What next, Txtspk Scrabble?If chess loses its pawns and Monopoly turns into Housing Association, I know just who to blame
Ariane Sherine guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 April 2010 17.29 BST Article history
Mattel is issuing new rules for Scrabble, allowing proper nouns to be played. Photograph: paulasfotos/Alamy
Fancy some Frosties with your Scrabble? Now you can spill them all over the board, thanks to Mattel's perverse ruling that proper nouns are no longer disallowed. That's right: Sugababes, Toyota and Clearasil could soon be coming to a Scrabble board near you, if you're the kind of deviant who embraces expedient marketing decisions. Throw out the dictionary! Replace it with Heat magazine! Why confine yourself to the mere 171,476 words in the OED?
"We believe that people who are already fans of the game will enjoy the changes," fibbed a Mattel spokesperson, fully aware of the wrath and welcome publicity that would ensue. "They will also enable younger players and families to get involved." Are these demographics allergic to uncapitalised words? Are they so in thrall to brands that they need to incorporate them into every second of their leisure time?
But why stop at proper nouns? Surely foreign words should no longer be verboten? If new Scrabble better accommodates the young, just imagine how Euro Scrabble could improve relations avec nos continental neighbours. Txtspk Scrabble would be next, in all languages including Esperanto, swiftly followed by Creative Scrabble, where you make up your own words. Dissent will not be tolerated: innovation can only advance our development, never hinder it. Those of us who claim to prefer the lexical beauty and simplicity of classic Scrabble clearly fear change, and are standing stubbornly in the way of progress.
Picture the feverish scenes in boardrooms across the land as other board games follow suit. A chess spokesperson will state chirpily: "We've decided to do away with pawns. Frankly, they were always getting in the way, and now young people and families can get stuck into the action faster." A backgammon representative will enthuse: "Backgammon now has fluffy circular prongs, as the old spikes tested badly with young focus groups, which felt they were 'aggressive'." Lefties can play Housing Association instead of Monopoly.
Mattel has truly opened Pandora's box and broken the catch. Still, there's a grain of solace left for the millions who will wonder if this is a late April fool, as Mattel conceded: "Obviously some people will want to continue playing the old rules, so we will still be selling a board with the original rules." This will come as a relief to logophiles everywhere: we may scrabble for points, but we will never Scrabble™.