Friday, February 5, 2021

It's a Scrabble Life

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

   did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

All mimsy were the borogoves,

  and the mome raths outgrabe."

Thus, begins the Lewis Carroll poem, Jabberwocky, from the novel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.  The poem is a long-time favorite of mine because of the many nonsensical words it uses so masterfully.  I was reminded of it recently during a game of Scrabble.  

For those who are immersed in the Scrabble universe, as I am now, our own English language contains its own share of nonsensical-looking words that can be used to dominate the game.  A fact I learned, somewhat painfully, from my friend and neighbor, Betty. 

It's been way too long since I sat down to write anything, and I was missing the creative outlet, so I thought I might write a short story of one such occasion.  Sadly, the story is typical of my experience with the game. Thanks for giving it a read.

Have a frabjous (fabulous + joyous) day!

It’s a Scrabble Life

Sitting downstairs in the family room, Tom and his neighbor, Betty, play a spirited game of Scrabble, that classic word game that tests not only one’s vocabulary and spelling ability, but also their skill and strategy in this intellectual war of words.  

Though woefully outmatched by Betty’s advanced Scrabble IQ, Tom plays undaunted, hoping for his first win, having lost more times to her than he can count.  More than halfway through the game, though, the score stood at Tom with 117 points and Betty with 322 points. 

“That is MIAOW for 11 points,” Betty said.

“What, perchance, does that mean?” Tom inquired. 

“It’s a verb meaning to meow.”

“Ahh, I should have suspected as much.  I seem to remember you spelling it with a ‘U’ instead of a ‘W’ before.”

“That’s correct.  Both spellings are acceptable.”

“Seriously?  Something hinky about there being so many words to describe a sound from a cat, don’t you think?  What is wrong with just MEOW for chrissakes?” 

“Don’t get testy.  I’m just going by the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th edition, which also includes the words MEOU and MIAUL as alternative words for MEOW.”

“Question, do you read anything besides the Scrabble dictionary?  Why on Earth do you know all these weird words?  You know names of monetary units, musical instruments, animals, plants, foodstuffs, units of measure, clothing, and everything else from ancient times to present and from all over the globe?”

Betty folded her hands together on the table, rested her chin on them, and gave an impish grin. "Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven."

“Really?  You’re quoting Shakespeare to me now?  That doesn’t explain why you know so much.”

“Oh, I can’t be completely sure.  Probably because I have an eidetic memory.   Plus, I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, particularly ancient history.  It’s true, though, that I have read the entire Scrabble Dictionary.  Also, I have travelled extensively, visiting all seven continents in my many years on this Earth.  But I don’t believe that is why I destroy you each time we play Scrabble.”

“Then what is it then?”

 “I just like the look on your face when I clobber you with a high-points value word.”

“Oh yeah, well take this then.  The word is KOTOW, double word score for 24 points.”

“Awesome word!  And that gives me an “O” so I can put down XENOPUS, a South African frog, double word score for 34 points.”

“Talk about obscure!  Only you would know to use XENOPUS. You are formidable at this game, Betty, but some day I will play you and emerge victorious.  Not today, of course, but someday.  When I have better letters and am not stuck with 5 vowels.  Okay, my word is GAS, triple word scores 12 points!”

“Great.  I’m adding MBAQAN to the GAS for MBAQANGAS, a type of South African dance music, for triple word score and a double letter score for “N”, that is 72 points.”

“I know I say this often, but it bears repeating at moments like this.  I hate you.”

Betty leaned back in her chair, laughing hysterically.  She looked at her rack of letters, and her latest letter tiles acquisition, which included the letters Z, J and a blank tile, and smiled devilishly.  The fun was just getting started.

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