Happy National Scrabble Day!
April 13, 2013 8:33 PM   Subscribe

A Poem So You’ll Know All 101 Two-Letter Words
posted by Wordwoman (39 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very nice. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:57 PM on April 13, 2013


JO ET ZA.
posted by box at 9:13 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Za? Seriously? How in the hell did that get in?
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 9:24 PM on April 13, 2013


Za? Seriously? How in the hell did that get in?

The scrabble dictionary is concerned more with facilitating interesting gameplay than any kind of lexicographic legitimacy.
posted by GDWJRG at 9:29 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok by me.
posted by item at 9:31 PM on April 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is clever and well done but the proliferation of two and three letter word lists ruined scrabble for me.
posted by skewed at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2013


They missed AA!
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:43 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm with skewed; I quit playing Scrabble when I realized it wasn't about having a real vocabulary but rather about memorizing garbage two letter Scrabble words.
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on April 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


You could always agree to use an alternative dictionary of your choice, instead of the tournament-approved word lists.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:53 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


yea we play with the "you use stupid words and imma punch you" dictionary
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:54 PM on April 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, as GDWJRG says, the Scrabble wordlist is really arbitrary — basically a historical accident.

The important thing is that it hold still so players don't get the rug pulled out from under them and the strategic values of the tiles doesn't shift around unpredictably. So there's plenty of words that could be added that aren't — and plenty that probably never should have been added but they have been so now they're gonna stay.

In a way, it doesn't even really matter that it's dictionary words that you're playing with. From a purely strategic point of view, you could do something like rot13 the whole game (moving the point values accordingly) and nothing would change. I mean, that would kill the appeal for some serious players (and for basically all casual players, of course) but I think there are probably some serious players who, if they'd grown up over in Bizarro World where they play rot13-Scrabble, would have enjoyed it just as much as they enjoy regular unencrypted Scrabble over here in this world.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:54 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't played real Scrabble since before Words with Friends happened, and Words with Friends basically ruined my desire to play the board game again. Even though I know you can't cheat like that in the real world, it just stopped being fun. But, also, I admit I got spoiled by not really needing to know the two-letters, just being able to try them and see if the game would accept it.
posted by Sequence at 10:11 PM on April 13, 2013


Bah, Scrabble is all about field position and using as many of your letters as possible in a single turn. Knowledge of word lists is overrated.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:11 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've only played live a few times in the last coupe decades, but when I did, it was with the honor system that only words that you had ever seen used in a non scrabble context are allowable. The absence of ridiculous za, Jo, qat, etc. made the game slightly fun again, but I ow prefer bananagrams, which avoids this problem for the most part, since there is no incentive to tighten p the game
posted by skewed at 10:13 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The scrabble dictionary is concerned more with facilitating interesting gameplay than any kind of lexicographic legitimacy.

Not so.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:16 PM on April 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bah, Scrabble is all about field position and using as many of your letters as possible in a single turn. Knowledge of word lists is overrated.

And the bingoes.
posted by anothermug at 10:39 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only 101 of the 676 ways to arrange two letters...pah! They need to get off the stick and invents the other 575.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:58 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Qom - city in Iran

Better run when you put that Q down.
posted by timsteil at 11:09 PM on April 13, 2013


Doesn't even remotely scan.

It's almost impossible to memorize poems that don't scan.

Also, they drive me nuts.

Meh.
posted by unSane at 12:48 AM on April 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sequence: " But, also, I admit I got spoiled by not really needing to know the two-letters, just being able to try them and see if the game would accept it."

You can "cheat" like this in the official Scrabble app as well. Which just highlights the incredible difference between it and WWF. Scrabble is probably the more elegant, and of course classic, game; why oh why is the app such a clunky, slow, turd of a piece of software? WWF, though often buggy, is increasingly fast and basically slimline (and a Ferrari Testarossa compared to the Winnebago that is Scrabble).
posted by chavenet at 1:07 AM on April 14, 2013


Given that I've seen the word "niqab" used at least 10 times by journalists in the past few weeks, I'm wondering why I can't find it in any Scrabble wordlists. I'm dying to use this word a proper game.

