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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Words deleted from the new British Scrabble dictionary

One point in favor of the British approach to Scrabble dictionaries is that they appear to actually delete words from the list once they stop appearing in their current source dictionaries. Some of the deleted words are words that the sources corrected, either by capitalization (Freon), splitting into two words ("jet plane", not "jetplane"), or elimination of abbreviations ("arccos" is not a word; it's an abbreviation for "arccosine").

When I last checked in on the UK Scrabble dictionary committee, they were talking about doing away with some obscure or erroneous words in the Collins Scrabble Words list. Frequently singled out were "smoyle" (an obsolete form of the verb "smile") and "Pernod" (a brand name for a French liqueur which also appears in the American Scrabble dictionary).

While nearly 400 words have been deleted, somehow both "smoyle" and "Pernod" survived the cuts. Here are some that did not:


[The Anglicized form, "apple strudel", appears to have taken over for the original German form.]


[This is supposed to be the plural of "arccos", itself a deleted word since it is merely an abbreviation for the arccosine function in trigonometry. Including "arccos" as a word is a somewhat understandable mistake, but pluralizing it as "arccoses" is fairly egregious, as no one ever writes such a thing. This is probably one of the glaring problems in the previous edition of the Collins Official Scrabble Words that caused the world Scrabble tournament people to reject it and retain their old list.]


[AWESTRUCK and AWESTRICKEN are apparently still fine. It turns out that no one awestrikes. The Chambers Dictionary has switched to a hyphenated form: "awe-strikes". From surveying the Internet, I'd say it's more popular to "strike awe".]


[This is an obsolete spelling for "barracuda".]

BELLPUSH    a button used in ringing a bell

["Bellpull" is still fine.]


BROADMINDED    incapable of being shocked. Opposite of shockable.


["Cardcastle" is apparently an obsolete synonym for a house of cards. The last three words have all switched to hyphenated forms.]

CARPARK    a space for parking cars

[I was a bit disappointed by this deletion until I looked up the one instance I know this phrase from (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), and discovered that Douglas Adams also preferred writing it as two words:
"I'm in the car park," said Marvin.
"The car park?" said Zaphod, "what are you doing there?"
"Parking cars, what else does one do in a car park?"
"OK, hang in there, we'll be right down."
In one movement Zaphod leapt to his feet, threw down the phone and wrote "Hotblack Desiato" on the bill.
"Come on guys," he said, "Marvin's in the car park. Let's get on down."
"What's he doing in the car park?" asked Arthur.
"Parking cars, what else? Dum dum."

CHILIOI    one thousand

[Greek word meaning "thousand"; it can be singular or plural; seems to come up most often because it appears in the Book of Revelation]

CORNRENT    rent paid in corn



[This was already a very rarely used word, meaning "submissiveness". Shakespeare used it in Antony and Cleopatra, but modern printings have substituted the word "dependency".]

EUROPEANIZE    To cause to become like the Europeans in manners or character; to habituate or accustom to European usages.

[Someone realized that these words are almost always capitalized. On the other hand "Francization" and "Francisation", the noun forms of Francize and Francise (meaning to make something French), have just been added to the CSW.]


[I have a feeling that LOST fans will have something to say about this. FLASHBACK is still on the list.]

GRENZ    as in grenz rays, X-rays of long wavelength produced in a device when electrons are accelerated through 25 kilovolts or less [adj]

[Grenz rays (ultrasoft X-rays with wavelengths between 0.07 nanometers and 0.4 nanometers)) were discovered by German physician Gustav Bucky. Bucky noted that the effects of this radiation on biological tissue were somewhat like ultraviolet light and somewhat like the adjacent X-ray part of the spectrum, so he called them "Grenz rays" from the German word Grenz, meaning "boundary". The term seems to have been confined to medicine and is now falling out of usage as Grenz ray therapy is giving way to other techniques.]

HAMBURGHER    a patty of ground beef

HEROE    a man revered for his bravery, courage etc, also HERO


[Apparently this is an archaic form of "however".]

PARAMOECIUM    Any of various freshwater ciliate protozoans of the genus Paramecium, usually oval and having an oral groove for feeding.

PLAYBUS    a bus with activities for children

[This seems to be a British concept. As far as I can tell, it's a bit like a bookmobile, except that rather than being a mobile library, it's more like a mobile playground with possibly some educational elements or facilities. From photos I've found, I'd define a playbus as a double-decker bus with ball pits, slides, tunnels, all with lots of padding and primary colors. "Playbus" has apparently transitioned to a capitalized form.]




["Shot put" and "side street" are now standard.]


[This now extinct musical instrument is similar to the better known "hornpipe" and the less well known "pibgorn". It was a single-reed woodwind constructed from a sheep's shin bone and used a cow's horn for the flared part at the end that amplifies the sound. The stockhorn is the Scottish version of this instrument. It also goes by the name "stock-and-horn".]

