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In playing Scrabble with friends, where can I find a dictionary that doesn't contain the ridiculous two-letter words that turn the game into a contest to see who has spent the most time reading the official Scrabble dictionary?

I'd want present-day words, but don't want words like:

ee: The sound made to say the letter 'E'

It seems that even online resources have been pandering to the hardcore Scrabble crowd.

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The Scrabble rules explicitly state the conditions for a word to be legal in the game. I guess you can add additional restrictions to what is legal, like stating a more limited word source, like a collegiate dictionary. –  Aaron Morris Dec 4 '12 at 0:08
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For what it's worth, many clubs allow beginners to play with club-printed lists of 2-letter words. Rather than trying to arbitrarily dictate that 'QI' is bogus but 'EM' is legit - and remember which is which! - why not have a copy of that list handy and allow it as an explicit resource? –  Steven Stadnicki Dec 4 '12 at 1:28
    
EE isn't the sound of "e", by the way - it's a Scottish dialect form of "eye". Plural EEN. I think you might offend a Scottish opponent if you called it "ridiculous" to their face. Then again, I do have some sympathy for people not in the United Kingdom that are faced with some of the very localised forms that are legal in our (rather vast) official wordlist... –  thesunneversets Dec 4 '12 at 9:04
    
Rather than ridiculous- you should say technical QI is religious, AA is geological or foreign words that are not commonly part of the English language like EE. Basic lazy additions to English dictionary when they exclude all sorts of other technical words including the correct names for animals and infinite numbers of chemicals. –  user2617804 Mar 18 at 8:45

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Every dictionary has words that would be considered "ridiculous" in it. You can choose to have an arbitrary subset of ridiculous words, but that doesn't really improve the situation any. Most of these are in every reasonably-sized dictionary anyway (e.g. how do you feel about ZAX?).

There are a small enough number of 2-letter words that you can ban them on an individual basis (i.e. no QI, XU, XI, or ZA), or make a whitelist (these are the only 2-letter words we're allowing). If you do this and just use the regular Scrabble dictionary for everything else, you'll substantially lessen the edge of people who study the official word list, without suffering the problems of using a small dictionary that might exclude actual words.

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Answer: A solution that doesn't change the rules of the game is to provide all players with a list of all valid two-letter words. I have tried this methodology and it works fairly well for equalizing the playing field which is part of the subtext of the question.

Explanation: One of the underlying problems of your question is the line between casual Scrabble players and those that do (or have at some point) taken it more seriously. I was a casual player up until the point where I discovered an PC version of the game that had a training mode. It grilled you on two-letter word combinations until you had them all memorized and then started grilling you on three-letter word combinations (I never memorized all of those.)

After this, my Scrabble playing was never the same, nor was it strictly much of a contest anymore when playing against "casual" players. The trick wasn't playing one ridiculous two-letter word, it was find a way to play one long word alongside another with 4 or 5 two-letter words mixed in, making use of several that you would dub ridiculous.

The reason providing the word list works well is because you are really only helping with a small subset of lesser known two-letter words. This takes the advantage away from the non-casual players and forces them to rely on their other Scrabble skills...or at least forces them to start practicing their three-letter words.

The other consideration of this method is that all players will eventually have learned the two-letter words well enough to stop providing the word list as it has done its job and helped all players be on "equal" footing again.

AA AB AD AE AG AH AI AL AM AN AR AS AT AW AX AY BA BE BI BO
BY DE DO ED EF EH EL EM EN ER ES ET EX FA GO HA HE HI HM HO
ID IF IN IS IT JO KA LA LI LO MA ME MI MM MO MU MY NA NE NO
NU OD OE OF OH OM ON OP OR OS OW OX OY PA PE PI RE SH SI SO
TA TI TO UH UM UN UP US UT WE WO XI XU YA YE YO

I have bolded most of the two-letter words that I would have not known for sure were valid prior to "studying". Feel free to do your own count to see how many words you get help from if the list were in your hands during play.

Here is a link to site that talks about allowed two and three letter words. http://phrontistery.info/scrabble3.html Here is a club list that has definitions as well http://www.yak.net/kablooey/scrabble/2letterwords.html

Also, wanted to give credit to Steven Stadnicki as this answer mirrors his suggestion.

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This is a good answer in its way, but if the question is 'How do you stop Scrabble-for-blood players having an advantage over the rest of us?', I'm not sure 'Turn everyone into Scrabble-for-blood players' is quite in the right spirit. In the games I play your bold words would not be valid, because we play with normal words not what SOWPODS has decreed. –  TimLymington Dec 9 '12 at 10:39
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I think everyone learning (or having a copy of) the two-letter word list is a far cry from "Scrabble-for-blood". It is something more akin to a knowledge equalizer (a handicap). Although the term "Scrabble-for-blood" gives me a lot of good ideas for some fun game variants. I also think as soon as you start talking "normal" you have entered into @Johno's answer (which is quite valid) because you have entered the subjective zone. There are non-subjective ways to trim down that two-letter list. –  purgatory101 Dec 10 '12 at 19:53
    
I like this solution, however in official scrabble tournaments there is usually a timer, which makes doing a lot of searching a disadvantage. –  meltdownmonk Aug 22 '13 at 19:38

Speaking as a bit of a two-letter word aficionado, I like the nonsensical colourfulness of the competitive Scrabble player's vocabulary, but given that you don't... there is absolutely nothing stopping you from using a (relatively) small and concise dictionary, of the kind that you can buy for cheap at any bookshop. These dictionaries are guaranteed not to have anything remotely off-the-wall in them, so should meet your purposes admirably.

