SCRABBLE Official Rule

Players Dictionary Words

I hope my reader doesn't mind having my SCRABBLETM rules illustrations apply both to a dictionary as an authority as well as to a Bible of authority. On the cover of my game are the rules registered at the U.S. Patent Office:

  1. Any words found in a standard dictionary are permitted except ...
        Consult a dictionary only to check spelling or usage. ...

I usually have a dictionary around, and to check usage--prefixes, suffixes, endings, etc.--I have some supplementary grammar books. I once played at church camp where nobody had a dictionary. The game was going fine until I put down TEXAS. "It's a proper noun!" was the outcry, "You can't use it." I had meant the texas on a steamboat. Hadn't anyone read Mark Twain? I sure got some hard looks. The staterooms on steamboats used to be named after, well, states. The process was discontinued except for the captain's stateroom which was the largest, the texas--lower case.

Now, I look up (online) Richard's Scrabble Rules, which includes

Noun Forms
The suffix LIKE (having the qualities of) may be added to the singular form ... For example, HOUSELIKE is allowed.

A good example from the singular form is, "I will maintain the word with my sword to be a soldier-like word."--2nd Pt., King Henry IV, Act 3, Scene 2, disallowed by the hyphen but that's not the point. Also from King Richard II, Act 3, Scene 3 is, "... by the buried hand of warlike Gaunt." No hyphen; that one is fine.

But look a little earlier in the scene at a plural noun, "by the royalties of both your bloods." Here bloods means bloodlines but that's understood. Now suppose, and this sometimes happens, that a playwright is doing a takeoff of Shakespeare and takes the dialogue to bloodslike. Well, he couldn't very well use bloodlinelike and maintain the rhythm, and bloodlike carries an entirely different meaning. So I would maintain that in English sometimes the suffix like can be appended to the noun's plural form. So I'd be disagreeing with Richard above.

But that's not so unusual to have disagreement even among experts.

PEDANTRY501 may be defined, for the purpose of this book, as the saying of things in language so learned or so demonstrably accurate as to imply a slur upon the generality, who are not capable or not desirous of such displays. The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance. It is therefore not very profitable to dogmatize here on the subject; an essay would establish not what pedantry is, but only the place in the scale occupied by the author; & that, so far as it is worth enquiring into, can be better ascertained from the treatment of details ...

Richard's pedantry to me, above may actually be helpful to another player, and beyond the ken of other players. And yet this issue is addressed in a different form in the gospels, (Matt. 15:1-6) "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." A preacher might take that up in his sermons. It is relevant to our Christian walks. And this lesson of honoring one's father in a broader sense applies from (Prov. 22:28) "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" to the landmarks set by the church fathers who selected which books are players in the canon, who selected the textus receptus (as in the KJV) rather than the unbelievers Westcott and Horte who used questionable texts through "higher criticism" to come up with a different grouping (as in the NIV), and Wycliffe and Tyndale who gave us a sacred dialect (KJV) at the dawn of modern English which was never the regular spoken English at any time. What I call the pedantry of the NIV could be someone else's scholarship. But I'm just talking about SCRABBLETM.

So another ending on nouns is y. As in, "Come, bloody Clifford"-- 3rd Pt., King Henry VI, Act 1, Scene 4. Now here's the rub. Sure, a player would put the y at the end of the singular form, but not always (English is such a funny language). Take the word ear. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear." If one has a good ear (singular) he is an attentive listener, can decipher the notes in music, can pick out faint sounds. I have good hearing. I have a good ear.

But when discussing physiognomy it's used in the plural. I remember having my ears ridiculed in school because they stuck out. If I see an alien on Star Trek with large protruding ears, I'd say it was earsy. Eary would sound like eerie and wouldn't work anyway. The alien with the biggest ears would be the earsiest. Perfectly good English, at least to my mind.

