Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What’s in a Word, Redux

Well, every once in a while – okay, maybe that was every once in a once - a reader asks me whether I ever follow up on any of my posts.

For the most part, the answer is ‘no’.

If a topic hits the news again, I may pick up on it.

But, no, I really don’t keep an eye on what happened to the smarty-pants Hanover, NH high school cheaters. Or the schnook who wore a Marine uniform to his high school reunion – a uniform that he’d never worn in his real life -  only to have some self-righteous classmate report him to the FBI for impersonating a Marine. Or the MIT admissions officer who lied on her resume.

Mostly it’s one and done.

But when my friend V4A1L1E1R1I1E1 sent me a link to an article on the new additions to the Scrabble dictionary, I figured here was an opportunity to update an earlier post. (And for the record, I’ve never used subscripts in a blog post, so I don’t know if they’ll actually translate when I upload this. But, in spelling out V’s name, I was aiming for a bit of cleverness with Scrabble letters.)

So here goes…

Last April, I wrote about Hasbro’s contest, in which they asked Scrabble fans to help select the word, from a group of sixteen, that should be added to the Scrabble lexicon.

If I had voted, my picks would have been luckbox, lifehack, bestie, and ew/eww.

But I didn’t vote.

Instead, a whole bunch of geocaching aficionados got all revved up on social media and stuffed the ballot box, making the word geocache the winner.

Now, those who indulge in geocaching – treasure hunt via GPS, I take it – are not especially likely to be Scrabble players, which is apparently apparent from the fact that from a Scrabble playing point of view, the word geocache is a dud.

…there are 29,766 eight-letter words currently acceptable in Scrabble. GEOCACHE would rank 22,684th in terms of probability. Expert player Matt Canik noted that words such as CAZIQUES, XANTHOMA, and ZIGGURAT are about as likely to be drawn as GEOCACHE. (Source: Slate.)

Scrabble insiders would have preferred a more useful newbie, like ew. (Or, as a Scrabble insider would have it, EW. Scrabble is an UPPERCASE kind of game…)

EW may not have made the contest cut, but the new dictionary – out next week – will have a few new two-letter words: te (variant of the note ti), da (Irish for dad?), gi (karate outfit),  and po.

I’m quite happy to see that po has made it, as that is not just a river in Italy, or the name of the little red Teletubby, but the childhood nickname of my sister Trish.

Not clear what it means in the world of Scrabble. Could be the medical meaning – po, the abbreviation for per os, or by mouth. Maybe it’s short for po’ boy, as in the sandwich, or po-faced, as in disapproving. Or – sorry Po Trish – it could be for chamber pot.

There are lots of other new words  - Merriam-Webster, publishers of the Scrabble dictionary are adding about 5,000 of them – and the change has been long awaited, and is long overdue:

The dictionary's last freshening up was a decade ago. Entries in the forthcoming book that include texter, vlog, bromance, hashtag, dubstep and selfie were mere twinkles on the racks of recreational players. (Source: Huffington Post)

Since I knew most of these words, I approve. (Okay, I had to look up dubstep: some type of electronic dance-dance.)

Beatbox, buzzkill, chillax, coqui, frenemy, funplex, jockdom, joypad, mixtape, mojito, ponzu, qigong, schmutz, sudoku and yuzu.

With my impressive vocabulary and with my fingers on the beatboxing pulse of pop culture, I was pretty down with this list, too. Only coqui (a frog), ponzu (Japanese sauce), qigong (Chinese exercise), and yuzu (East Asian citrus fruit). Which just goes to show you how our culture is getting more universal and diverse.

There are, of course, going to be plenty of words that only a serious student of Scrabble would know and love: qajaq (Inuit root word for kayak) and quinzhee “shelter made by hollowing out a pile of snow.”  Hmmmm. Didn’t we used to call this an “igloo”? Well, we, of course – semi-literate, near Dead End kids that we apparently were – just didn’t appreciate that an igloo is made from blocks of ice, not a hollowed out pile of snow.

Sheesh! (Wonder if “sheesh” is in the Scrabble dictionary?)

Well, now I know that, if I ever have reason to hollow out a pile of snow for shelter, I’ll be aware that I’m making a quinzhee, not an igloo.

Meanwhile, Scrabble fans have 5,000 new words to be grateful for.

Go forth and Scrabblify!

Thanks, V, for today’s topic.

1 comment:

valerie said...

My name up in lights in my second favorite morning reading (edged out by the Bible; good company)- and discovering my Scrabble value is 411 big time. I may play my number today.