Happy Birthday, Scrabble

This week Scrabble celebrated its 75th anniversary, and in its honour, we dusted off our old classic set and played with Ravel and Liszt in the background. There was a time in the winter months when we scrabbled once a week, on one of our non-drinking nights. We altered that tradition over time to a non-competitive puzzle night – each of us immersed in our own world of words (me) and numbers (David).

Our old Scrabble set has a few faded letters, but all the tiles are there. According to France Info, across the world close to one million of the lettered tiles have been lost. And for some more weird statistics – if you were to stack these lost letters on top of each other, the pile would be twelve times higher than the Empire State Building.

Some more trivia – Scrabble was invented by Alfred Mosher Butts and was first called Lexiko, then Criss-crosswords before becoming Scrabble in 1948. This word derives from the Dutch schrabbelan, which means to scratch – perhaps what you do to your head while trying to compose words from those seven random letters, especially the servings of all consonants or all vowels.

The game we played wasn’t stellar. The highest scoring word was stinger, which used up all seven letters, giving me an extra 50 points for a total of 66. This pales when compared to the highest scoring word ever of oxyphenbutazone (1458 points). But I suspect this is theoretical. I’m not sure I believe it appeared in a real game as part of the word would have to be in place, and that would lower the score. According to Guinness World Records, the highest score in a tournament for a single word was 275 points for beauxite.

When I used to subscribe to The International Herald Tribune, I got hooked on the print version of Scrabble for one player. Realising its potential for addiction, I’ve stayed away from the digital versions and online groups. I would do little else with the sedentary part of my life if I went those directions.

The actual 75th anniversary was a couple of days ago. As I too often do with humans, I am issuing a belated ‘many happy returns’ to this wonderful boardgame for lexophiles (another good Scrabble word if your opponent leaves you with the ex and space around it).