To get a Q on Cue: The Curious Allure of Scrabble

If you have a way with words, there’s a game you might find very addictive.  This game was invented by a certain Alfred Mosher Butts.

Mr Butts was an architect so he liked planning things, especially in squares.  One day he invented a word game he called Lexiko, but in 1938 he made a few changes and named the result the somewhat less catchy “Criss-Crosswords”.

He gamely kept making sets, but his game didn’t really take off until 1948 when wordsmith James Brunot from Newtown, Connecticut bought the manufacturing rights, offering Mr Butts a royalty for every set sold, finally rewarding the inventor’s patience.

The X-tiles: Mr Butts had a role in changing history with his game…

The big breakthrough for the game apparently came when the president of Macy’s played while on holiday.  When he returned, he placed a large order for the sets.  Slowly but surely the new game became popular.  After several changes in ownership the game was taken over by Hasbro who are now the official “Scrabble handlers”.

For all we know the ancient Greeks most likely played word games.

A good Scrabble player learns to use anagrams.  There are some letter combinations that can give you as many as eight or even ten different words!  A good example is NASTIER, which can also make ANESTRI, ANTSIER, RATINES, RESIANT, RETAINS, RETSINA, STAINER, STARNIE and STEARIN.

Anagrams can be such fun.  Some people may not be aware that BEDROOM is an anagram of BOREDOM.  This may explain why some don’t get the action they hope for.

Here are a few more found on that amazing place in inner space known as the Internet:





Scrabble can be played by up to four people but is usually played by two people which always works the best.

A lady I know likes to play with the board “ facing” her upside down at all times.  She’d make a good spy since she doesn’t need to move around the table or desk to read things…

Knowing how to unscramble letters also helps in solving cryptic crosswords, another passion of mine as an amateur wordsmith.  You never stop adding to your vocabulary storehouse.  After all, here is a list showing the number of acceptable Scrabble words in English, from 2-15 letters:

2          124 words ( from AA to ZO);

3-        1292 words;

4-        5454 words;

5-        12478 words;

6-        22157 words;

7-        32909 words;

8-        40161 words;

9-        40727 words;

10-      35529words;

11-      27893words;

12-      20297 words;

13-      13857 words;

14-      9116 words;

15-      5757 words

Total: 267 751 words!


Naturally one usually only plays words from 2 letters up to about nine letters during a normal Scrabble game but the potential to play longer words is there since a board is 15 x 15 squares.

English has borrowed and stolen many a word from all over the world and so the vocabulary list has grown immensely fat.  Speak of swallowing a dictionary!  A comprehensive English lexicon could be used as a portable shelter from the ultimate hailstorm (such as the one in Tokyo in the movie The Day After Tomorrow) should you ever need one.

Scrabble sets have been produced in a great many languages as seen below, including several fictional and one or two computer languages.  For some reason no one has yet had the foresight to produce an Elvish one:

(below table with compliments of Wikipedia):

Table of contents
·         English

·         Afrikaans

·         Anglo-Saxon

·         Arabic

·         Armenian

·         Bambara

·         Basque

·         Breton

·         Bulgarian

·         Catalan

·         Croatian

·         Czech

·         Dalekh

·         Danish

·         Dutch

·         Esperanto

·         Estonian

·         Faroese

·         Finnish

·         French

·         German

·         Greek

·         Haitian Creole

·         Hawaiian

·         Hebrew

·         Hungarian

·         Icelandic

·         Indonesian

·         IPA English

·         Irish

·         Italian

·         Japanese Romaji

·         Klingon

·         Latin

·         Latvian

·         L33t

·         Lithuanian

·         Lojban

·         Malagasy

·         Malaysian

·         Māori

·         Norwegian

·         Nuxalk

·         Polish

·         Portuguese

·         Romanian

·         Russian

·         Scottish Gaelic

·         Slovak

·         Slovenian

·         Spanish

·         Swedish

·         Turkish

·         Tuvan

·         Ukrainian

·         Welsh

·         Zhuyin


A Tagalog set.  The home language of about 57 million people in the Philippines

Half of all British homes and a third of American ones have a Scrabble set, in a dark corner of the cupboard or in active service.

People in numerous countries play English Scrabble even though English isn’t their first language.

I play a lot of online Scrabble and have played folk from countries as diverse as the UK, Ireland, Philippines, New Zealand, Nigeria, Israel, Canada, Australia, Kenya, Bermuda and Barbados.  So the game gives one a chance to chat with some interesting people while playing, so long as you don’t run out of time while typing wordy responses when it’s what’s put on the board which counts.

