Scrabble was first released in 1938 and has since become one of the most popular games on the planet. It is a game that sits in every household’s cupboards and has evolved from a simple board and wooden tiles to a mobile app on your smartphone.
The way we play has changed drastically too! It used to be that we only played words that we knew and we were not limited by the Scrabble dictionary. In fact, before the official dictionary came out, the words played need only be found in a regular dictionary or lexicon.
4 Fun Facts about the Word Game
Nowadays, we have an official Scrabble dictionary (which came out in 2006), a list of two letter words with every game, the aforementioned mobile app, fancy merchandise, and of course word-grabber’s Scrabble Word Finder. But let`s take a look at 4 fun facts about Scrabble!
The Invention of Scrabble
Scrabble was invented by Alfred Mother Butts, a New York City architect in 1933. Butts was apparently inspired by reading The New York Times and calculating the frequency of all the letters. The ones that occurred the least got higher points and vice versa.
What’s in a Name
It took some time for the game Butts invented to be called Scrabble though. Butts first termed the game Lexico (in reference to the Lexicon), then decided on Criss-Cross Words. It wasn’t until the late 1930s, when Butt’s business partner James Brunot suggested Scrabble, that the game finally received its timeless name.
Scrabble in Translation
Scrabble is a game meant to be played in English, but there are competitions around the world where the game is played in different languages. John Chew, the co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA), finds these competitions both exciting and frustrating. French, he says, is “a little bit too easy”, because players can often place “an E or an S at the end” and make a new word. Players can constantly add more letters to the same word and get quite a few points.
This is in contrast to German, which Chew states is much more difficult than English, because it is more difficult to turn an existing German word into a longer German word. This, Chew says, “creates a looser word grid” and it was suggested that German players should use 8 tiles instead of 7. It was eventually decided, however, that German players should stick to 7 tiles just like everyone else.
In addition to Scrabble being played in languages other than English, the tiles change depending on the language. Spanish, for example, requires a tile with Ls on it. Dutch has the letters I and J combined on one tile.
The Case of the Missing G
According to Chew, Scrabble competitions can get quite heated. With a measure of embarrassment, he recounts the “strip search incident” as it occurred during a world championship. Despite playing in English, language barriers occurred very often and nothing highlighted the problem more than this incident.
During the final moments of a game between a Thai player and a British player, the players discovered that there was a tile missing. The Thai player discovered it first, unfortunately, and was unable to properly let his opponent and everyone else know. The British player soon figured it out too, but neither player knew what to and accusations ran amok.
Someone asked the Thai player to turn out his pockets, which of course enraged the player. He demanded that the British player turn out his pockets too, who was of course equally offended by the suggestion. In the end, someone suggested a thorough strip search of both boys in the bathroom.
At this point, Chew says, the British press got a hold of the story and the situation escalated. Chew states that he doesn’t even recall who won the match in the end, or if they even found the missing tile. Nonetheless, for several days afterwards, the scandal was dubbed the case of “the missing G.”