Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Elaine Parker
What better way to while away a cold, snowy Maine Sunday than a challenging game of Scrabble? My aunt introduced me to this game when I was 14 years old, and as I had already developed a fascination with the English language, it became my favorite pastime. It was perfect for a lover of words.
This game was invented in 1931 by Alfred Butts, an out-of-work architect. By 1953 it had become so popular that the company that manufactured it could not keep up with the demand. Everyone wanted a set. For three years, orders for the game had to be allocated so that customers received their fair share.
Throughout my life I have always played this game with anyone I could persuade to join me in a match. Many years ago, my sister-in-law and I began a routine of playing on Sunday afternoons.
Having a Scrabble game on my computer, I honed my skills and learned new words, strategies and techniques. For a while I held the house championship. My sister-in-law would come in the door singing "Born to Lose," but she soon caught on to my tricks and became a worthy opponent. If I am too many points ahead, she will petulantly declare that she is going home. We have a friendly, if somewhat intense, rivalry.
We strive for seven-letter words and the extra 50 points they bring. When she gets a seven-letter word I pretend to be happy for her, but secretly I wish it were me. "Jealous" -- that's a seven-letter word. How many points can I get for that?
We memorize the two-letter words such as "qi," "za" and "jo" and try to get them on the red triple-letter scores so we can maximize our points. Having learned the words that begin with the letter "q" and do not need a "u" -- such as "qat," "qaid," "qadi" and "qanat" -- we use them to our advantage. Thank goodness we are not required to know the definition of the words we put into play.
By the time we start playing our third game, we need some sustenance. After all, we have been straining our brains. I put on the kettle for steaming cups of tea, and for this occasion all thoughts of a healthy diet are forgotten. We feast on cream rolls, frosted brownies or chocolate mousse pie.
Refreshed with our gourmet goodies, we finish up our last game with some new words in our vocabulary. For people who love words, what better way to spend the day than this classic game?
We part as friends looking forward to our next session, but I must admit that I am a sore loser on those Sunday afternoons.
Elaine Parker is a resident of South Portland.