I’ve always had a scrabble problem. Or rather, a spelling problem. That is, a problem spelling too well, and compulsively correcting the spelling of those around me who might otherwise be my friends. My love of correctly-spelled words is the likely force behind my love of scrabble. It used to be a board game (and I hear it still is, in the nineteen hundreds), to be played face-to-face with an opponent you could see, and by extension laugh at when said opponent placed an incorrect combination of letters on the board, commonly known as the misspelled word. When your fit of laughter ended, you were then to challenge your partner, and watch him or her suffer through looking up the word in Webster’s dictionary and reach the eventual conclusion to which you’d already come; that the word was misspelled. Your partner then had to undergo the humiliating act of removing his word from the board and losing a turn, a satisfying end before you placed your next zinger.
And while the advent of spellcheck threatened to render my special skills obsolete in the academic and professional world, it was in the scrabble world that the inaccessability of spellcheck maintained the significance of my spelling superiority.
When at first scrabble programs became available on facebook and in iphone apps (first in the ill-fated scrabulous and then in the current scrabble-like giant words with friends), I rejoiced in my 24/7 access to scrabble (and my concomitant decrease in real-world social interactions, surely a coincidence). However, I soon came to find that the ability to spell, not to mention vocabulary and even the strategic skill of singlehandedly arranging one’s letters to create a word, had been usurped by a fatal flaw in programming. No longer did a person need to know how to spell, or even distinguish between a word and a nonword; a person need only randomly arrange letters in any number of combinations and place them on the electronic board that would declare their word “not a word” until their fortuitous three hundredth attempt when, by sheer luck, they placed the word “burgoo” and the computer accepted it, passing their turn on to their virtual opponent. Their opponent, of course, would not have been witness to their 299 failed attempts, unable to challenge their unwords like “rfgyi” and “gyifr.”
“What do these words even mean?” I asked a friend in the midst of her iPhone scrabble game the other day as I observed words like “chthonic” and “jorum.”
“I have no idea,” she replied, “but the computer accepted them, so that’s all that matters.”
IS that all that matters? Is anybody else interested in returning to the original scrabble game that adheres to the legitimate scrabble rules? Wherein the computer doesn’t notify you that “plirdiger” is a nonword (which I only know after having tried to play it in my current iPhone scrabble game) and allow you infinite retries, but rather displays your word to your opponent, who either accepts your word, or challenges you? Were this the case, upon a challenge the computer would then declare whether or not your placement is in fact a word, and if it were not, you would lose your turn, and your partner would play. Intelligence, not dumb luck, would prevail.
And that is why I’m taking a stand. Readers, I implore you to join me in my movement to Take Scrabble Back. It will be bigger than Scientology, though perhaps not as lucrative.