How Many Points is a "Z?"

March is full of strange “holidays” and observances. I don’t know who comes up with these things, but March 9th was Panic Day (which explains the overwhelming sense of panic I must have felt that day), the 11th was Worship of Tools Day (my dad likes that one) and yesterday was National Goof-Off Day. That’s right. Some body, somewhere sanctioned my butt-on-couch approach to life and endorsed it for a whole day. God bless them. But, even greater than National Goof-Off Day is the “holiday” celebrated on March 26th: Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. I kid you not. It says so right here.

After careful deliberation, and accepting that Britney Spears does not really need her own holiday, I’ve decided that on Sunday, I will celebrate the underappreciated genius of Alfred M. Butts. Mr. Butts, as surely everybody knows, was a semi-successful architect and inventor of the board game Scrabble. Without Mr. Butts, my family would just not function and thus, I honor him.

When my Dad’s job forced us to live in the Middle East, with only one censored TV channel and a Hardees for all our entertainment needs, my siblings and I had to amuse ourselves. In desperation, we resorted to actually speaking to each other. Eventually, when it was no longer fun to explore the complexities of why my sister was a turd face, we progressed to board games. First, we tried Monopoly. That was short lived since my little brother started hiding his money down his pants to avoid paying his rent. We quickly switched to Scrabble. Scrabble amused us for literally hundreds of hours while we lived in Abu Dhabi. By the time we moved, the deluxe board we had no longer spun properly, the dictionary was graffitied with things like “Patti smells,” and a few tiles went missing (probably down my brother’s pants). While we’ve since moved back to the blessed land of cable and malls, my family still honors our history by playing Scrabble when we are all home. This allows my siblings and I to passive aggressively prove who has succeeded the most in life, via showing who could spell the best.

Over the years, we’ve developed a complex Scrabble system involving two dictionaries for challenges, who must keep score (because they don’t accidentally add incorrectly nearly as much as the rest of us), who is not allowed to play because he flips over the board when he’s losing (yes, that would be my brother again), and who is not allowed to tell us what an amazing, 800-point word she would have had if somebody else hadn’t used her spaces. My family’s version of Scrabble is just not a nice game played around a table, but a way to determine who has bragging rights for the next 3 or 4 months and who will go down in family legend for correctly spelling “xylophone” off of somebody else’s appallingly bad play.

Before our Scrabble days, my sister held the title of Best Family Speller. She’d won some spelling bee in elementary school, but my brother and I maintain we would also have won spelling bees given the right circumstances; that she had an unfair advantage (mainly, being able to take spelling in school because she wasn’t moving all the time and not being placed in British schools, thus never learning to spell “color” with a “u”). However, the ability to spell “orismology” apparently doesn’t help out in Scrabble. My sister does pretty well, but I routinely slaughter her and my the rest of the fam. I win despite my insistence that “ra” really is a word and it should darn well appear in one of those dictionaries and if it isn’t there, why can’t we check online and the house rules suck a big one if they don’t include online sources. While I always lose the “ra” debate, I still manage to kick some major hiney thanks to my masterful use of the letter “j.”

Scrabble in my family is like Christmas in most families. We look forward to it, our family stories all surround it, and my brother gets teased about it. Without the wonderful Alfred M. Butts, my existence would not be what it is today. For one thing, I wouldn’t have a brother because I would have killed him trying to get some non-icky rent money. I also wouldn’t know what a “baffy” is or that my sister lies really well about how to spell horse related terminology. So,anybody want to play?

PS-These are pretty cool… If you like Scrabble…


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