A blog for fans of Bananagrams, word games, puzzles, and amazing things

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Some more of the Official Scrabble Dictionary's greatest mistakes

After posting my essay describing the many problems with the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD), I discovered that I am not the only one who has issues with the official Scrabble word lists. An article from the Times of London reports that the official Scrabble word list has come under increased criticism, arguing that the popularity of online Scrabble games has brought players of different positions on this issue into conflict.

The article points out that there is a Facebook group called "The Official Scrabble Dictionary: Winner or Whack?" which appears to be a venue for people to debate the merits of the OSPD. The group has 20 members at present, so the remarkable thing is not that there are some people who have complaints, but that those complaints are being heard. In the UK, the analog of the OSPD is called "Official Scrabble Words" (OSW). The first version of this British Scrabble word list was compiled by Allan Simmons (Scrabble columnist for the Times) and Darryl Francis in 1988. They still maintain the list. Simmons was interviewed in the article:
Mr Simmons is in favour of a wide variety of words, but he believes that archaic words should be removed from the list. "There are lots of archaic, obsolescent words that came from Chambers dictionary. That's not good for trying to promote Scrabble in schools. One of the words that annoys me is 'smoyle', an old form of 'smile'. Nobody is going to spell 'smile' that way now."
In a separate opinion piece, Simmons gives an overview of the situation, concluding that:
We, in the driving seat of the Scrabble community, should be letting go of the archaic word baggage in the interest of a more publicly acceptable word list. We should have a cleanout of all the spellings of ye olde literary works that are no longer in use.

So it sounds like word list reform may be coming to Britain. Whether this will mean changes to the word lists used in America remains to be seen. If dictionary reform is not imminent, we could always organize a demonstration. After all, who could pass up the opportunity to be part of a Million Banana March?