Scrabble players add te, qajaq and 4,998 words to vocabulary

  • By Michael Muskal Los Angeles Times
  • Friday, August 8, 2014 3:07pm
  • Life

Coqui swallowed your vowels? Chillax, frenemy! Breathe deeply, practice qigong to increase your life force and maybe your Scrabble score. Or just give up that word game all together and go straight to numbers and Sudoku.

If none of that makes sense, rush out and get a copy of the Merriam-Webster’s new, fifth edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, where those words have been accepted for use in the word game that is a combination of crossword puzzle and mahjong. The dictionary is the Bible of what words are allowed to be played, hence what points each participant can earn.

The new dictionary adds 5,000 words, which in the world of Scrabble players is a very big thing indeed. Of course, most of the words are already in common usage, but making it into the dictionary is a form of oral legitimacy.

The new dictionary is often full of shiny modernity since the added words reflect a culture that has gone high tech, adding vlog, hashtag, beatbox and, of course, buzzkill. We are also a society that values portmanteau words — probably an example of our increasing cultural anomie or maybe just impatience — so dubstep, jockdom and bromance are all now legit plays.

For players, some of the most important new words are the tiniest, those little bits like schmutz, that appear in the nooks and crannies and can mean the difference between winning and losing. Te is now allowed, a variant of the musical tone, not the drink. Also now good are da, gi and po — which mean, well, in the world of Scrabble, meaning doesn’t really count.

Then there are the great words, worth zillions of points, that mere mortals never get to play. Like qajaq, a godsend for a player who gets q and lacks the usual u. But the drawback is that it requires two q’s, which means you need a blank tile since the game has just one q.

Also newly in the queue is quinzhee, not the television show, but a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of snow. Think of it as a relative of an igloo and as inviting.

What a buzzkill.

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