Could spell trouble? Scrabble rule change allows use of ‘OK’

Could spell trouble? Scrabble rule change allows use of ‘OK’

Hold on to your tiles: the first new Scrabble words in four years are being added to the official list of accepted words, including – heretically for some purists – the two-letter word “OK”.

New Words Added to Collins Official Scrabble Words

The new edition of Collins Official Scrabble Words adds 2,862 words to the existing 276,000, allowing players who have pored over the new list to rack up an impressive 20 points if they manage to put down “yowza”, 22 if they can fit “genderqueer” anywhere, or 12 for “fleek”.

New Two-Letter Words: “OK”, “ew”, and “ze”

OK is one of three new two-letter words added to the official list since 2007. The others are “ew” – an “expression of disgust” joining eew and eeew in the dictionary – and “ze”, defined as a gender-neutral pronoun. The dictionary is approved for all English-language play outside the US and is compiled using the language database of the Collins Corpus.

Controversy Surrounding the Inclusion of “OK”

Four-time national Scrabble champion Philip Nelkon welcomed the addition of new two-letter words, calling them the “lifeblood of high-score Scrabble, enabling us to make those high-scoring parallel plays involving many words”. However, he said that OK was a controversial choice among players, as according to the official rules, it should not be allowed due to being both capitalized and an abbreviation.

The Origin and Definition of “OK”

The OED gives its origin as the mid-19th century, and says it is probably an abbreviation of “orl korrect”, a humorous form of “all correct”, which was popularized as a slogan during President Van Buren’s re-election campaign of 1840 in the US: “his nickname Old Kinderhook (derived from his birthplace) provided the initials.” Collins language content consultant Helen Newstead said that OK is considered “a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb. No one thinks of it as an initialism anymore.”

Impact on the Game and Player Strategies

Brett Smitheram, who describes Scrabble as “adrenaline sport” and won the 2016 Scrabble World Championship with words including the 176-pointer “braconid”, meaning a parasitic wasp, said the inclusion would be “one of the most impactful changes” to the game, because it ends with “K”. Smitheram predicted that competitive players will be “swotting up” the new list of words, as it will be adopted into competitive Scrabble from July. “If they don’t know they can use ze or bingeable and their opponent does, they might miss a trick,” he said.

New Words Using Z and X

Scrabble players will find new words using Z and X, such as “dox”, “vax”, and “zen”, to be more useful in scoring points. These words will provide players with strategic opportunities to maximize their scores.

The Joy of Including “OK”

Smitheram argues that although the inclusion of “OK” has caused discussion, both strategically and lexicographically, it has become lexicalized as a term in its own right. He compares it to the word “octopi”, which is listed in the dictionary as “not the plural of octopus”. Despite its controversial status, “OK” has gained enough common usage to be deemed worthy of note.

The History of Scrabble

Scrabble was dreamed up in the 1930s by out-of-work American architect Alfred Mosher Butts, who wanted to create a word game with scoring. According to legend, he used the front page of the New York Times to make his calculations for letter distribution. Turned down by established games manufacturers, he teamed up with games entrepreneur James Brunot and together they came up with the name Scrabble. According to toy company Hasbro, they started out by stamping letters on wooden tiles one at a time, turning out 12 games an hour. By the early 1950s, Scrabble had taken off. According to Hasbro, it can be found in three of every five US homes.