People from all walks of life play Scrabble and some take it very seriously indeed.  It can become quite an obsession.  Still others stay easygoing about the whole thing, just like in many other sports and hobbies.

Many of us wordsmiths are on the Asperger/Ausitm spectrum too, since this is a quiet game between two people, usually in a quiet room where the only sounds are clocks and brains ticking away.

Here are some odd words using at least one of each letter of the alphabet, and which one may very occasionally have a chance to put down (let me hasten to assure you that I’ve never had the opportunity to play most of these, but would love to):

A: apadana, atalaya, amadavat, anasarca;

B: bebeeru, boshter, bilimbi;

C: accidie, cosecant, compony and acciaccatura;

D; dodmans, addenda, donnerd;

E: entetee, eustele, eelfare, feterita;

Eustele – part of a plant stem

F: foxfire, moufflon, kerfuffle;

G: grisgris, glucagon, grogram, gobiids;

H: hasheesh, whydahs, handjar;

I: intagli, bilimbi, inertiae, gingili;

J: janskys, hajji, jejunum, mahjongg;

K: kinakina, kebbuck, tokomak, markkaa, muktuks;

L: llanero, fallals, limacel;

M: mokopuna, manoaos, mojarra, multure;

N: anana, annelid, ngultrum, negroni;

O: oloroso, oothecae, oolongs.

P: pogonip, pomwater, paiocke, pioye.

Pogonip – a thick icy winter fog which coats trees with ice

Q: qawwali, caique, cazique, quarrion;

R: ripieni, rejoneo, ritornel, orrery;

S: assessor, salpinx, sokaiya, shashlik;

Salpinx – a musical instrument

T: ratatat, toheroa, triglot, taniwha;

U: busuutu, urubu, muumuus;

Busuutu – a dress worn by Ugandan women

V: vervain, verecund, vomerine, volvuli;

W: whipsaw, powwows, wakerife;.

X: apteryx, lixivia, exhedra.

Y: yamulka, yampies, youthly.

Z: warez, pizzazz, spaetzes, zemstvo.


Actually, simple everyday words can earn a better score than exotic ones, although the latter are more exciting.  It’s better to place a mundane word for a good score than impress your opponent with your word wizardry for its own sake…

A strategically placed two letter word such as QI, XI or ZO can earn more points than a rare long word.  You can easily get just as many points from a four letter word in the right place than you would with a “bingo”.  QUIZ on the right spot (using a double letter block and a triple word one) would earn at least 96 points!

Stumped with too many vowels? Try euouaes, etaerio, taeniae or saouari.

SEQUOIA is a word using all five vowels.

Tearing your hair out over too many consonants?  How about crwths, rhythms, dirndls or schmaltz.

Crwth – use with the salpinx to make a melody!

Many words using Q forsake their usual partner, U, and couple themselves with one of the other voluptuous vowels.  Examples include TRANQ, WAQF, QOPH, QIN, TALAQ, QWERTY, QINTAR, QAWWALI and FAQIR.

Qoph is a Hebrew letter

Without Q, U is usually much maligned by players as she’s much less versatile than her fellow vowels, whom are quite happy to “hook up” with most other words.

Other letter which can be difficult to play without the right combinations include J, W, C, and the nasty V which can block many a board, as there’s not a single two letter word using one.

Scrabble can often be frustrating when despite your best laid plans your rack refuses to produce any decent combinations.  You can be patient and dump your displeasing tiles until you have a better balanced rack, or you can change some or all of your tiles (which I seldom do butnow and again it yields a change of luck) but when Lady Luck gives you a wink and a smile, encouraging you to exercise your encyclopaedic word skills, it can be great fun.  Just a few days ago I managed to play RASURES followed a few turns later by COMPLEAT and ERASURES, adding the E, for 98 points.  Quite often one can score 100 or more points with a well placed bingo (getting 50 extra points for using all 7 of your tiles).

The game teaches patience, strategy, vocabulary skills, as well as general knowledge skills because if you know the meaning you can grasp why the word might not take an S at the end, for instance.  You also get to know the various “hooks” which can go at the start or end of a word on the board. For instance a hook can be any of the letters which go in front of “ail”: B,F,H,J,K,M,N,P,R,S,T,V and W.

Winning at all costs isn’t worth spilling the ice bucket about as it’s just a game so don’t take losses too seriously.  Keep trying as the joy of the game is to play something you’ve never played before, and perhaps you will in your next game.

Published by: envirozentinel63

Diagnosed with asperger syndrome. Keen runner and writer who wants to share the ups and downs of all my many experiences and maybe reach out to someone who needs encouragement.

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