Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Playing with Dirty Dogs

I love word games. Love them so much, in fact, that no one will play with me anymore. Some nonesense about me being too competitive. The only person who relished challenging me in Scrabble was Nana Anna. She always accused me of being a "dirty dog" for nefarious acts like dropping down a triple word score with an X and Z in a spot she'd been planning to use.

She also had a charming habit of inventing words. You could never tell when she was bluffing either, because she would sometimes read the dictionary for the sole purpose of mentally stockpiling words to use in Scrabble. It is because of Nana that I know the word "qua". Nana and I had great fun playing against each other, even (or maybe especially) when accusing each other of bottling up the board or moaning about lousy letters.

Nana didn't mind that I was competitive. I think that was part of the draw for her, she enjoyed the challenge of being the underdog up against the dirty dog who always won. We played a few weeks before she died and I had to work at losing the game. I let all sort of borderline words slide through and played lower scoring words than I ordinarily would have. She thumped me by a sound 20 or 30 points and if she suspected I threw the game, she never said anything.

After Nana died, there was a Scrabble-shaped hole in my life. I even joined a Scrabble club at Sallynoggin library, but then I got a full-time job and was unable to attend meetings. I filled the word game void with the puzzles in the back of Pick Me Up magazine and didn't realise how much I missed interactive games until this week when I started playing Scrabulous on Facebook with Laurie and Babaloo. To further feed my word game addiction, Babaloo also introduced me to Scramble, which is Facebook's answer to Boggle. (Geez, let me tell you that Babaloo is a more than worthy Scramble opponent. Now I know how Nana felt!)

Due to this new word game outlet in my life, I've been craving even more word games. Especially when I'm away from the computer. I decided to buy a game for my phone - Wordox. It's sort of like Scrabble in that there's a tiled board and you have six randomly drawn letters. But unlike Scrabble, every letter is worth only one point and you can "steal" points and letters from your opponent. So if "cheer" is on the board, I could put down "ful" at the end of it and get 8 points while my opponent would have 3 points deducted.

A great premise and it even has a multi-player option. The problem is that in the single-player mode. the computer/phone player uses its own internal dictionary, which contains some words that are patently and egergiously not English, like koria, inia, etwee, and kevil.

Then it refuses to accept some perfectly valid words, insisting that they are not in the Wordox dictionary. Words like bit, pine, and lede. For a while, I thought that perhaps the programmers of the dictionary had some moral concerns, since the words queer, tart, and sex were disallowed. But then the dictionary accepts titi and mojo, so I don't think it's down to morality.

I wondered how it would deal with foreign language words and the answer is haphazardly. Fait doesn't get through, but lido does. Pere and weng were rejected, but beau and yeti are A-OK.

I've been looking up some of these bizarre words and it seems that they are either in the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary (which means they exist, but I'd have to pay for their definitions) or they are in the regular dictionary but are not very common. These words might be variants of common words (swob instead of swab), are Latin words, or are little known words like indri.

I wouldn't be so peeved except that when a word is rejected, you lose the points. It's a special kind of annoying to lose a game you should have won because your opponent refuses to accept that pine is a word but then wins with something like etwee. I know what Nana would say to the phone player: "You're a dirty dog!"


At 14 May 2008 at 18:49, Blogger Aoj & The Lurchers said...

We used to play a lot of word games but I jsut don't have the patience these days. Our scrabble set consists of two sets put together and a game could last up to a week!

But Facebook has Boggle!!?? That could just be enough to make me start using it again. Himself's family love Boggle but won't let me play with them because I always trounce them. Spoilsports!

At 14 May 2008 at 22:31, Blogger Babaloo said...

What the heck is etwee? I know etui... is this the same? *running off to check the dictionary*
I think we both have a bit of a competitive streak. Looking forward to our next game! :-D

At 15 May 2008 at 08:47, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

I'm still in shock over the Pick Me Up magazine reference. Just messing right?

At 15 May 2008 at 12:50, Blogger laurie said...

you and babaloo could have warned me how damn good you both are before you sucked me in.....

here i thought you were just two amiable women in rural ireland who wanted to play a few games on the Interweb. next thing i know i'm pummeled into a ball and rolled across a field (theoretically, of course) by a blisteringly verbal and competititve camogie player...

babaloo, meanwhile, has humiliated me repeatedly in scramble.

but i persevere! i am not giving up! i challenge thee again! (Ouch!!!)

At 15 May 2008 at 18:31, Blogger -Ann said...

AOJ - If you do decide to go back to Facebook, I'm always up for a Scramble match.

Babaloo - Heck if I know. Hey, I've been meaning to ask, do you do crossword puzzles? You know the weirdest words.

PS - Sadly, no. It all started in 1995 when we lived in a bedsit and I had to do our laundry in a laundromat. They had Pick Me Up issues laying around and I got hooked in by the puzzles. I always insist to Peter that I only buy it for the puzzles, and he always says "Yeah, and people only buy Playboy for the articles."

Laurie - You're kicking both our butts at Scrabulous, so that's got to be some comfort.

At 16 May 2008 at 14:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a great post Ann! I remember imply that maybe you were cheating somehow when talking to Nana about Scrabble. This, of course, infuriated you! It didn't seem to surprise Nana because you were after all, a dirty dog.

- Shane

At 18 May 2008 at 04:39, Blogger -Ann said...

Shane - I was neither a cheater nor a dirty dog!


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