/venting about the seemingly arbitrary rules the Scrabble dictionary uses
posted by Avelwood at 2:16 AM on April 14, 2013


I find it easier just to punt.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:13 AM on April 14, 2013


Poker is such a stupid game! A 'full house' is a three of a kind and a pair? What sense does that make? I see people using the number 911 all the time, why isn't THAT a valid hand?
posted by Legomancer at 5:17 AM on April 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Za? Seriously? How in the hell did that get in?

Previously

Poetry devoted to words of a certain size is mainly interesting to the letterati.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:31 AM on April 14, 2013


Actually, in this universe, Scrabble is not allowed.

It should be spelled "scribble".

Your mother and I are checking the dictionary right now, just so you know the rules...
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:41 AM on April 14, 2013


Before the usual whining occurs about why my favorite word is't there/how could that be a word/it's all just for geeks and cheats anyway, please read wordwoman's link above.

You might learn something!
posted by lalochezia at 6:12 AM on April 14, 2013


If one was going to make a point of memorizing a thing in order to be better at Scrabble, I wonder if two-letter words are the best bang for the buck compared to, e.g., high-bingo-probability racks, Q-without-U words, etc.

(My WWF username is 'boxier,' and my Letterpress username is 'deaccession.' And, what the hell, I only play two other games on my phone, my Quizboard username is 'box' and my SongPop username is 'joecocker.')
posted by box at 6:35 AM on April 14, 2013


Has anyone made a list of all of the two-letter words in the Dictionary Committee's dictionary sources and compared it to the official list? It would be interesting to see if anything eligible was rejected and why.
posted by gubo at 6:41 AM on April 14, 2013


They missed AA!

And QI....
posted by pjern at 8:51 AM on April 14, 2013


I quit playing Scrabble when I realized it wasn't about having a real vocabulary but rather about memorizing garbage two letter Scrabble words.

No wonder I've never been into Scrabble.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:57 AM on April 14, 2013


Words With Friends allows four two-letter words that aren't North-American-Scrabble legal:

DA (Irish for "dad.")
DI (Plural of "deus" or the note between "do" and "re.")
FI (The note between "fa" and "sol.")
GI (Those white karate outfits.)

I'm not sure these are the intended definitions, especially since RI (the note between "re" and "mi") isn't included, but they're the best I could find.
posted by lore at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


DI is valid in SOWPODS (British-style) Scrabble, apparently as the chemical symbol for the element Didymium.

FI is not a SOWPODS word, so I have no idea what's up there.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 2:20 PM on April 14, 2013


JO will always remind me of my grandmother, who was an absolutely cutthroat Scrabble player. Somehow out of all the 2-letter trash words she would gleefully deploy, no doubt having memorized the list, that one became infamous.

So for me, since I first learned to play, Scrabble has always been about having a good vocabulary AND destroying your opponents by any legal means (including blocking plays, strategic denial of the bonus squares, etc.). I was never enough of a fanatic to memorize all the short words, but I certainly don't resent anyone who is.
posted by mubba at 4:25 PM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid I'm with the "Scrabble players ruined Scrabble crowd" - for me it was always about style points, getting great words and scoring high. But once people realize that those two things aren't always the same, they almost always opt for just the score. What the game needs is some good house rules to make the game more exciting - extra points for being the first word above a certain length, or maybe having to "buy" annoyingly short words. I don't know. Just something like Free Parking that can be used or not depending on how the players feel.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Five letter word to open' is a house rule that I sometimes use.
posted by box at 6:05 PM on April 14, 2013


I love words and I hate Scrabble. I've always suspected that my complete lack of Scrabble talent and resultant self-consciousness betray a Lisa-Simpson-can't-play-the-anagram-game type of inferiority complex that I will never live down. Goddamn Scrabble. I think I really am just too attached to style points, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:44 AM on April 15, 2013


Doesn't even remotely scan.

It's almost impossible to memorize poems that don't scan.

Also, they drive me nuts.


