proper noun, an ancient god. Manitou, some sort of American Indian divinity, is also allowed, for God’s sake, but not zen, a word people toss around so much more commonly than Baal or Manitou.

Sweeny is valid. Sweeny? If you click on definition, you’re told sweeny is “a wasting of the shoulder muscles of a horse, esp. as the result of a nerve injury.” Oh, that sweeny.

And yet a perfectly good word like weanings—which would have given me a 50-point bonus had I been allowed to play it yesterday–is verboten. (Verboten is OK, though I could’ve sworn it was German, a language decidedly not the English one.)

What the hell is wrong with weanings? More weanings than ever are occurring in our fecund archipelago. There; I just used it in a sentence. But no appeal can be made.

Appeal, yes! That’s what there should be—a Scrabble appellate court, in constant session. Accessible any time via IM. Empowered to overrule the arbitrary and ridiculous Official Word List. Presided over by reasonable, intelligent adults with no family history of insanity. I demand it be created. Now. I trust the relevant authorities are listening.

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