The Loh Life

Scrabble, Part One: It's On

Sandra Tsing Loh and her siblings really like Scrabble.

There are two types of people in the world - Scrabble players, and those who are horrified by Scrabble players.

By Scrabble players, I mean not simply people who use wooden letter tiles to build words on a board manufactured by the Hasbro Corporation.  I mean people who embrace the culture of Scrabble-

And by that, I mean my siblings and I.  When you see TV commercials around the holidays, showing families in matching argyle sweaters, leaping off a couch and high-fiving each other because someone yelled out the word "Prestidigitate"?  That is us.  Except without the sweaters.  Or the high-fiving.

My PhD-in-physics, software engineer brother?  If you ask him if he wants to play Scrabble, his response will be, "Which dictionary?"

My sister travels with her own personal reference library.  She carries both the Scrabble dictionary and the Scrabble word-builder.  I was trying to put down all seven letters - with a blank and an assist - to spell "diatonic," and noted that Scrabble word-builder does not list... that very standard word.  But, the Scrabble dictionary does.  Fascinating!

The third piece of literature we use is a recent Scrabble pamphlet containing the most up-to-date list of two-letter words.  We all know "j-o" - Scottish word for sweetheart, "m-u" - the Greek letter mu, and - of course - the ever-popular "l-i" - Chinese currency.  But, did you know that, in addition to "a-a," "a-e," and "a-i," "a-R" is now considered a word?  So are "o-e" and... wait for it: "q-i."

"Q-i?" I screamed.  "A two-letter 'q' word without a 'u'?  That's a mind-blower!  It will revolutionize Scrabble as we know it!"

We are certainly not wanting for Scrabble games here in Southern California.  If you Google "Scrabble, Los Angeles," you'll see Scrabble "meet-up" groups everywhere!  From Burbank to Huntington Beach, there appears to be a game going almost every day of the week.  Never mind the errant "Let's get drunk and play Scrabble!" posting.  It's much more like AA, which is telling.  An East Coast friend of mine who is a killer Scrabble player is a successfully recovered alcoholic, which helps with potentially high-scoring words like "ouzo" and "aquavit."

Now, while I am clearly a Scrabble nerd, I'm not a very confident nerd.  The idea of packing up my deluxe Scrabble board (which not only folds up, but rotates) and driving to Burbank on a Thursday evening -?  Even I balk.  It's too much like carrying your own ping pong paddle in a monogrammed case.  On a deeper level, though, I am intimidated.  I've read everyone's "meet-up" profiles, and I know between the gardening, the cats, and the, well, the bondage, these are very serious players.

But, what about playing with children?  Sure!

Next week: mercilessly crushing my 11-year-old.


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