Scrabble Scramble

Over 100 million sets of Scrabble are sold in 121 countries in 29 different languages. By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away,” sang the Bee Gees and later Boyzone. These are just lyrics but true as the word: better the vocabulary, greater are the chances of conveying a message. And like children we continue to play and learn words in our free time instead of letting our mind become a devil’s workshop. Researchers have proved that reading, crossword puzzles and such other activities for the mind are a way to good health. Toy manufacturers and the software, keeping with the trends, offer the latest updated product. Thus Scrabble continues to find place in most homes.

Of course you know Scrabble, the board game you play with three friends of yours, often insisting that the word you have coined “is there in the dictionary.” The game has certain rules that you followed religiously, such as making words across and down in a crossword pattern on a 15 x 15 game board and counting scores from the points associated with each block or letter. Who knew Scrabble would become a popular game when an architect designed it.  Yes, Alfred Mosher Butts, the brainchild behind Scrabble, was an unemployed architect in US. When Butts lost his job, he decided to explore his passion for games and words. “Mild-mannered, bespectacled Butts disliked dice games; they were all down to luck. On the other hand, he felt that all-skill games, like chess, were too highbrow for the general public.” He devised a game in 1930s that was based on luck and skill and suited every player. All his efforts to sell his game failed till one day lawyer and game lover James Brunot got the rights. Brunot made a few adjustments to the design and renamed Criss-crosswords to ‘Scrabble’.

The game was trademarked and James Brunot and his wife converted an abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut, into a Scrabble factory in 1948. But the Brunots could no longer keep up with demand and licensed game maker Selchow & Righter to market and distribute the game. Today over 100 million sets of Scrabble are sold in 121 countries in 29 different language versions. The Internet also caters to its fan offering many sites where they can play scrabble online. Not only this, there are several international Scrabble tournaments and even registered word lists such as SOWPODS, a combination of the British and American word lists. Again, for the computer savvy, Scrabble software versions such as Super Scrabble, Funkitron Scrabble Download, and players with artificial intelligence are available to keep you on toe. No wonder it’s world’s best selling word game!

Published in  December 2006, btw of Chitralekha Group

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