The Loh Life

Scrabble, Part Three: All in the Family

Sandra Tsing Loh's family friend takes issue with a slang term for pizza.

Our family has gone Scrabble crazy.  My tween girls are finally old enough to understand that getting a Z and a J aren't bad things.  Oh no, the new letters we hate are C and V.  At a mere three and four points, they are so undervalued!  Unlike M's, B's, K's, X's and even now Q's, there are no two-letter words you can form with them.

And, suddenly everywhere we look we see C's and V's.  Like, hey - CVS Pharmacy!  Why is it CVS?  Rite Aid is Rite Aid.  KFC is KFC.  What does CVS stand for?  It turns out it means Customers, Value, Service - but still!

Dan, a friend of the family, is visiting, and at first he is only amused.  A New York Times crossword puzzle aficionado, he wows us by putting down "quirt" - Q-U-I-R-T.  But soon, he's getting bested by 12-year-olds who are putting down "oe" and "ne," and he is irate.  "These aren't words!"

"They're from the book my mom bought!" my girls protest.

"What book?  That's cheating!  What a horrible example to set for your kids!"

"No it's not," I say.  "FYI, it's called 'The Scrabble Word-Building Book.'  And how  squeaky-clean can you get?"  I open to the title page.  "See?  Simon and Schuster, Seventh Edition, it's compiled by Saleem Ahmed with the assistance of Carol ('Yasmin'), Aisha, and Seema Ahmed.  A FAMILY PROJECT."

And, in fact, it's really quite a fascinating story.

The Von Trapps of Scrabble, the Ahmeds worked on the Scrabble Word-Building Book at home for fun for more than seven years.  The original idea was hatched by Pakistani dad Saleem 30 years ago when he was stationed, quote unquote, "as an agronomist in Sukkur," which itself sounds like an awesome Scrabble word.

As Saleem goes on to explain brightly about the OSPD-4 (Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Fourth Edition), "New words include currencies (such as Equatorial Guinea's 'epkwele') and slang words such as 'za" (short for pizza)."

"Za?" Dan exclaims.  "Who uses 'za for pizza?"

"Well," I say, "'We are thankful for the numerous letters received from many countries, some point out typographical errors, others advising us to add new words... We were particularly delighted to receive letters from prisons across the nation - and from even as far away as Thailand!'  So there you go!"  Zaah!

Gruffly, Dan also catches the fever, via a new Scrabble iPhone app that has him putting down words like Sahib, Fem, Kat - K-A-T, and cooee - C-O-O-E-E, a kind of Australian scream!

And so, he beat us handily.  Thank God we didn't bet money on it.  That would've ended up costing us whole lot of epkwele!


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