But in a SCRABBLETM game a brother got upset when I used my seven letters to make EARSIEST, because he couldn't pinpoint it in the dictionary. Of course one has to add the endings. There would be nothing wrong with EASIEST, and EAR sure is in there. One just has to work it out. But no, after that, he wouldn't play with me any more.

dictionary words

The problem with pedantry is only exacerbated by SCRABBLE's Official Dictionary which tries to list all possible combinations in advance. Take the following:502

    Un-- prefix. do the opposite of; do what will reverse the act, as in undress, unlock, untie. [OE] > un-. This dictionary lists hundreds of words at the bottom of the pages on which they would occur if placed in the main list, in which un- means not. Even so, un- is a prefix freely used in forming new words, and not all the words in which it may be used can be shown here. See also -in and a- for usage notes.

I played a game with a sister who became offended when I put down UNLIMB. Seemed like a good word to me. A family has an artificial Christmas tree. The children decide to take it down a week early and have removed the branches already when the mom walks in. She tells them, "You unlimb that tree right now." To limb means to take the branches off. To unlimb means to put them back on. Seemed okay to me. But she would never play me again.

In another game with a fairly competent brother as a player, I used all seven of my letters to make FEATURE. The cross word was AWIND which troubled him but he'd said he wouldn't challenge it (when he thought my word was smaller: FEAT) and so didn't. My desk dictionary defines the prefix "a-, prefix. 1. in; on; to, as in abed," or my high school level dictionary similarly. I was using it as in Bob Dylan's song "Blowin' in the Wind," the takeoff from the movie "Forrest Gump" of the feather being awind. Or a friend of mine suggested a sailplane being awind. A perfectly good word which left him with real questions in his mind, so he called his mom after the game to have her check the Official Scrabble Dictionary.

That's the problem with the Official Scrabble Dictionary; it simply cannot list all possible combinations. But I've encountered the same problem with the NIV Bible that tries to put everything into modern terms so one can just breeze along. The prefix un is to be used freely, and the widow may freely marry anybody she chooses so long as she doesn't leave her first love, waxing wanton against Christ. The NIV limits whom she may marry. Only to someone who "belongs to the Lord." Freely, but only to certain men. Freely but only to such and such a list of words.

    It was Zaki's habit, when faced by such conflict, to consult the sage whose writings he had found most helpful when guidance was required; so he went to the synagogue and took down his favorite book, turning its pages idly until he came upon the sentence in which Maimonides discussed the passage from the Talmud which summed up his philosophy: "The Torah speaks in the language of living men." The law was given to men, not men to the law.
--James A. Michner, The Source503

Look, English was made for Englishmen/Americans, not Englishmen for English. We have a dictionary to help standardize vocabulary and spelling, and we have prefixes, suffixes, endings, etc. to help adapt the language to our need. We are not to be forced to follow some narrow list of how the ways it can be put together will all work out. The Official Scrabble Dictionary is such a list which I don't need to be held to in my English usage or in the game. Some people limit themselves to it, and more power to them. They tend to get disturbed when they have me as a player in their game. In one case my "A" word was a valid use of the prefix a in my opinion.

But the same can be said for Bible versions.

