NEW YORK – To Scrabble fanatics, big gifts sometimes come in small packages.
The word “te” as a variant of “ti,” the seventh tone on the musical scale, is a hardworking little gem among 5,000 words added to “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary,” out Aug. 11 from Merriam-Webster.
The dictionary’s last freshening up was a decade ago. Entries in the forthcoming book that include texter, vlog, bromance, hashtag, dubstep and selfie were mere twinkles on the racks of recreational players.
But it’s the addition of te and three other two-letter words – da, gi and po – that has Robin Pollock Daniel excited. Daniel, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, is a champion of the North American Scrabble Players Association, which has a committee that helps Merriam-Webster track down new, playable words of two to eight letters.
“Being able to hook an ‘e’ underneath ‘t’ means that I can play far more words,” explained Daniel, who practices Scrabble two to four hours a day. “Sometimes you play parallel to a word and you’re making two-letter words along the way. I call those the amino acids of Scrabble. The more two-letter words we have, the more possibilities a word will fit.”
One woman’s te is another man’s “qajaq,” one of Peter Sokolowski’s favorites among the new words. He’s a lexicographer and editor at large for the Springfield, Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster.
Qajaq, he said in a recent interview with Daniel, reflects the Inuit roots of kayak and would require a blank tile since Scrabble sets include just one Q. But it’s a rare word starting with “q” that doesn’t require a “u.”
A bonus, to a word nerd like Sokolowski: qajaq is a palindrome, though that’s inconsequential in Scrabble.
The new words add about 40 pages to the Scrabble-sanctioned dictionary, which already lists more than 100,000 playable words. Definitions are kept to a minimum but parts of speech and whether a plural is available are noted.