Archive for November, 2007

Double word standards

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scrabble photo, taken by Stigeridoo and licensed under Creative CommonsI’ve always been suspicious of Scrabble. It is the Libby Purves of board games; a pastime so steeped in middle-class respectability that it could be the subject of a twee comic song by Tom Lehrer.

But the worst thing about it is the knowledge that at some point someone is going to put down “es” or “aa” and claim that it should be allowed because it is in the official Tournament Word List, as used in American championships.

I have a bone to pick with the compilers of the TWL. The rules on the box of Scrabble I played with as a child stated clearly that abbreviations, slang, proper nouns and offensive words were forbidden. Clearly this has been overturned at some point, but the Wikipedia entry on acceptable words states that proper nouns are still out, and that only acronyms or abbreviations that have been “regularised” (such as Awol, Radar and Scuba) are allowed.

Fair enough. Banning people from using “zoo” on the basis that it is an abbreviation of “zoological gardens” always seemed a bit harsh. But the TWL doesn’t even observe those rules. Why is “ref”, an abbreviation of “referee”, allowed? Why is Pernod, a brand of aniseed liqueur, included?

Why is “es”, the chemical symbol for einsteinium, alright when “cu”, the symbol for copper, is not? Why include “wank” but not “cack”?

How is it that I can be more of a pedant than the compilers of the TWL? This is dereliction of duty on a grand scale.