Early English specially appropriate to the translation of the Bible.504

    § 10. There is another consideration, the force of which can hardly be fully apparent except to persons familiar with philological pursuits, and especially with the Scriptural languages, and with Early English. The subjects of the Testaments, Old and New, are taken from very primitive and inartificial life. With the exception of the writings of Paul, and in a less degree Luke, there is little evidence of literary culture, or of a wide and varied range of thought, in their authors. They narrate plain facts, and they promulgate doctrines, profound indeed, but addressed less to the speculative and discursive, than to the moral and spiritual faculties; and hence, whatever may have been the capabilities of Hebrew and of classical Greek for other purposes, the vocabulary of the whole Bible is narrow in extent, and extremely simple in character. Now, in the early part of the sixteenth century, when the development of our religious dialect was completed, the English mind, and the English language, were generally in a state of culture much more analogous to that of the people and the tongues of Palestine than they have been at any other subsequent period. Two centuries later the native speech had been greatly subtilized, if not refined. Good vernacular words had been supplanted by foreign intruders, comprehensive ideas and their vocabulary had been split up into artificially discriminated thoughts, and a corresponding multitude of terms. The language in fact had become too copious, and too specific, to have any true correspondences with so simple and inartificial a diction as that of the Christian Scriptures. Had the Bible then for the first time appeared in an English dress, the translators would have been perplexed and confounded with the multitude of terms, each expressing a fragment, few the whole, of the meaning of the original words for which they must stand; and whereas, three hundred years ago, but one good translation was possible, the eighteenth century might have produced a dozen, none altogether good, but none much worse than another. We may learn from a paragraph in Trench what a different vocabulary the Bible would have displayed, if it had been first executed or thoroughly revised at that period. One commentator, he says, thought the phrase "clean escaped" a very low expression; another would reject "straightway, haply, twain, athirst, wax (in the sense of grow), lack, ensample, jeopardy, garner, passion," as obsolete; while the author of a new translation condemns as clownish, barbarous, base, hard, technical, misapplied, or new-coined, such words as beguile, boisterous, lineage, perseverance, potentate, remit, shorn, swerved, vigilant, unloose, unction, vocation, and hundreds of others now altogether approved and familiar.

If I have the King James Bible made for English speakers in a dialect that corresponds to the simple one in the original, and somebody retranslates it to a modern dialect where the words only carry part of the meaning, why, that is like the partial ending word list of the Official Scrabble Dictionary. I don't have to be bound by such a version.

That kind of inverts the intention of the Bible, to modernize it as does the NIV. It's like:

    At a showing of Judy Chicago's jointly created art work The Dinner Party, I was struck by a couple standing in front of one of the displays: The man was earnestly explaining to the woman the meaning of symbols in the tapestry before them, pointing as he spoke. I might not have noticed this unremarkable scene, except that The Dinner Party was radically feminist in conception, intended to reflect women's experiences and sensibilities.
--Deborah Tannen, "I'll Explain It to You": Lecturing and Listening505

My reader is probably sensitive enough to women's issues to realize it should be the woman explaining to the man the feminine symbols, not the other way around, but what about a complex (NIV) dialect trying to inform us, instead of the simpler (KJV) one, what the simple dialect of the ancient manuscripts reveal?

    My favorite story of removing the gobble from the gobbledygook concerns the Bureau of Standards at Washington. A New York plumber wrote the Bureau that he had found hydrochloric acid fine for cleaning drains, and was it harmless? Washington replied: "The efficacy of hydrochloric acid is indisputable, but the chlorine residue is incompatible with metallic permanence."
    The plumber wrote back that he was mighty glad the Bureau agreed with him. The Bureau replied with a note of alarm: "We cannot assume responsibility for the production of toxic and noxious residues with hydrochloric acid, and suggest that you use an alternative procedure." The plumber was happy to learn that the Bureau still agreed with him.
    Whereupon Washington exploded: "Don't use hydrochloric acid; it eats hell out of the pipes!"
--Stuart Chase, Power of Words506

How does a preacher know I even understand his sermons when he keeps quoting from the NIV? Sure, he can put a chart on the board if it gets complicated, but I still have to hurry through the pages looking up passages in a sacred dialect I understand them in.

Society Based on Organized Lovelessness507

    Our present economic, social and international arrangements are based, in large measure, upon organized lovelessness. We begin by lacking charity towards Nature, so that instead of trying to cooperate with Tao or the Logos on the inanimate and subhuman levels, we try to dominate and exploit, we waste the earth's mineral resources, ruin its soil, ravage its forests, pour our filth into its rivers and poisonous fumes into its air. From lovelessness in relation to Nature we advance to lovelessness in relation to art--a lovelessness so extreme that we have effectively killed all the fundamental or useful arts and set up various kinds of mass production by machines in their place. And of course this lovelessness in regard to art is at the same time a lovelessness in regard to human beings who have to perform the fool-proof and grace-proof tasks imposed by our mechanical art-surrogates and by the interminable paper work connected with mass production and mass distribution.

