Sunday, 5 February 2012


For millions upon millions of Scrabble players all over the world there is nothing exceptional about this popular game. I mean, every game is exceptional and unique, but it is nothing you need to create as DIY and share secretly with your friends. You buy it in a toy shop or supermarket, and today you can play it on your computer or tablet, and you can play it with someone thousands of miles away.

I was first introduced to Scrabble when I was thirteen. The board was pasted on the reverse of a folding cardboard chess board, with colour squares filled in crayons. The tiles were grey school erasers cut into four, with letters written in purple ink. They got faded quickly and had to be refreshed regularly. The number and value of letters for the Russian language had been calculated by mathematicians from the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

We embraced Scrabble at once. The choice of board games was meagre, apart from chess, checkers and a variety of Snakes and Ladders, and there were few games that involved verbal exercise. During long summer evenings there were public Scrabble tournaments at the artists' colony where my holidays were spent. We would play in teams so that as many as possible could participate with the only available set. Then we all went home and bought cheap chess boards and a load of erasers. Long winter evenings were spent around Scrabble tables. Russian rules were strict: nouns only, singular, no cases, no diminutives.

Later people started bringing Russian Scrabble from abroad, and finally there appeared a home-produced commercial version with an incredibly ugly brown plastic board and a russified title. We preferred our own chess-board-eraser-tile sets.

We played the Swedish version of Scrabble a lot when the children were small. My vocabulary was superior to the kids' even though Swedish was not my mother tongue, but they beat me because I kept forgetting that verbs and adjectives and plurals and gerunds were allowed.

A couple of weeks ago I was complaining to Staffan that we seldom did anything together. We never watch television , and we have very different hobbies, and reading aloud doesn't always work. I guess I said something like: ”If we could at least play Scrabble or something”, and to my great amazement he agreed and immediately went and ordered a Scrabble set from Amazon. We decided to play English to have equal disadvantage. During our first game, we had Longman's Dictionary by our side, and a computer opened at OED in case of dispute. We did have a dispute over my alternative spelling of “pixy” (triple word), and we did cheat a bit looking up a tentative word to confirm that it existed. The whole point of Scrabble is to learn new words.

New vistas have opened. It remains to see whether our marriage will stand the trial.

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