Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
It began as an ordinary game of Scrabble-. It always starts out that way. The scenario is seemingly simple: letters on wooden tiles, a cardboard game area with colored squares (some better than others) and last Ð but not least Ð the people you are out to beat.
You learn a lot about someone after a game of Scrabble Ð sometimes more than you want to know. You learn about vocabulary, psyche, competitive spirit, luck, creativity and who was listening in school when the teacher taught important facts such as I before E except after C. You learn who is good at placing big-point letters like J, Q and X in the double and triple-score boxes.
We played Scrabble today Ð the four of us Ð my husband and I, along with two of our sons.
The 8-year-old started us out with the word A. You read that right. He started with a one-letter word. Plain old A qualifies as a word because it's an entry in the dictionary, which makes it legitimate, albeit simple.
Sometimes in Scrabble Ð as in life Ð simple is best.
We took turns in succession, forming words like DEAL, DAD, DOLE and DUEL. My older son placed his tiles to make VOYAGE and took the lead with a double-letter score on the Y.
After much face scrunching and rearranging of letters, the 8-year-old got excited. "When's my turn?" he asked.
"After dad," we answered.
He fidgeted in his chair. We told him to be still. The wiggling continued.
"I've got a good word," he said, sitting up on his knees and leaning far over the Scrabble board, clearly in danger of knocking over his milk (which happened later, but not too much). It was obvious he couldn't contain himself.
No one asked him what his word was.
"It's HUTLUPY," (pronounced huddle-uppy) he said long before it was his turn.
My husband grimaced. Our older son smiled. I laughed.
"Hutlupy?" we all spoke the word like a question.
"You know," he said, "When you play football and you get together and hutlupy."
At that, we gave the Scrabble equivalent to an NFL out-of-bounds call.
"Hutlupy's not a word," we said."It's not in the dictionary."
He frowned. Our game continued.
A few turns later, the 8-year-old came up with GAIAROO (pronounced gay-a-roo). "You know," he said as if explanation were necessary. "A gang of baby kangaroos."
Without any expletives (which wouldn't be polite, not to mention politically correct, in a game involving an 8-year-old) we gave him Scrabble's verbal equivalent to strike three.
"That's not in the dictionary," we said.
"Should be," he said, returning to his tiles.
The game was drawing to a close. I placed WRITER, which I thought rather clever, given my vocation and all. Scrabble doesn't allow bonus points for cleverness, so I had to be satisfied with 24. At least it put me in first place.
My husband studied his tiles and placed just three to form QUIZ. It was a simple offering, which included at triple-word score. With this 60-plus point play, my husband took the lead. Sometimes in Scrabble Ð as in life Ð simple is best.
The 8-year-old had one more turn. He was smiling Ð for a moment. "I only needed one more B and I could've made BOOGER," he said. Before any of us could speak, he continued. "And I know it's in the dictionary, because booger is for sure a real word!"
I didn't say anything at the time, because I didn't have the heart to disagree with him again. I looked it up later. It took three dictionaries, but I finally found my booger in Webster's Collegiate Ð right between boodle and boogie-man. Must have been a fairly new addition.
Today we played Scrabble. I lost the game but won something better. I learned some of the best words haven't been invented yet. As an admirer of our language, that was a sweet tidbit of information Ð delivered courtesy of MYSMYFRYBOY (pronounced my-smy-fry-boy) and defined as "my youngest son."
(If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.)
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" at booklocker.com. She also offers writing and design services at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com. Check Slices of Life out on Facebook.