Scrabble dictionary update adds to game

Words such as bling and selfie won points with Spokane players of Scrabble, but bromance drew some quizzical looks. So did hashtag.

Scrabble fan Mernie Matthews, 72, has studied a long list of the more popular new words among 5,000 recently added to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, released Aug. 11 by Merriam-Webster. The fifth edition guidebook is the first update in nearly 10 years.

Matthews plays Scrabble each Wednesday against seven to eight opponents in the Spokane Valley Senior Center at CenterPlace.

“Some of the new words make sense and some don’t,” Matthews said. “I think a lot of us use the word bling, but bromance isn’t a word I knew.”

So, she looked up the definition. “It’s a close, nonsexual relationship between two men.”

Matthews also wasn’t sure about the word fracking. Next to her, Karen Canfield, 73, offered a quick definition, “Isn’t that extraction of oil from rock?” She laughed when someone read a similar, but longer, definition from the new dictionary the group has at the game table.

Jean Pierre joins a group of five women for a Scrabble game every Wednesday in the community center at the South Hill campus of Rockwood Retirement Communities. The 90-year-old didn’t know last week that the updated dictionary is out now, although she had heard it was coming.

“Oh my gosh, with new words,” Pierre said. “I’m excited.”

The group knew the new word, “te” as a variant of “ti,” the seventh tone on the musical scale, but heads shook when asked about hashtag. “Is that like a slogan?” said Pierre.

“Technologically, we’re behind the door,” said Ginny Majer, also 90, who plays at Rockwood.

Pierre’s eyes lit up, though, when she heard about such high-scoring words as quinzhee, a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of snow. It can earn up to 401 points.

The South Hill group still had a well-worn older edition of the Scrabble dictionary at the game table.

“We consult the dictionary all the time,” said Shirley Shaw, 86. Fellow player Mary Richardson, 85, noted the mental exercise. “It’s good for our brains.”

Other newly allowable words include beatbox, buzzkill, chillax, joypad, qigong, yuzu and geocache. Words must be found in a standard dictionary and can’t require capitalization, have hyphens or apostrophes, or be an abbreviation.

Majer said she wasn’t sure the South Hill group would rush out to get the new edition.

“We’re a little behind the times,” Majer said. She held up a long list of two-letter words. “That’s enough to confuse you. We have all the words we need.”

Another South Hill player, Betty Lukins, 84, has played Scrabble for close to 20 years, and her family enjoys it too.

“All my grandkids like to play Scrabble,” Lukins said.

The players at both centers said they mostly like to play against others for the camaraderie. Many of them also said they enjoy the challenge of finding words among the seven drawn tiles.

Valley Scrabble player Alice Ford, 72, plays Facebook’s “Words with Friends” online but has fun with the real-time group. She pointed to a page in the new dictionary that has two- to seven-letter words requiring no vowels.

“It’s helpful because usually you need a vowel to complete a word, and sometimes you don’t draw vowels,” Ford said. “We’re a play-for-fun group. A high score in the group would be in the 300s. We don’t get there too often.”

Scrabble fans are hoping the long-awaited edition will inspire more people to play, said Robin Pollock Daniel, a North American Scrabble Players Association spokeswoman and tournament player. This update for the first time drew words from the Canadian Merriam-Webster Dictionary, she said.

Although people play Scrabble on computers, Daniel said many players still enjoy feeling the tiles, interacting with others, and shuffling letters like a puzzle to form words.

“The 2-D experience is not nearly as good as the 3-D one,” Daniel said. “We hope that both online games and the updating of the dictionary will inspire people to find local clubs and become tournament players or, at the very least, to pull out the game.”

The many additional technology words reflect modern language, she said.

“It’s great that people can use words they’re now using in everyday vernacular.”

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