Lotsa lolz new words enter Scrabble lexicon

Collins has announced 6,500 new official Scrabble words, many of which draw on slang and new technology. Should we welcome changes in the English language — even if we don’t like them?

Next time you play Scrabble with your bezzy, you may find lotsa dench new words which could win a ridic number of points.

6,500 words have been added to the newest version of Collins Official Scrabble Words, with many drawing on modern culture. They include slang such as ‘tuneage’, ‘lolz’ and ‘ridic’, and ‘onomatopoeic interjections’ like ‘waah’ and ‘grr’. Then there are words associated with new technology: ‘hashtag’, for example, and ‘hacktivist’.

The head of language content at Collins explained that dictionaries ‘have always included formal and informal English’, but finding enough printed evidence of slang words used to be quite difficult. Now with the emergence of social media, blogs and text messages, written slang can be found in abundance.

The game has a long history of keeping up to date with linguistic trends. Scrabble was invented by an architect named Alfred Butts in 1933 after the Great Depression left him out of work. He began studying popular games and wanted to design something which combined luck and skill. When he was first refining the rules, he used the front page of the New York Times to analyse letter distribution among English words before creating the iconic tiles. Scrabble became so sought-after in the 1950s that the games had to be rationed in shops in the USA.

Today it is one of the most popular games in the world. It is sold in 29 different languages and is often played in fiercely competitive tournaments — the first world championship was held in London in 1991.

Not everyone sees the game’s embrace of new words as progress. Sue Bowman, secretary of the National Scrabble Association, called the words ‘an abuse of the English language’. On the other hand, comedian and founder of the National Scrabble Championship Gyles Brandreth said that they add to the game’s ‘richness’.

Word perfect

This is an embarrassing debasement of the English language, say conservative defenders of the game. It’s sad to see an institution which should be encouraging people to develop their spelling and vocabulary overtaken by such nonsense. It’s bad enough that text speak exists in the first place — legitimising it through Scrabble will only encourage its spread.

Language is always evolving, more liberal players respond. English has always drawn from whichever influences are around — the Old English of the Anglo-Saxons had Germanic roots, and then French words were introduced by William the Conqueror and his Normans from 1066. And don’t forget Shakespeare, who invented over 1700 words! Embracing the changes in our language is more in the spirit of Britain than purists suggest. Besides, it will be much easier to use that high-scoring ‘z’ tile now...

You Decide

  1. Should Scrabble have introduced so many informal words?
  2. Are new slang words ruining the English language?

Activities

  1. Get into groups and invent a new word of your own. What does it mean? Write a short definition and share it with the class.
  2. Research some of the history of the English language and write a short summary of the most important developments.

Some People Say...

“The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become.”

May Sarton

What do you think?

Q & A

Is text speak bad for me?
It’s a hotly debated subject, but so far research suggests that there are no damaging effects. In 2012, experts from Coventry University found no links between poor grammar in texts and an actual understanding of grammar. Two years later, some were even suggesting that playfully creating new words and spellings can help younger students to improve their understanding of phonetics (the relationship between a word’s spelling and its sound).
So can I start using it all the time?
Well, no — that would be a bad idea. Informal chatting is one thing, but there are many different contexts where more formal language is required. Definitely don’t use it when writing your homework, taking exams, or applying for a job! If you’re unsure, be safe and use standard English.

Word Watch

Collins Official Scrabble Words
This is the UK’s official Scrabble dictionary, which has around 255,000 words.
Onomatopoeic
Boom! Crack! Swish! Splat! Onomatopoeia is when a word imitates the sound of the thing it describes.
Great Depression
In October 1929, the New York stock market crashed and millions of shares suddenly became worthless. The economic depression spread across the world, ending in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II.
World championship
The winner of the first world championship in 1991 was Peter Morris for the US. The current champion is Briton Craig Beevers, who won his final game with the word ‘talaq’ for 42 points. (It refers to a Muslim form of divorce.)
Anglo-Saxons
Inhabiting Britain from the 5th century, the Anglo-Saxons were descended from indigenous British people and the Germanic tribes which had migrated from Europe.
William the Conqueror
The first Norman king of England invaded Britain and won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. As the people gradually united, marriages between Normans and Anglo-Saxons helped to blend the Old English and French languages.

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