Scrabbling Through the Dictionary

This is 'a massive bovid of mountainous South Asia, with a shaggy coat, short legs, and horns that point back and up.'


I thought myself fairly knowledgeable about the fauna and flora of the world, but this particular beastie had escaped my notice until I was scanning through the Scrabble dictionary. This 'antelope-goat' is a takin, and that's a useful word to know if you have a K (score, 5.)

     The Official Scrabble dictionary is a gem, and even more fun to flip through than the OED, since virtually every word in it is obscure, with strange definitions.

     I had letters to spell 'gane' and picked up the dictionary to check that this Scottish past-tense of 'gone' would be allowed. Instead I discovered that 'gane' is a variant of the word 'gangue.' which means 'the valueless material in ore.'   I would have gone a whole lifetime without knowing that, if it hadn't been for Scrabble. I bet there are people who spent all day picking the valueless bits out of ore and chucking them away, who don't know that they are gangue-chuckers.

And this is a quaich, a small drinking cup traditional to the Gaelic speaking Highlands. It uses (in the English game) a 'q' (10) and a 'c' (3) and an 'h' (4) and so would score you 20, even if you couldn't get it on a double or triple scoring square.
     Words that use 'q' are always of great interest to Scrabble players - and most of them know by heart all the words where 'Q' can be used without a 'u' - qi, qat, suq. Here are some with 'u'.


     Quonk - an unintentional noise while broadcasting.
     Quop - to pulsate.
     Quohog - an edible clam.
     Quich - to move. (Is this the origin of 'the quick and the dead?')
     Queach - a thicket.

My interest in the meaning of the words betrays me as a lesser player. The real enthusiasts have no interest in the meaning at all, something which passes all understanding as far as I'm concerned. How can you hear a strange new word and not want to know what it means?

   'J' is another letter that gets the Scrabblers' attention, because it scores 8. (In English. Its different for the Dutch.)

     I particuarly liked 'jarp' which means to break or smash -- but more exactly, means to break or smash the shell of an egg -- but more exactly still, means to break or smash the shell of an egg, especially at Easter. I do like a word with an exact definition, me. Savour it until Easter, and then jarp them eggs, jarp 'em.

     'Jirble' means to 'pour carelessly.' You can hear that booze jirbling...

     I liked 'fizgig' -- two each for the 'g's, four for the 'f' and ten for the 'z.'  It means to 'inform to the police.'

     'Dow' is 'archaic' and means 'to be of worth.' Is this word behind 'dowry' and 'dowager'? It's in 'endow' too, surely.

     'Skelf' was known to Davy without any dictionary -- he often had a skelf in his finger as a lad. It means 'splinter.' 'Skelp' means to beat.

     'Wanhope' reminded me of Jonathan Strange -- it means 'disillusion.' There she goes, her necklace studded with broken promises and regrets, and her train of finest wanhope.

     As winter heaves into view, I'll remind you that 'pogonip' means an icy winter fog.

     A word Davy taught me, but which doesn't seem to be in the Scrabble dictionary, is 'teuchter' -- pronounced something like 'ChooKter.' It means 'a big, healthy, strong but unsophisticated farm-boy.' The dictionary does offer 'quashie' -- an unsophisticated Caribbean peasant.

     My scrabble game is improving, folks. I hounded Davy so close recently that he conceded the game before the end (though he said it was only because he was tired.) Next game, he beat me by only 32 points -- and the game after that by only 16.

     I will skelp the teuchter yet.