Back when we were first married, DMc found the Deluxe Scrabble game set in the top of the hall closet. I hadn’t played Scrabble in years, as nobody would play with me anymore. It’s not that I’m a graceless winner, it’s just that I read. I read a lot; and I remember the words. Some of the words are ones that non-readers have never even seen. That tends to lead to constant challenges, dictionary consultations, and a less-than-friendly atmosphere. At that point, nobody’s having fun anymore, and I usually suggest we play Yahtzee instead.
Only a few people in my life have been able to really enjoy playing Scrabble with me: my Mother, my Uncle, and L. It’s tough, however, to play from several states away. So there my game sat, gathering dust…until Vocabulary Karma came around to slap me upside my overconfident little head.
The first night DMc and I played, I won two out of three games. I was slightly rattled by how much effort it took me to hold my own. It had been many years since I had played against a reasonably equally-read opponent.
The second and third nights we played, he won. All the games. All the time. Very decisively. He beat my butt so soundly that we had to take a week long Scrabble Hiatus while I tried to recover from the emotional trauma of being so firmly dethroned.
When I felt able to return to the game, my head had cleared sufficiently for me to realize that while I had always lazily rested on the laurels of a vast vocabulary, my husband is a freaking strategic genius. He can work the board in a way that squeezes an astonishing number of points out of his sometimes harmless-looking words. He is particularly skilled at creating 40+ point words using the X, Z, and triple-letter/word score squares.
Years later, I still find it difficult to approach the game the way DMc does. I get all caught up in the words themselves (I do love a pretty word), and do dumb stuff like fail to take advantage of a corner triple-word score because I’m so proud of my fancy word-tile-mojo. Of course, it’s rather poor mojo if you continue to lose…and I do, or rather, I did. Until he got a smidgen masochistic and suggested we play a 10-tile per player game versus the standard 7 tiles. Apparently that woke up the rabbit that was sleeping in my top-hat. I whupped him three games straight. Now he wants to experiment with the starting tile count “in an attempt to level the playing field.” Strange how he didn’t care about that until he was the one being pwned, hmmm?
I suspect that Scrabble conversations between readers tend to be more interesting than those among non-readers. Who rarely play Scrabble more than one time anyway. Here are some snippets that are typical of the board conversation when DMc and I play the game:
What are our rules on foreign words?
I was thinking maybe Welsh.
Only if we include Hawaiian.
So you have all the damn vowels!
Oh, no. No way. I mean, I don’t mind common slang, but that’s going over the line.
What if it’s listed on dictionary.com?
Then you get the points and we have a moment of silence for the loss of common decency in the English language.
(We checked – I’m pleased to announce the word in question was not listed as it’s particularly crude and offensive.)
Aren’t we allowed to use names of famous people?
No proper nouns.
Are you sure?
Check the rule book. And by the way, that’s a fictional character, not a famous person.
Um, where’s the rest of your word?
Challenge. That is not a word. It’s an abbreviation, and it’s not even English.
In the context you are attempting to use it, “i.e.” is an abbreviation for the two Latin words “Id Est,” which literally translates to “that is.”
You’re hot when you go into Teacher Mode.
Thank you. You still don’t get the points.
Sure I do. Now it’s “pie,” and I’m out of tiles. Game over.
Challenge. You misspelled that.
Wow. You didn’t misspell that. It sure is a funny-looking word, though.
Agreed. But I get the points.
So, you learned that reading fantasy books?
Yes. Your average murder mystery rarely uses the term “naiad.”
Let’s look it up.
I’ll be damned. It is a word. But you had entirely the wrong definition.
I get the points, though, right? Since it’s really a word?
I guess so, but you think there’d be something in the rule book about dumb luck not counting.
We play a lot of Scrabble around here. Mostly because DMc prefers not to play games that “depend entirely on dumb luck.” That, however, is a whole ‘nother blog.