The 2014 National Scrabble Championship just concluded, so here are a couple of Scrabble stories.
My proudest Scrabble moment:
I'm terrible at Scrabble, but I love the psychological meta-game of playing fake words and trying to get away with it1. It's a tricky little ballet—you've got to convey surprise and mild contempt that your opponent is even considering challenging your word (to sow doubt in your opponent's mind) while simultaneously making it seem like you want your opponent to challenge your word (since an unsuccessful challenge results in your opponent losing their turn, and you want to make your opponent think their challenge won't succeed).
So, I'm playing with some friends, and I play the nonexistent word "sunline," which immediately raises the suspicions of one of my friends. He says he doesn't think it's a word; I disdainfully ask if he's really never heard of a "ray of sunlight" while reaching for the dictionary; another player helpfully (and evilly) offers a sample sentence of "A sunline passed through the window"; and as I start flipping through the pages, he says he's not challenging it.
It's his turn now, and he has a pretty impressive play that, unfortunately, involved him adding an "S" at the end of sunline. I immediately challenged it, saying that neither "sunline" nor the plural "sunlines" are words. Dude was pissed.
My most humbling Scrabble moment:
I was playing Scrabble with my grandpa, and I place the word "fax" on the board.
"I don't think that's in the dictionary," my grandpa says.
"No, it is," I say. "You know, like a fax machine?"
But my grandpa is insistent and decides to challenge the word. I give a very skeptical if-you-say-so shrug and start flipping through the dictionary, all the while completely saddened that I was about to have an "Oh, grandpa!" moment. I know my grandpa was an older guy, I think, but there's no way he doesn't know about fax machines.
I continue to search the dictionary, but I can't find the word. After a few moments of this, my grandpa looks at me wryly and suggests that I check the dictionary's copyright date. I do, and it turns out that this dictionary was published in the early 1940s, before the word "fax" was even coined. And since that woefully outdated dictionary was indeed the one we had agreed upon, per the rules of Scrabble,
the challenge succeeds and I lose my turn.
"Facsimile is in that dictionary, though," my grandpa helpfully points out, as it dawns on me that I just got completely and utterly snookered. As you might expect, that game ended with my ass getting thoroughly kicked.
1This, incidentally, is why I could never play in Scrabble tournaments (besides my general lexicological suckitude). Tournament players just memorize Scrabble dictionaries, rendering the psychological aspect of the game completely useless. I think it's kind of like when someone is going on a first date, so they creep their date's Facebook page so they can just happen to bring up how much they like a band or a TV show or a book their date is really into—I guess it's not really wrong per se, but it's weird and it feels like rules are being broken, no?