Scrabble babble squabble

News item: Quebec prepares to introduce a Secular Charter that would forbid public servants from wearing our displaying overt religious symbols or clothing. In addition, anyone receiving public services would need to do so with face uncovered. 

Whenever I play Scrabble with my family, they give me grief over some of the words I make.

“That’s not a word,” they say.

“Of course it is,” I argue. “It’s a slang word. Used in certain Portuguese quarters. An alternate spelling. I think. I don’t know. I saw it somewhere. But it’s definitely a Scrabble word.”

“Is it in the dictionary?”

“Well, not our dictionary, but our dictionary is lame.”

“If it’s not in the dictionary, it’s not a word.”

“Wait, I’ll Google it…”

“Hands up, who accepts ‘bize’…? Sorry, not a word.”

“You guys suck. S-U-C-K on a triple!”

In our house, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s making sure Dad loses. Not that I need to win, but someone has to, so it might as well be me.

Tired of my family ganging up on me, I recently purchased the Scrabble app for my iPad. Now I can play the way I like: with myself.


Wasn’t that a song by Van Halen?

The app comes with a Teacher option that, after your turn,  shows you the best word you could have made. So, really, I’m not wasting my time and ignoring my family; I’m learning.

Earlier this week, I started a game against a computer opponent at the Advanced level because, yeah, I’m just that good.

I opened with “writs” on a double letter and double word. “Outstanding,” the Teacher applauded with a broad happy face. “That’s really tough to beat!”

On my next turn, I spelled “bandits.” The Teacher’s face looked concerned. “Hmmm… let me show you what you missed.” The computer pointed out that I would have scored higher with “tabinids.” It didn’t explain whether “tabinids” are something you eat or wedges of cardboard you jam under chair legs to keep them from wobbling. But who was I to argue? What’s important is that the computer didn’t contest my “bouge,” my “qat” or my “kow.” That’s right: “kow” with a K. Such a reasonable and accommodating computer.

Did I frown when the computer foisted “dorr” and “gamborag” on me? Did I say “Oh, come on!” Of course I did. But app knows best. In app we trust. Don’t worry, be appy.

But as the game proceeded and grew increasingly tight, I noticed a change. When I had to settle for “huge,” missing the G on a triple word, the Teacher responded with, “Nice one. No, seriously, don’t hurt yourself.”

Did I detect a tone?

I next spelled “roof.” “Good God! Is that the best you can do?” mocked the Teacher and showed I had missed out on “fool,” using one of the O’s to turn “real” into “realo.” Really? “Realo”?

My computer opponent scored big with “cepage,” but on my following turn, I noticed that “real” was still open, so I stuck an O on it as the Teacher had suggested and made “realo” and “blog.”

“Soooo original,” sneered the Teacher.

I tried to keep my cool and not seek solace in the constant positive reinforcement of Facebook. I had some killer letters on my rack and the game was too close to call. “Aha!” I cried and plunked down “hijab.”

“Oops,” alerted the computer. “You are playing Scrabble in Quebec. HIJAB is not a word recognized in Quebec. Please try again.”

Over on the Q, I tried “niqab.”

“Perhaps you weren’t paying attention,” the computer alerted me. “The Quebec Secular Scrabbler Charter has banned the spelling of religious symbols in the gameplace. Please try again to better integrate into Quebec society.”

I settled for “habit” with a double letter on the A. “Hmmm, let me show you what you missed,” said the Teacher with obvious condescension. I was then treated to a three-minute pop-up video on the life of Lionel Groulx. The computer then proceeded to spell “revanche.”

I had no luck in my next turn trying to spell “kippa.” “Oops!” said the app. “After a series of warnings, you must now exchange all your pieces and forfeit your turn. The Quebec Secular Scrabbler Charter grants this app the right to change rules midstream. Please pay no attention to the fact that the computer is losing.”

I couldn’t believe it. How could this happen! The game had been going along just fine. Well, mostly fine. But now it was nothing but confusion and hard feelings. I didn’t even want to play anymore. But then I looked at my new letters: F-C-X-I-I-U-R. I saw an open C on the board. CRUCIFIX!

“Outstanding!” crowed the Teacher. “That’s really tough to beat – from a purely historical perspective, of course.”

But I still lost.

