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There are a number of different 'official' Scrabble dictionaries, but at least for this question I'm primarily interested in North American play, and so I'm interested in two word lists particularly: OWL2, the official tournament word list; and OSPD4, the 'Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary', which is used for school play and is the dictionary you can find in your favorite bookstore. The difference between the two is that OWL2 includes a number of offensive words that aren't in the OSPD (you can find a good list of the differences here).

My question is, what's the effect of the larger word list in practice? Scanning through the list I can only see two words that seem likely to get any substantial amount of play: LEZ (just as a short Z word - although note that LE isn't a legal two-letter word, so this doesn't provide a hook) and YID (which is a hook onto ID for playing a Y). I'm curious whether this has been formally studied at all, and if anyone has any pointers as to how often these words actually come up in practice in tournaments.

  • I'm not sure how common it is, but I do know good etiquette suggests you always play GINGER regardless of how many points you might get otherwise. – user17613 Jun 27 '16 at 5:19
  • @LegoStormtroopr what if the other person has red hair ... or has both dark skin and red hair? – Andrew Grimm Dec 23 '16 at 12:33
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Short answer: HO is used rather often. LEZ, ABO, GOY are the next most common.

Methodology: I have a database of about a million games played on a popular internet Scrabble server played under the standard Tournament Word List. I scanned this for all uses of offensive words. Roughly 360,000 of the 27,000,000 moves used a word from the expurgated list, or 1.3% of moves.

This table lists the top most-used expurgated words, sorted by the number of times they were played. The rating here is the average rating of the player when the word was used. All the words on this table represent 90% of the uses of offensive words in "average" play among enthusiast Scrabble players.

Word  |   Uses   | AvgRating|    % all 
  HO  |  148182  |     910  |   41.01%
 LEZ  |   26387  |     947  |    7.30%
 ABO  |   25423  |    1043  |    7.04%
 GOY  |   22458  |     936  |    6.22%
 YID  |   16771  |     984  |    4.64%
 PEE  |   14862  |     906  |    4.11%
 JEW  |   12065  |     926  |    3.34%
 WOP  |   11739  |     999  |    3.25%
 WOG  |   10105  |     975  |    2.80%
 POO  |    7257  |     947  |    2.01%
FART  |    5532  |     870  |    1.53%
 POM  |    5075  |     955  |    1.40%
JEWS  |    4211  |     910  |    1.17%
 HOS  |    3482  |     918  |    0.96%
SHIT  |    3200  |     876  |    0.89%
TURD  |    3018  |     943  |    0.84%
DAGO  |    2900  |    1032  |    0.80%

HO is obviously strongly represented by virtue of being a two-letter word; appearing in 41% of the 1.3% of offensive moves means it's played in about 1 in 5 games. You can see some vocabulary effects in the data -- ABO is not natively in many people's vocabulary (this is mostly an Australian thing to my knowledge), whereas FART certainly is.

Other trivia about uses of these expurgated words:

  • The next word on this list starts with C and you can probably guess what it is
  • The first seven-letter word is FARTING (169 uses)
  • 240 of the 324 expurgated words were used
  • The word NITCHIE was played 7 times, but only ever by people rated above 1450 (strong player)
  • No word longer than 8 letters long was played
  • 6
    Why do you list jew as derogatory on your list? – atk Aug 30 '14 at 1:46
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    @atk: When not capitalized (and thus allowable in Scrabble), "jew" means "to attempt to gain an unfair price in a business deal." – jwodder Aug 30 '14 at 2:25
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    I've never heard the term as a verb... thank's for clarifying. – atk Aug 30 '14 at 3:42
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    Note this is the official list derived from subtracting the school wordlist from the tournament wordlist. My personal opinion on the offensiveness of FART, for example, is beside the point :) – Ryan Cavanaugh Aug 30 '14 at 21:20
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    However I wouldn't say "goy" is offensive or derogatory. The more offensive term for non-Jew in our language is "akum". "shiksa" is even more offensive. – CashCow Oct 23 '14 at 8:56

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