SWONE    a fainting fit

UPSWARM    to send up in a swarm

[Now you "up-swarm" something (e.g., bees). Shakespeare used this one too, but he wasn't up-swarming bees.]

WASM    an outmoded policy

[This is apparently a portmanteau word, resulting from the combination of WAS and ISM. Or looked at differently, an outdated ISM becomes a WASM. This is one of the words that was removed because it was dropped from the Chambers dictionary (the other UK source dictionary) due to lack of usage.]

WYSIWYG    what you see is what you get, matching computer display with what will be printed (adj)


[The shortest deleted word was deemed to be an incorrect pluralization of the noun "yo", where "yo" is defined as
an expression of calling for attention

I find this list intriguing. It's like a graveyard for forgotten words. (Here lies "Grenz rays".)

Remember, if you want to keep your favorite words alive, you have to use them. Write books about them! Insert them gratuitously into blog comments! Or the ideas they represent may become wasms.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The new Scrabble words (if you use the British Scrabble dictionary)

A couple of people asked for my opinion on the "new Scrabble words", so I looked them over. The first and most important thing to point out is that these new words have been added to Collins Official Scrabble Words (CSW), effectively the Scrabble tournament dictionary for most of the world, but not for the United States, Canada, or Thailand. Since Collins Official Scrabble Words (equivalent to the "SOWPODS" word list) automatically includes the American Scrabble tournament word list, new words are only added from the British side when they are absent from the most current American list.

There were about 2800 words added to this list. I've picked out the most interesting ones to discuss:

The good

One category of additions that I found most welcome are the many new computer and Internet terms: autosave, blogosphere, inbox, linkrot, metadata, overclock, permalink, timestamp, and whitelist.

(Less welcome is the inclusion of "readme" as an adjective (as in referring to files named "README.TXT" as "readme files").)

Other terms that I have heard frequently and seem appropriate for such a word list are: afterparty, arthouse, beestung, breadstick, buzzkill, edamame, fanboy, nunchucks, regift, ribeye, spork, and upsell.

The absence of "spork" and "nunchucks" from the American Scrabble dictionary had bothered me, so I am glad to see these additions.

The not-so-good

Other new words I am more skeptical about. "VoIP", which is clearly an acronym (Voice over Internet Protocol) is listed as a new word. Apparently some pronounce it like /voyp/ rather than spelling it out (/vee oh eye pea/), but as long as it is spelt with any capital letters, it seems clear that it can't be played in a word game without risking fisticuffs.

And they've added "XRAY", even though any sensible spelling would be "X-ray" even when it's used in a phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...). Adding this entire phonetic alphabet has also resulted in the inclusion of "India", "Juliet", "November", "Quebec", and "Yankee".

The word grok comes from Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land where he defines it as "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed — to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience." Grokking is a profound, transformative understanding of something. Unfortunately, the new Collins Scrabble Words list has added to the past and present participles ("grokked" and "grokking") some alternate spellings which are clearly wrong ("grocked", "groked", "grocking", and "groking"). Maybe these will get fixed in a future version.

Also, the CSW indicates that the word "quantum" has grown a second pluralization ("quantums" as opposed to the standard "quanta"). This may turn out to be one of the words that the Collins word list editors wind up eating (the traditional punishment for any quickly recalled words).

The improper verbs

The new words FACEBOOK and MYSPACE are both listed as verbs, meaning (depending on who you ask) 1) to search for someone's profile on the respective web sites, 2) to post something on these sites, or 3) just to generally use these sites. Since the words in the word list are written in all capital letters, it's not possible to tell whether these words are supposed to be retaining or dropping their capitalization in verb form. There is a history of brand names becoming lowercase verbs: Hoover ⇒ hoover (to clean with a vacuum cleaner; also, to suck up like a vacuum cleaner), Xerox ⇒ xerox (to photocopy), Velcro ⇒ velcro (to fasten together the two fabric pieces of a hook-and-loop fastener). If I had to extract or propose a rule of thumb, I'd say that a brand name can become a lowercase verb when it has been generalized beyond the original brand. The definitions of FACEBOOK and MYSPACE as verbs seem both overly broad (in the range of actions they can denote) and overly narrow (in each only referring to one particular site). In contrast, another brand name that has just appeared on this word list as a verb is PHOTOSHOP. This seems totally appropriate to me since it's been around long enough that "to photoshop" means (in my mind) to manipulate an image using graphics software, without being restricted to Adobe's Photoshop.

The rest

The definitions below are quotations from the Zyzzyva word study program, and my comments are in brackets.

