How New Words Get Added to the Scrabble Dictionaries (Yes, Dictionaries, Plural)

Thanks to Peter Sokolowski from Merriam-Webster, I was able to attend and record interviews with some of the world’s most knowledgable and accomplished Scrabble players. We talked about a controversy about which dictionary to use for official scrabble play, some interesting new words that were recently added to the official word lists, and how to set up a Scrabble club in your school and have your kids compete in the national school Scrabble championship.

Mignon Fogarty
Episode #477

How to Start Your Own School Scrabble Club

Fogarty: Finally, because it’s the beginning of the school year, I’m going to end today with how you can set up a Scrabble club at your school and get your kids competing. After spending all day at the Scrabble competition, I started wondering why schools don’t have Scrabble clubs. They have chess clubs. Why not Scrabble? Well, it turns out they do, there are just a lot fewer of them, but Chew, not surprisingly, sings their praises. 

Chew: You go into any classroom and there will be a few kids, who if they were playing Scrabble on a regular basis would be much happier kids with much higher self esteem, and I’ve had many times the delightful experience of teaching a bunch of kids Scrabble and watching an 8-year-old kid realizing for the first time in his life that he’s better than his classmates at something, and then people look up to him.

Fogarty: To have a club, you need to enlist a teacher.

Chew: The best approach I’ve found is to go to your teacher and tell them that you’d be willing to help them run a school scrabble club—that’s what I do—and then you get them hooked, and then they’ll want to help you with it. There are resources available online that help teachers justify the educational benefits of school Scrabble, and you can order a school Scrabble kit from Hasbro that has a bunch of boards and so on.

Fogarty: And for kids in grades four through eight, they can compete in their own national Scrabble championship.

Chew: The key event annually for school Scrabble is a national North American championship that will take place somewhere on the east coast in April or May of each year, and it’s timed so that teachers can run a school Scrabble club over the course of their school year and then toward the end of the the school year take their best students to compete and see how they do at the national level. If you’re a parent and you have school-aged children, especially those who are eligible for school Scrabble—grades 4 to 8—then talk to your teacher.

Fogarty: I still have tons of interesting tidbits about some of the the odd ways the masters memorize so many words, why there are more people who compete in English Scrabble in Thailand than in the US, Canada, or Britain; what is the deal with people who play Scrabble in languages they don’t even speak—and win championships—how it’s surprisingly easy for you, yes you, to compete in the National Scrabble Championships, and some strategy tips to at least help you beat your friends, but this week, I’m out of time. This kind of episode takes three to four times longer to produce than a regular show, so I expect I will have Scrabble Part 2 ready the week after next.

Thanks again to Peter Sokolowski, John Chew, Jim Pate, and Stefan Fatsis for letting me visit their world and for taking time away from their duties at the championships to talk with me. I was in heaven.

I’m Mignon Fogarty, and you can find me on Twitter and Facebook as Grammar Girl. That’s all. Thanks for listening.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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