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What’s in a proper noun?

Amid all the political and other chaos in South Africa last week, we missed a potentially very important story: and that involved the planned changes to Scrabble.

The producers of this popular board game announced that they intend to introduce a rule that would allow the use of proper nouns, something that has never happened before in the history of Scrabble.

They recanted afterwards and said that they would continue to produce the game with the old rules, but the new game was meant to introduce new players to the game.

For old-fashioned Scrabble players like me, this new rule appears disastrous and could potentially dumb down a game which we take very seriously. For years, we have played the game without proper nouns and so you could not sneak in “Bob” or “Peter”, “Paul” or, to get a really good triple word score, “Xavier”.

But now, with the planned changes to the rules, you would be able to use “Beyonce”, “Rihanna”, “Whitney” or, God forbid, “Snoop”.
At least you still won’t be able to use “Lady Gaga”, “Michael Jackson” or “Black Eyed Peas” because, as far as I understand, they are still not allowing you to use two or three words at a time. Maybe that will be the next rule change.

Playing Scrabble with proper nouns would be like playing T20 cricket. It’s fun and exciting but it’s just not the real thing.

So why am I writing about something as trivial as Scrabble when, for all intents and purposes, South Africa is busy exploding or imploding with a right-wing renaissance and Julius Malema finally appearing to be going off his rocker completely?

The reason is quite simply: to show that we are not going to the dogs as a society, despite the negative news that has been circulating over the past week and a bit. For most South Africans life goes on and we continue to worry about the important things in life, like births, weddings, deaths and, of course for some of us, Scrabble.

Now if only I can find a way of making sure that I can crack a good triple word score whenever I get an “X” or a “Z” and also find a way of beating my 16-year-old daughter, then I’ll be happy. Despite whatever Mr Malema might be saying about our country. I wonder what is the maximum score I could get for spelling “Julius”.