BEATBOXING    a form of hip-hop music in which the voice is used to simulate percussion instruments

BETCHA    a spelling of 'bet you' representing colloquial pronunciation

BLOKART    a land vehicle with a sail

[While we can welcome this word for the whimsicality it embodies, a different spelling ("BLOWKART") has left the building. Most likely, heading in the direction of the prevailing wind.]

BOBBLEHEAD    a type of collectible doll, with head often oversized compared to its body

CATFLAP    a small opening in a door to let a cat through

CHEESESTEAK    a sandwich filled with grilled beef and cheese

CHESSBOXING    a hybrid sport which combines the sport of boxing with games of chess in alternating rounds

[While this was originally a made-up sport, there are now regular international chessboxing tournaments in London.]

CATAPHOR    a word that has the same reference as another word used later

[A cataphor is a phrase for which the meaning only becomes clear later in the sentence. Example: "Although he worked very hard at his wall-balancing lessons, Humpty Dumpty ultimately had to contend with the fact that he was still egg-shaped." He cataphorically refers to Humpty Dumpty.]

CROWDSOURCE    to outsource work to an unspecified group of people, typically by making an appeal to the general public on the Internet

CRIA    the offspring of a llama

[Apparently this word is often used in crossword puzzles.]

CUSPY    of a computer program, well written and easy to use

DISEMVOWEL    to remove the vowels from (a word in a text message, email,etc) in order to abbreviate it

EMERSED    (Of leaves) rising above the surface of water

[Plants that grow out of the water are said to be emersed. Contrast with "immersed".]

ENURN    to put into an urn, also INURN

EXERGY    a measure of the maximum amount of work that can theoretically be obtained from a system

GLAMPING    a form of camping in which participants enjoy physical comforts associated with more luxurious types of holiday

MONOTASKING    the act of performing one task at a time

MWAH    a representation of the sound of a kiss (interj)

PAREIDOLIA    a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant e.g. seeing faces in clouds

PORLOCK    to hinder by an irksome intrusion or interruption

[This term comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's story of how he emerged from a dream with the poem that would have been Kubla Khan fully formed in his mind. He claims to have written down the first 54 lines (the only ones that were eventually published) before being interrupted by a visitor from Porlock. Some scholars doubt this story, but "to Porlock" makes for a great new verb. It seems to be mainly used in British English, but I vote that everyone start using it.]

RISORIUS    a facial muscle situated at the corner of the mouth

[The risorius is the muscle people use when they fake a smile (smiling with upturned lips, but not with their eyes). An authentic smile uses the zygomaticus major and zygomaticus minor muscles to pull up the corners of the mouth and also uses the orbicularis oculi muscles to raise the cheeks and form crow's feet around the eyes. Other primates (like lemurs, macaques, orangutans, gibbons, and chimpanzees) do not even have a well-defined risorius muscle.]

SKYLESS    without a sky

[It is listed in the 1911 version of the Century Dictionary with the definition: "Without sky; cloudy; dark; thick." I first thought that this word meant literally without a sky (as in a planet that has no atmosphere), and while it is occasionally used that way in science fiction, it's more generally used figuratively, in melancholy descriptions.]

SPARTICLE    a shadow particle such as a SQUARK believed to have been produced at the time of the Big Bang

[There is an theory called "supersymmetry" which would tidy up a lot of little mathematical problems with the current physics theories of how fundamental particles and forces work. Supersymmetry says that every fundamental particle has a supersymmetric partner. This scheme of adding an S to the beginning of the names of some fundamental particles to denote their hypothetical supersymmetric partners has produced such words as "sfermion", "stau sneutrino", "smuon", and "sstrange squark". These must be fun to pronounce! Sparticles are the sorts of things that physicists would love to find evidence for in particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider.]

SPLISH    to splash

[The Wiktionary currently has two definitions:
splish, the noun: "(onomatopoeia, humorous) splash"


splish, the verb: "(intransitive) To make a light splashing sound."

The "light splashing" definition rings true to me.]

STOOZE    to borrow money at an interest rate of 0%, a rate typically offered by credit card companies as an incentive for new customers

[The Wikipedia entry indicates that "stoozing" money includes, not just borrowing money at a 0% interest rate, but then investing it (for instance, in a high interest savings account), and then paying it back. This is a sneaky technique for earning money, apparently named for Stooz, a user of the Motley Fool's Credit Card discussion board in the UK, who used and posted about this technique often. While it was originally referred to as "doing a Stooz", a variant spelling has developed that drops the capitalization and adds a silent E.]

STORMSTAYED    isolated or unable to travel because of adverse weather conditions, esp a snowstorm

[This is useful as a more general term than "snowed in". I suggest we import this as "stormstuck".]

SUNGAZING    the practice of staring directly at the sun at sunset or sunrise, esp in the belief that doing so allows one to survive without eating food

[Bananagrammer.com recommends stargazing or moongazing, if you value your retina. Also, eating food occasionally is a good idea, unless you can photosynthesize.]