Worst. Haiku. Ever.
posted by solotoro at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2013


The poem is cute but too long to use in memorizing the twos. All you have to do really is go to a Scrabble club and play 50 games or so and you'll know them all anyway! 101 twos - the ones you already know = not very many words.

They are kind of arbitrary I guess but you sort of have to pick *some* dictionary for consistency. The Scrabble dictionary is just a merging of a few different popular dictionaries with some rules applied. For people who get annoyed at crazy Scrabble words, these thoughts might help:

* real dictionaries exist partly to help people look up weird words that appear in literature and that they don't know. Often this means words that are uncommon slang (like ZA) or archaic or regional (like GAE, a Scottish variation of GO). If we took out all the weird words, dictionaries would be less useful.
* For any kind of consistent play, you can't change the allowed list every time a word starts to be more commonly used. Just like standard printed dictionaries, you have to let them pile up for a few years and then add a new batch.
* If it suits you you can play the living room variant where you have to be able to define the word on request.
* No one will ever agree on what words are weird. I played ULULATED at Scrabble club thinking it was a common word, but a semi-high rated player challenged it and had never heard it. Or my wife knew CUCURBIT off the top of her head from cooking/gardening, but I was flabbergasted when she played it.

I also just love studying word lists. It helps in the game but if you bother with the definitions you learn all kinds of cool things, like:

COQUINA - shell or geologic term? Both! COQUINA is a type of shell, plus a type of sedimentary rock made from ... broken-down shells.
FUTHORC - is the name of the runic (Anglo-Saxon I guess) alphabet, and is taken from the names of the first 6 runes.

If one was going to make a point of memorizing a thing in order to be better at Scrabble, I wonder if two-letter words are the best bang for the buck compared to, e.g., high-bingo-probability racks, Q-without-U words, etc.

Here's what I'd suggest:

* the 101 two-letter words, for making overlapping plays.
* short JXQZ words like JUBA and ZYME.
* Q words with no U (QI, QAT, QAID, etc.)
* 3-letter words as you have the time or inclination (about 1000 total ... again, you probably know at least half already)
* the 100 most common 7-letter words and/or words made from the top few 6-letter "stems" (6 letters that combine with lots of 7th letters or a blank to make bingoes). The top stems are TISANE, SATIRE, RETAIN, etc (notice it's the same letters people pick on Wheel of Fortune).

But also the other thing that helped me play better is rack balance. Bingoes are worth enough that you want to slowly build your rack to make them likely. Which is why I hate WWF ... the 35 point instead of 50 point bingoes ruin that part of the game. Basically:

* Ditch the Q and other clunky high-point tiles like W,V, and F ASAP. They keep you from making bingoes.
* If you are keeping 2/4/6 tiles after your play, keep an equal number of consonants and vowels. For 3 or 5 remaining you probably want one extra consonant.
* You ideally want a bunch of one-point tiles that are different. So like AERNT but not AARRT.

If you learn those various short-ish lists, plus you start thinking about what you have left on your rack instead of just what gives the most points, you'll get way better. Plus you'll have more fun - a lot of bad racks are self-inflicted by people who have say AEGHIIO and make HOG (leaving AEII - yuck!!) just because it's a few more points in the game than, I dunno, HOAGIE leaving I (much better).
posted by freecellwizard at 11:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wordwoman's link was very enlightening, thank you!

SOWPODS is still a hugely incomplete and effectively arbitrary list of words, though, just like any dictionary is. The WWF allowed words list continues to confound me with its disapproval of SLUT, which I first played in a Scrabble game against my mom when I was 8 and then successfully defended myself against her mildly horrified challenge. (Of course, she's the one who just a few years later came up with the house rule that QUIM is a valid play, so she wasn't really that horrified.)

As much as I love how easy it is to play Scrabble-type games with my friends and family online now, I do miss playing with house rules. In addition to the above, my friends and family have a few other words that are allowed, a standing rule that if you can play your own full legal first name you automatically win, and sometimes we play themed games where as long as you can justify how your word matches the theme (food, Stephen King, sex, Rocky Horror, Star Wars, etc.) it's a valid play. The justifications are often the best part of the game.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:58 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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