Here is a news update that I hope slips by unnoticed.
Keepers of the Scrabble dictionary have added 300 words.
“OK,” for instance, is at long last . . . ok. “Bizjet” shows up, a nod to corporate travelers with bankrolls big enough to count as extra luggage. “Macaron,” the fancy French cookie with a name like the country’s leader —Emmanuel Macron — is suddenly tres bon, too.
Outliers like “sheeple,” “wayback,” “twerk,” “zomboid,” “puggle” and “nubber” are also among the newly acceptable.
If it were up to me, the latter two would be kept on permanent reserve for the naming of Bassett hounds or twin boys born under a forest toadstool. Stop playing with the frogs and wombats, Puggle and Nubber, and come back to the enchanted cottage for dinner. Now!
Summoning particular good cheer in this holiday season is addition of the word “qapik” — the currency of Azerbaijan — which may enable the player stuck with a “q” but no “u” to mount a late-game rally that exasperates his Christmas Eve opponent to the extent she does not recover until January or beyond.
Why be coy?
I mention “the player” and his opponent — “she” — because that would be me and my elder daughter, who we will call only K.
K. as in Kombat.
Listen, like most parents, I lean toward mercifulness when it comes to my children.
I opposed corporal punishment when the four were tykes — oh, all right, a gentle disciplinary pinch might have been occasionally inflicted — and did not favor dunce caps or dark closets.
So far as I can recall, I screamed only once when, as a teenager, our youngest, a boy, customized several parked vehicles with our family Honda Civic twice on the same snowy evening. Showing enormous restraint, I did not banish him to the basement or boarding school in Grenada.
All things considered, then, I am indulgent. At Scrabble, I draw the line.
K. and I have been playing a smartphone version of Scrabble — our choice is Words with Friends — for several years.
We compete in sets of 20 games. The contests are hard fought. She plays “zap,” I play, “shah.” She tries “toques.” I spell “etude.” She: “nave.” Me: “pagan.” K. floats “ceded.” I’m back with “axel.” Recently, I high-fived myself after “tsunami” only to be humbled by K.’s obscure but cleverly placed and higher scoring “dentin.”
Hard-fought, yes, as I say, but, sadly, for me, to no avail. In all our 20-game series, I have won not once. I come close, yes I do. Final tallies put me within striking distance (20-17, 20-18, etc.) but I cannot close the deal.
Worse, K., a lovely person, no question, but with a pronounced competitive spirit, appears to consider her father not sufficiently vanquished.
“I can’t believe I’m losing to you,” she once said after I staged a magnificent final surge to snatch a single game victory.
“Can’t believe?” Really? Why the surprise?
Am I not the father who worked since around the time of Gutenberg as a newspaper reporter, toiling daily at what some wry practitioners call the “paragraph factory”? Words ‘r’ Us, for better or worse. Where is the respect?
My hunch is that K., a mental health professional, was more indulging in psy-ops than any attempt to dismiss me as Zen master. Outwardly civilized and contemplative, Scrabble is not for the meek. Into battle go the bold and brave.
Even my mother, Winnie, everyone’s sweetheart, was a tough customer when tiles tumbled from the pouch.
In Brooklyn, we would sit across from one another, the board on a kind of turntable.
Mom never went beyond high school but was a serious reader with vocabulary to match. Contests were respectful but no-nonsense affairs.
“C’mon,” ordered Mom when the last grain in our little sand timer ran out. “Make a move.”
Or: “Xyruk is not a word. We’ve discussed this before. Lose your turn.”
And: “My, my. Look at that. Triple letter and triple word. Write me down for 66.”
Turn after turn. Hours on end. Mostly, I lost.
Our four kids loved their Granny, and K. has plenty of her genes — in life and in Scrabble. I hope I have a few, too.
That’s why I’ve made up my mind. Mom was generous, kind and selfless — but all business at the Scrabble board. Those 300 new words? “Bokeh,” “botnet,” “facepalm,” “hivemind”? I’m studying hard but keeping quiet: K. is on her own.