I feel that the "fool-proof and grace-proof task" of using an Official Scrabble Dictionary to check up on words is a "mechanical art-surrogate" for that used to put the word forms together oneself, just more "interminable paper work connected with mass production and mass distribution" whether it be mechanical dictionaries or modern Bibles. Now, reading the KJV and applying it to contemporary situations, there is an art.

But what about the popularity of the NIV?

    May I mention a personal experience? After the German defeat in 1918 and '19, life seemed to have gone out of the corpse of the empire. Nobody obeyed. Ten million soldiers, dismissed over night, tried to act, every one of them, for himself and they tried to work out their individual salvation. Anarchy, absence of government, signified the years usually known as the years of inflation following 1918. In trying to find a star to guide me in this night, I decided to serve, to listen. That was the thing not done, not approved of in the day's tumult. And so I forbade myself to teach, and became private secretary to a man who did not look for a private secretary, but whom I asked that he should allow me to obey and to listen. I have never felt better than when I took this step from a scholar to a servant; and serving it was, very literally. So, at least I know what I am talking about.
--Dominic A. LaRusso, The Shadows of Communication: Nonverbal Dimensions508

The King James Version was not written in the dialect of its time to be teaching in current idiom but in a consecrated dialect invented to serve the old manuscripts in their simple sacred expression. We are, or should be, familiar with it. Yes, a preacher may have a passion to teach, and yes he may have a desire to be one of the crowd, but sometimes what is best is not to go along with the crowd, and not to be a teacher, but to be a servant. Yes, preach a sermon that explains as best he can the scripture, but quote the scripture in the KJV servant rather than the NIV teacher.

I found in a church SCRABBLETM game an opponent who knows English words galore, who plays fair, but who had to rely on the NIV and can't put it together from the KJV because he isn't being properly exposed to it in church regularly.

     From the moment they are born, young language learners are
     saturated in the medium they are expected to learn. The
     older members of the culture, the language 'experts', make
     available to the new members of the society thousands upon
     thousands of examples of the medium. For most of their waking
     time infants are within hearing distance    Learners
     of others using what it is that they are    need to be
     expected to learn. Other members of the     immersed in
     community either talk at them or are        text of all
     talking around them. Before the new         kinds.
     arrivals are probably aware of what is going on around them,
     they are being exposed to the sounds, rhythms and cadences
     of what it is that they must ultimately learn. It is important
     to realize that what does saturate them, that which is
     available and in which they are immersed, is always whole,
     usually meaningful and in a context which makes sense or
     from which sense can be construed.
  1. Making Decisions about How the Programme Should be Run510
    1. Devising a global language plan
      The function of a language plan is to keep to the fore of one's thinking the conditions of learning which I've described earlier. Here is an example of one language plan that I know 'works'.
                                      Plan displayed
      This plan emphasized the immersion dimension of natural learning. In this plan, the notion of immersion permeates the whole classroom context and filters down through everything which happens. Such a plan necessitates the accumulation of books and texts of all kinds.

The point I'm trying to make is if one has a congregation of good SCRABBLETM players that knows lots of words/lots of scripture, is honest and fair in applying it, and yet doesn't know how to put word forms together/to apply ancient style and simple dialect to modern situations, then something is still lacking. I mean, if somebody is getting lost when I put a prefix on a word and wants to call his mother to look in the Official Scrabble Dictionary, or when I try to show that "only in the Lord" is an adverbial prepositional phrase, not an adjectival one, and the response is, yeah, but the New Idiots Version says, blah, blah, blah, then I am thinking something is missing. Something we might get back with a saturated immersion in the KJV in the traditional service at least.

Anyway, on the pedantry scale the NIV is too far down the line for it to be useful to me hearing it a player in sermons, and as the church should serve my needs if possible, I am expressing them in print.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

Any particular questions or requests for permissions may be addressed to me, the author.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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