Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Game

I love playing Scrabble.  It was my favorite "junior game";  the flat cardboard squares had letters and pictures and there were pictures on the board to help you create your words.  G'ma wouldn't help me spell - "Look it up" was her consistent reply - so I learned to keep the dictionary on the table by my side.

We had rules - mostly designed to let me win.  I suppose that's why I love it still.... I'm hardwired to smile and feel accomplished when I think of it.  But that's okay, because it's not as if I'm in love with methamphetamines, after all.

I played with the Cuters and with G'ma and with roommates and with strangers on long train trips.  There's a group which plays at the local library, but I've yet to devote an afternoon to joining them.  I'd thought that G'ma and I could've incorporated that into our lives, but her brain is less plastic than it needs to be and playing is frustrating for her.  She knows that she used to put down more than 3 letter words, but that's about all she can remember now without forgetting where she started.  Alas.

There are movies where Scrabble is a major player - The Wedding Planner comes immediately to mind - and I always wonder why there aren't more.  Characters play chess - Thomas Crown, Jed Bartlet - and leave the boards out to spark conversation.  Scrabble would work just as well, don't you think?  I'm certain that chess masters can look at a board in mid-game and make an educated guess about the kinds of people the players might be.... or at least a guess that's good enough for the movies.  I can do the same thing with a Scrabble board.  Are the words long and placed without regard for the opportunities they might present an opponent?  Are the tiles themselves creating a pretty picture on the board?  Are the words boxed together,  expanding on smaller starts to create larger but still overlapping words?  Each board tells a story, and I love to read them.

I've been playing Wordscraper - Facebook's application which replaced Scrabulous which Milton Bradley deemed too derivative to live....... all we wanted to do was play, people!! - against the same group of people for a few months, now, and I've built faux-lives for each of them.  For some, I've looked at their profile pages and incorporated their actual selves into their persona.  For others, I'm winging it.  Tana and Dixie and Misty..... don't those names conjure up different souls?

Perhaps my favorite part of the game is deciding upon and decoding the words which we use.  Sexual references are often the only use for the letters in my rack, but cum and yoni aren't words I put out until I've been competing against someone for a while.  I've noticed the same hesitancy (or just absence of letters?) coming my way, too.

And these word choices do reveal even more about my opponents.  For example, I'm playing a person who has used diplont (an animal or plant that has the diploid number of chromosomes in its somatic cells) and grume ( a semisolid mass of coagulated red and white blood cells) in recent games.  Is she a physician?  Is she ill?  Inquiring Wordscrapers want to know.  These aren't words which have ever crossed my path until I saw them on our game; what kind of life does she have which put them in her way?

Gyoza  (A pocket of dough that is stuffed, as with minced pork or shrimp, and fried) sounds delicious, doesn't it?  I'm an adventurous eater, always up for a challenge, but I've never run across a gyoza. Down what street was my opponent wandering when a gyoza enticed with its aroma? 

There are certain "scrabble words" that everyone seems to know and to which no one seems to object - jo (sweetheart, dear) and qi (a variation of chi - life force), for example.  There are apparently devices called word generators which can present you with all the legal permutations on your rack, but I don't play against people who use them.  Interesting words which are part of your (sometimes, anyway) working vocabulary are fine; I use poesy (Poetical works; poetry) and eft  (An immature newt, especially the reddish-orange terrestrial form of a North American species, Notophthalmus viridescens.)  with impunity because I knew what they meant before they appeared in my rack.

And then there are the funky spellings - emir/ameer/emeer all rule Arabic lands and a raja(h) can be married to a rani or a ranee.  As long as it's in my dictionary, or on the list of approved 3 letter words from SOWPODS which the Little Cuter sent me before her office blocked Scrabulous last year, well, then, I'm just fine with it.  Beyond that, I pretty much have to know the word  before I'll use it.

Princess Myrtle refused to allow a word unless I knew the definition. but then I turned her on to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary that SIR got for me  (he does buy the best gifts.... one of the many reasons the Little Cuter knows that if they ever break up I get custody of HIM!) and she was hooked.  Our game lasted nearly 2 hours, and no move was made without extensive consultation with the little red book and then we agreed to use it only to resolve disagreements.

As I spend, once again, much too much time watching others play games (NCAA March Madness), it's nice to remember that I can play, too.

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