TRUTHINESS    the quality of being considered to be true because of what the believer wishes or feels, regardless of the facts

[Coined by Stephen Colbert, this is a word more loaded with connotation than a line of text can easily convey.]

TURDUCKEN    a dish consisting of a partially deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small deboned chicken

VELLUS    as in vellus hair, short fine unpigmented hair covering the human body

[The opposite of "terminal hair" (dark, thicker body hair).]

WHOLPHIN    a hybrid of a whale and a dolphin

[At Sea Life Park in Hawaii, a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale that were being kept together, unexpectedly produced offspring. The false killer whale is actually another species of dolphin, but the discrepancy in sizes (the false killer whale mother was 14 feet long and weighed 2000 pounds while the father was 6 feet long and massed 400 pounds) and the fact that such a combination had never before been seen made the world's first known false-killer-whale/dolphin hybrid a surprise. The fully grown wholphin is 10 feet long and weighs 600 pounds. She is also midway between her parents in shape and color and number of teeth. (Bottlenose dolphins have 88 teeth, false killer whales, 44, and the wholphin has 66.) She, in turn, has mated with a dolphin and given birth to another wholphin. This is another surprise, as hybrid animals (like the mule) are usually infertile.

"Wholphin" is sometimes also spelt "wolphin", although this variant did not make it into the Collins Scrabble Words list.]

Two words that are not new additions, but that I learned from looking through these word lists are: SCOPA (the hair on the legs of many bees, which transport pollen from flower to flower) and UPTALKING:
UPTALKING the practice of speaking with a rising intonation at the end of each statement, as if one were asking a question

Collins provides a little Flash-based word checker you can use to see what is in their Scrabble word list. I've embedded it below.
At present, it is using the older Collins word list from 2007, but at some point, it should switch to the new 2012 list.

It makes sense that a word list that aspires to represent a more international flavor of English be larger. And I have heard on more than one occasion that British English is actually less conservative and is changing more rapidly than American English, so a faster-growing British Scrabble word list is not unexpected. Reading through all these words has been educational and, at times, fascinating, but I'm sure glad that I don't have to memorize them all!

Review of the new version of WordSquared

The brand new version of Word2 is now out. It comes with a different design (lots of wood grain and most squares on the board are off-white) and a host of different rules which definitely change the game.
One of the problems with the original version of WordSquared is that once you developed a big enough word structure, you could always find a place to put almost any letter. Consequently I quickly stopped needing the "Swap Tiles" option, and so accumulating lives (by building on the stars dispersed around the board) became irrelevant.

The new version solves this by no longer giving you blanks for free. You start off with three, and then if you want more, you have to buy them. (Five stars buy one blank tile, and swapping your seven tiles for a new rack now costs twenty stars.) Word formation is consequently more challenging. Your rack now consists of seven non-blank tiles and one slot for an arbitrary number of blanks.

Stars are acquired in a variety of ways. Stars are granted for logging in once a day and for achieving certain score benchmarks (called "Levels"). Stars may also be acquired by building a word over a square with a star on it. While you will often get just 1 star for building over a Star Square, occasionally you will get more. I've gotten 2 stars in a couple of instances and 3 stars once. (When beta-testing, I once got 8 stars.) Since the number of stars dispensed is random, this is an example of operant conditioning: varying the reward (as when training an animal) results in more rapid acquisition of the skill being trained for. In Word2, randomizing the reward should make you crave the stars more...

A new feature called "teleporting" is supposed to solve the problem of players being boxed in. On the one hand, it takes away the perpetual threat that you are going to be trapped somewhere if you don't check in with the game frequently enough. But on the other hand, such fear is really not a good way to motivate players. We ought to play games because they are fun, not to prevent others from building impenetrable double-walled word structures around us.

The new version also alters the tile values and tile distribution from the Scrabble parameters, based upon how Word2 players have played in the past.
The vowels are all still worth 1 point, except for the U which is two (logically, as the U is the hardest vowel to use). A Y is worth 5 points.

This table compares Scrabble tile values with those for WordSquared:


There are a number of interface changes:
  • When you play a blank, instead of having to type in the letter you want to play, you are presented with a complete alphabet of tiles from which you may choose by clicking.
  • Placemarks are placed, not by double-clicking, but by dragging a placemark icon from the bottom of the placemark list.
  • For now at least, your word history is hidden in your profile, which you can get to by clicking on your avatar icon.
The best change is the new transition between the full map and the mini-map which is now a smooth animation, making it easier to maintain a sense of where you are in the WordSquared world.

This new version of Word2 breaks with the Scrabble rules and model in favor of making Word2 a better massively multiplayer game. The creators seem full of ideas, and I am interested to see what they do next.

Further clicking: