Posts Tagged ‘Scrabble’
“Taxonomy is described sometimes as a science and sometimes as an art, but really it’s a battleground”*…
Taxonomy, the art and science of classifying life, really should be a civilized pursuit. It encourages solitude, concentration, care. It rewards a meticulous attention to detail. And while it might occasionally receive some good-natured ribbing from the popular culture—think of all those butterfly collectors stumbling around in Far Side cartoons—it continues to play a vital role at the foundations of modern biology.
It can come as a bit of a surprise, then, when that veneer of civilization cracks, and the field reveals itself to be one of the more contentious arenas in science, a place where arguments over names and classifications rage through the literature for decades. This is both a strength, as challenges to current classification keep the field dynamic and relevant, and an expression of its hardwired vulnerabilities…
* Bill Bryson,
As we contemplate classification, we might send carefully-spelled birthday greetings to Alfred Mosher Butts; he was born on this date in 1899. An architect, artist, photographer, and inventor, Butts found himself at loose ends in the early 1930s, and set out to design a board game, settling on one that utilized both chance and skill by combining elements of anagrams and crossword puzzles. He carefully analyzed how often each letter is used (thus determining how many of each letter to include and how many points each one would earn), then drew a board and glued letters on some balsa tiles. He first called his creation “Lexiko”, but later changed the name to “Criss Cross Words.” In 1948, he sold his game to James Brunot, who made a few minor adjustments to the design and renamed the game “Scrabble.” Today it is sold in 121 countries and is available in 29 languages; approximately 150 million sets have been sold worldwide. Roughly one-third of American and half of British homes have a Scrabble set, and there are over 4,000 Scrabble clubs worldwide.
A few times each decade, the number of acceptable Scrabble words grows. Some sixty-five hundred new words—“lolz,” “shizzle,” and “blech” among them—will officially enter one of the two major competitive Scrabble lexicons on September 1st of this year. The grumbling that results when a word list lengthens is not so much about the inclusion of obscene or offensive words—though a cleaned-up list was controversially published in 1996, after someone protested the inclusion of “jew” as a verb. Instead, it is more about the growing divide between two Scrabble communities: North America and everywhere else…
The history of everyone’s favorite word game– and an explanation of the controversy roiling it today– at “The battle over Scrabble’s dictionaries.”
* Steve Martin
As we reach for a triple-letter double-word combo, we might recall that, while February 23rd, 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, the first evidence-based date is this date in 1456: the copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France contains a note from the binder establishing the time of its publication.
(The Jikji— the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377. Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)
The values of the letters in Scrabble were assigned according to the front page of a US newspaper in the 1930s. Is it time the scoring system was updated to reflect today’s usage?
All Scrabble players know that Q and Z are the highest scoring tiles. You can get 10 points for each, in the English language version of the game.
But according to one American researcher, Z really only deserves six points.
And it’s not just Z that’s under fire. After 75 years of Scrabble, some argue that the current tile values are out of date as certain letters have become more common than they used to be…
Read the full, unsettling story at the BBC.
As we reshuffle our tiles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that a nine-member gang stole $1,218,211.19 in cash, and over $1.5-million in checks, money orders and other securities from the Brinks Building in Boston. The largest robbery in the history of United States (at the time), it was quickly known as “the crime of the century”– and as “The Great Brinks Robbery.” The crew was meticulous, and left almost no clues at the scene; their ingenious plan was to sit on their spoils for six years – time enough for the statute of limitations to expire. In the end, all nine were arrested– but most of the money was never recovered.
Recently uncovered evidence suggests that William Shakespeare used marijuana, and now a team of paleontologists want to dig him up to prove it.
Francis Thackeray, an anthropologist and director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has made a formal request to the Church of England to unearth the playwright. “We have incredible techniques,” Thackeray told Fox News. “We don’t intend to move the remains at all.”
After determining the identity of the remains, Thackeray’s team hopes to find out more about Shakespeare’s life and even the cause of his death. “Growth increments in the teeth will reveal if he went through periods of stress or illness — a plague for example, which killed many people in the 1600s,” he said.
Further tests should be able to ascertain if the Bard smoked marijuana. “If we find grooves between the canine and the incisor, that will tell us if he was chewing on a pipe as well as smoking,” Thackeray explained.
Pipes uncovered in the garden of Shakespeare’s home in 2001 showed evidence of cannabis and cocaine. “There were very low concentrations of cannabis, but the signature was there,” according to Inspector Tommy van der Merwe, who tested the pipes at South Africa’s Forensic Science Laboratory.
The evidence of cocaine was also very strong. “The pipes we tested still had dirt in them which preserved the residues inside the stem and bowl,” Van der Merwe said. “The readings we got were the same as if it had tested a modern-day crack pipe.”
Camphor, myristic acid, and quinoline were among other substances detected in the pipes. “Myristic acid, which is found in nutmeg, has hallucinogenic properties, and camphor, perhaps, was used to hide the smell of tobacco or other substances,” Thackeray noted in 2001.
Sonnet 76 of Shakespeare’s poems contains a reference to the “noted weed.”
Via The Raw Story.
As we wonder if perhaps it was actually Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford who did the dope, we might recall that it was on this date in 1971 that the first ever National Scrabble Championship was held, when Gyles Brandreth had brought together 100 players in London. Despite this slow start (Scrabble was created by Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938), national tournaments sprang up in other countries over the next several years; and a World Championship was established in 1991.
Gyles Brandreth (source)
If, as Dr. Johnson suggested, “Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language,” Wordnik is a veritable Santa’s sack… One can watch the language evolve before one’s very eyes:
As we mind our p’s and q’s, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1993– a bad day for word games–that both of the broadcast series “Scattergories” and “Scrabble” aired for the last time on NBC, effectively marking the end of the brief vogue for adapting popular board games into television quiz shows (the trend before and after being in the other direction: television to board)…
Your correspondent is turning to some family business for the next few days, a period during which these missives will likely be more roughly than daily. Apologies.