Friday, May 23, 2014

The New Scrabble Word (or how a snarky Facebook comment got me 15 minutes of fame)

I usually try to keep things positive and light-hearted on Facebook.  No heavy drama, no put-downs, and definitely no arguments. But once in a while something sets me off, and I have to respond. Such was the case when the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page announced a “Face off” for fans to choose a new word to be added to the official Scrabble Players dictionary, which is the ultimate authority on allowable words in Scrabble.

They had narrowed it down to 16 words, and the fans would vote off until there was only one word left.  There were some interesting words on the list, but most avid Scrabble players agreed that the contest would end up as a face-off between the words EW and ZEN.  These are two words that Scrabble players want to use all the time.  Two-letter words like EW are priceless for connecting two words.  And ZEN is a great way to use that Z.  I was cheering for EW.

But something strange was happening.  The word GEOCACHE kept winning the face-offs.  When it won against BITCOIN, I wasn’t too surprised, but when it won against COSPLAY, I was confused.  COSPLAY would be a great word to use in Scrabble because it has an S that can join on to many other words, and because it has 6 letters.  GEOCACHE? No Scrabble player would vote for an 8-letter word with two C’s.  When would we ever use such a word?

Then GEOCACHE went up against EW.  Surely EW would win.  It was a much more logical choice.  But when people started furiously voting for GEOCACHE, I grew suspicious.  So I did a little sleuthing, and I discovered a message on the forum urging people to visit the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page and vote for geocache to win the contest.  It turns out there were Twitter messages on it too.

I was livid.  Here Scrabble fans had an opportunity to choose a new word for the official dictionary, and this opportunity was being hijacked by some geocachers who just wanted to spread awareness of their hobby.
Now I’ve done geocaching, and I agree that it’s a great hobby. I’m all for spreading the word about great activities or things you love.  But it’s not acceptable to spread the word about your hobby by messing things up for another hobby that people love.

So I went against my “no drama” policy and started complaining. I posted the link to the forum post and requested that they disqualify the word GEOCACHE. I went onto the geocaching forum and pleaded with cachers to “stop spamming the contest.”

But GEOCACHE won that round and went up against ZEN for the final.  The final?  Seriously?  How could such a ridiculous word win the contest?  It became obvious that people were voting for GEOCACHE just to get out the word about their hobby.  But they tried to give reasons for voting for the word, such as “Think of all the words you can add to it.”  I responded with comments like, “I don’t think you actually play Scrabble.”

But GEOCACHE won the contest.  The Facebook page announced it by saying. “You voted for it. Don't blame us if your opponent beats you with it.” I responded with: “Too bad that this contest was taken over by people with an agenda other than playing Scrabble. Hopefully there will be other revisions that make more sense.”

And then it happened:  I got Facebook hate comments: “That is the stupidest comment I read on here,” and “Are you really that naive to think that people have never asked people to vote a certain way before? If so, step away from the Scrabble board and go see the real world.”

At first I was upset.  I want everyone to like me.  And here were people—albeit total strangers who didn’t have a clue—who were calling me stupid and na├»ve and saying I wasn’t aware of the real world.  But after a bit, I was amused.  Anyone who knows me realizes that those comments are far off from reality. And there is a sort of badge of honor to getting an insult on Facebook.

But it was my last comment that got me my fame: “And no opponent is going to beat me with it because I can probably count on one hand the times someone played an 8-letter word. Most bingos are 7-letter words that are connected to other words with an S or by a two-letter joiner (such as EW).”
I was looking for news articles about the new word (Yep, I was a bit obsessed) and came across this article on the Time magazine page.  And there it was:
In fact, some might say it will be easier to find “caches” than to find a place to put down “geocache” on the Scrabble board because it’s an eight-letter word. On the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page, players are complaining in the comments section, arguing “Most bingos are 7-letter words that are connected to other words with an S or by a two-letter joiner (such as EW)” and “When will we ever need to use that one- always try to use ZEN and EW- many more opportunities for that to happen.”
Ha – I was quoted in Time magazine, but they didn’t even use my name.

And in case you’re wondering, my ire has died down.  (Yes, I have played IRE in Scrabble.) I realized that this contest was not really about adding a word, but about getting publicity for Scrabble, for the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page, and—in the end—for geocaching.  And it achieved that purpose.  Also, what most people don’t realize is that many, many more words will be added to the new edition of the official Scrabble dictionary, scheduled to be published this fall.  I’m hoping those responsible for the decisions will do the right thing and add EW and ZEN.