Happy Scrabble Day!

slang

Who doesn’t love this wonderful game invented 1n 1938 by american architect Alfred Mosher Butts? It is sold in 121 countries and is available in 29 different languages. That means that we interpreters and translators get to play this game in our different language pairs. (But, don’t be like me and try to mix English words and Spanish words on the same board, ok?)

Language is the espresso of our lives…meaning it gets most of us really supercharged with excitement when we learn new words, or even better-we get to use a new word or expression casually in conversation. Yeah, you know that secretly on the inside you are high fiving yourself when you drop the perfect idiomatic expression into a chat with your colleagues.  But when you are playing Scrabble, if you can play just the right word…well, the feeling is priceless.

I have the fondest memories of the hours I spent playing Scrabble, and getting my butt whipped in the process, with my Grandpa Carson. Even At 99 years old he was still the best player I ever went against. Once we played a marathon for hours. Each time we finished a game he would say “shall we have another go?” He taught me the value of a single “S” placed correctly. Or how to form 2 and 3 letter words that could rack up 30 points when placed on the triple word score. I actually studied the Official Scrabble Handbook, trying to memorize good words for our next game. As I write today’s post I am thinking of him.

 

Last year when publishing house Collins updated their Official Scrabble Words List they unleashed a tidal wave of controversy by announcing the addition of 6,500 new words including tech jargon, and slang.

Some of the new words represent totally new concepts like “FaceTime” (to video chat with someone using the FaceTime app 15 pts). Others are straight up slang: LOLZ (laughs at someone else’s or one’s own expense 13 points) and RIDIC (ridiculous 8 points).

Which brings us back around to language’s longest running debate: Should language rules dictate how we speak or reflect it?

 

On the one side are the prescriptivists, who firmly believe that grammar books and dictionaries determine the “right” way to speak, and everyone should follow “the rules”. A word that’s not in the dictionary is not really a word and therefore, must not be used. Prescriptivists will get cold chills if they hear words like “shizzle” (28 points, sure) and “tweep” (10 points, someone who follows you on Twitter).

The opposition are descriptivists. They believe that language standards ought to reflect the way people speak and write. They argue that prescriptive language rules stigmatize those who speak differently. It’s a means of establishing an elite class, deciding “who’s in” and “who’s out.” If you don’t follow their rules, you are never allowed into the inner circle.

No matter which camp you stand in, each side has ideas that are important to the preservation and to the evolution of language.

 

“Should language rules

dictate how we speak

or reflect it?

Here are some of the most modern words that are now accepted along with their meanings and their point values (just in case you happen across a pick-up game of Scrabble this weekend):

BEZZY best friend (18 points)

CAKEHOLE mouth (17 points)

DENCH excellent (11 points)

GEOCACHE search for hidden containers using GPS as a recreational activity (16 points)

LOTSA lots of (5 points)

NEWB newbie (9 points)

OBVS obviously (9 points)

HACKTIVIST person who hacks computer systems for political reasons (22 points)

HASHTAG (on Twitter) word or phrase preceded by a hashmark, used to denote the topic of a post (14 points)

PWN defeat (an opponent) in conclusive and humiliating fashion (8 points)

SEXTING practice of sending sexually explicit text messages (15 points)

SHOWROOMING practice of looking at an item in a shop, using a smartphone to compare its price elsewhere, then buying it online (20 points)

SHOUTOUT public greeting, especially one broadcast via television or radio (11 points)

THANX thank you (15 points) (I admit! I love using this when I am texting)

TUNEAGE music (8 points)

TWERKING type of dance involving rapid hip movement (16 points)

VAPE to inhale nicotine vapour (from an electronic cigarette (9 points)

WUZ nonstandard spelling of was (15 points) (I am sorry, I shuddered on this one)

 

I am pretty sure that my Grandpa would have chuckled at most of these words if I had played them. But, then again, he might have gone for BEZZY on a triple word score and innocently asked “How many points is that, then?”

If you want to prep some great words in advance, use this handy Scrabble Word FinderAnd for extra bonus points, take a few minutes to think about how you would translate these words into your other languages. I would love to hear some of your comments on that below!