I’m done playing games with programmed, narrow-minded drones. At least with real people you can expect a little reason and common sense.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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42 Responses to Scrabble babble squabble

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I hate Scrabble in any form. I lose even when I cheat. I used to play with my dyslexic ex and he’d win every time! And computer-generated advisors? I just don’t need that kind of harassment in my life! I can spell “Delete” without a problem.

  2. Karen says:

    Interesting. The province of Quebec really goes out of its way to be a bit of a pain to the rest of the country, doesn’t it? Not sure if your first link is broken, or my computer just sucks, but it didn’t work for me.

  3. Cristina says:

    I have the WordFeud app on my phone, but it is annoying since the people who you play against can chat with you. Sometimes it gets so weird… . But really now…are you serious with the hijab word? The app won’t allow it?? I’s still a word!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I wouldn’t like the chat app. Although then at least I could say, “Would you play already? It’s been two days!”

      No, not true. I have this habit of starting off in reality and then drifting off into satire. Not really fair to the reader, that.

      • Cristina says:

        No, no. It’s not you, it’s me (yes I really wrote that). I have periods when I even surprise myself at how gullible I can be. And when it comes to religion and politics, nothing surprises me really. I mean the (true) things I’ve read lately…

  4. franhunne4u says:

    At least I am not the only one who does not get jokes ..

  5. Hilarious. I think Hal 9000 is right around the corner…

  6. Laura Lynn says:

    I love scrabble even though I get my ass handed back to me by every single person in my family. I live in a home populated by the most erudite, well read people on the planet. My brothers don’t actually live with me so now I have to accept challenges from them on line instead of just being cocky and confident when I see them at get togethers. THANKS computer age!

  7. ksbeth says:

    very funny and a great connection. twister and candyland are my games of choice. family gets resentful and angry if i answer too many trivia questions correctly, but that is how my brain works apparently, only storing up random trivial bits of info forever, not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

  8. IF you had FUN – you could have made it FUNICULAR ….

    STIGMATA is great word to play off an “A” 🙂

    I won’t play scrabble with anyone that opens with a wasted “S” – I just won’t – and don’t even ASK if you can use a dictionary BEFORE you put your letters down… that’s just SACRILEGIOUS …

    Do you have to play with French words in Quebec else the Language Polizei will come and confiscate your vocalized letter sounds?

  9. pinklightsabre says:

    i don’t know how much time you spend on this stuff, but my this is really tight boyee. I made my wife read it tonight after dinner; good excuse to ignore our kids and give them the stiff-arm. You have such a playful, bright way about you.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      That’s great to hear because this is one of those ones where I ended and went, “Jesus, what the hell is this?” I mean it starts out true (real game, real words, more or less) and then suddenly becomes outright lies and satire. I wonder, is that fair to the reader to do that? Not to mention the fact that it’s very Quebec specific. (Remember: these first appear in a Quebec newspaper, so it’s not quite so cruel as all that.

      One of the things I like to do in my writing is take an idea and take it to a weird place or some extreme, a “what if…” perspective. So, yeah, I guess I play with it, and I appreciate you recognizing that. To answer your first question, I work a lot of stuff out in my head for a day or so and then spend a few hours writing it down, more revisions later.

      Long answer, but I enjoying talking writing with you.

  10. LindaGHill says:

    HA! You can be comforted, I suppose, by the fact that at least the app doesn’t have the ability to plant its tongue in its cheek. In other words, you win!

  11. monicahlv says:

    LOL great article. I do not like scrabble for that reason; I always ending up playing with some pretentious egghead that triple word scores on every other word. my favorite game is Cocktailopoly. Fun, competition, greed, and drink recipes all in one game, who could ask for more.

  12. List of X says:

    I might just need to get this app to improve my vocabulary. But not the one with an attitude like that – was that part satire, or real?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The end part is satire, the first part is real. Nasty trick to play, I know. But what’s important is that I amuse myself. That’s how this works, right?

      • List of X says:

        The best satire is when you can’t tell where the border is between the joke and reality. Of course, that’s what makes it so confusing for the reader.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          Not sure. I don’t think it should be confusing. The reader should catch the wink pretty early on if it’s successful. There’s a kind of elitism to satire when you think of it; you have to be in on the joke to appreciate it, and often the joke can be sophisticated or, worse, obscure. As they say, dying is easy; comedy is hard.

  13. Letizia says:

    The teacher-teenager-rolling of the eyes app; I love it! I bet it would be really popular too. I can see it as a GPS option in your car too (“You want to go where?” That is so lame”).

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