I'm definitely against proposals such as "ban all two letter words". There's nothing intrinsically weirder about the word EE than the word MBAQANGA or QIVIUT, and I've played all of those in real Scrabble games. If you're going to ban two-letter words for being too arcane, then you'll just start having the same problems with 3-letter words that cross that line. (Why should EE be banned and not its plural, EEN?) No, just play with an ordinary concise edition of a dictionary, and if a word that's obviously fine turns out not to be in it, just don't challenge that word. If your opponent insists on abusing the challenge rule to chase off perfectly good words, then do the same back! And also start looking for someone new and more reasonable to play Scrabble with...

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I think it's more the way knowing all the specifically two letter words facilitates playing words "in parallel" and how much that amplifies your scoring, that rubs the less competitive player the wrong way, than a notion that 'EE' is more or less "absurd" than 'EEN' :) –  Affe Dec 5 '12 at 0:52
    
@Affe, that's not really the vibe I'm getting from the OP's question. He says he's "okay with present day words" but not the "ridiculous" two-letter words like sounds of letters that reward "reading the official Scrabble dictionary". If it's just the competitive advantage of knowing lots of 2-letter words that the OP has a problem with, then I'd wholeheartedly recommend making the 2-letter word list a publicly available resource during games. But as I say it didn't sound to me like that was the problem! –  thesunneversets Dec 5 '12 at 8:02

You could have a house rule that you can only play a word if you can give (a reasonable close version of) the definition. That would eliminate the problem of players who memorise the word lists, but still leaves you with a general problem that somebody with a larger vocabulary will play a word his opponent hasn't heard of. I don't think that's soluble: it's a word game, after all, and it's the reason why 'a specific dictionary' is used in the first place. It also would permit EE, since the player has just placed two -well, what would you call them if not ees?

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I spend a lot of time in Scrabble games giving fairly confident definitions of my obscure words... which turn out to be in the dictionary, but with completely different definitions! I'd get my comeuppance under your proposed house rule for sure :) –  thesunneversets Dec 5 '12 at 10:56

I like Ryan Cavanaugh's suggestion of eliminating all/most 2 letter words. The board game Upwords does something similar to this by requiring that when changing a word (upward), you must use two tiles as a minimum.

You probably should blacklist all 2-letter words, and their 3-letter plurals, or at least the high value ones.

JO, KA, KI, QI, EX, XI, XU, ZA

KAS, KIS, QIS, XIS, ZAS

Then you either choose to whitelist any of those 2-letter words that everyone know the definition of to prove they aren't archaic.

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Why is 'XI' any worse than, say, 'EM' or 'AA'? I would be willing to bet that more people know the definition of the former than either of the latter! The problem with Scrabble is that you really can't eliminate all 2-letter words because it changes the way the game plays on a fundamental level. You could play the game, but it would bear only a vague resemblance to Scrabble at that point. –  Steven Stadnicki Dec 4 '12 at 1:30
    
I think perhaps I would ban all two-letter nouns, except for pronouns. –  palswim Dec 4 '12 at 17:55
    
@palswim so you would ban MA, OX, PI, AX, ES… ? I would never play a scrabble game where any official two-letter word is banned. I agree with Steven, if any two-letter words are banned just because they are too "hardcore" you're no longer playing Scrabble. Two-letter words allow a cramped board to be opened up, tiles to be discarded without passing the turn, and big scoring parallel plays to be made. The list of official two-letter words is really not that long, if you're just starting to learn Scrabble and it's a casual game, I'd allow a cheat sheet. –  ghoppe Dec 10 '12 at 17:06
    
If you are going to exclude I think the key is excluding non-subjectively. You can trim the list down by cutting words by definition--letter words(ar, ef, el, es, ex), sound interjections(hm, mm, oi, oy, sh), greek letters (mu, nu, xi), etc. Anything less is subjective and is the same as saying you can only use words that all players know. Words like aa, ai and id have very definite meanings and are not archaic. Excluding all 2-letter words or based on point values, just feels like changing the game altogether. At that point, just take the tiles and make your own game--you might have more fun. –  purgatory101 Dec 10 '12 at 20:45
    
"excluding non-subjectively … is the same as saying you can only use words that all players know." — Hit the nail on the head. I guess that's why the whole premise of this question kind of offends me. What's the point of playing if you want to limit "hardcore" players? It would be like saying "I'll play chess, but you can't move your queen more than three spaces." –  ghoppe Dec 11 '12 at 23:02

If it doesn't cause too many fights, and you're only playing casually, you could allow/disallow words democratically.

If a player uses "QI" and the other players decide it's "ridiculous", then they must take it back. If it's a word like "QI" which normally is valid (as opposed to "SPLUX" or "DEFKASARJ" which are not valid by any metric) you could allow the player to play a different word instead.

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This is too subjective. –  The Chaz 2.0 Dec 4 '12 at 23:55
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@TheChaz Oh, it's incredibly subjective! But the OP mentioned that he's playing with friends. In lieu of a reduced word list (for which players would still need to "learn" what is and is not on it), this would be a quicker solution. That may be all that's needed for casual games. –  Johno Dec 5 '12 at 10:01

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