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Weekend Word Wrap: SCRABBLE

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I turned on the TV the other day and they were showing Rosemary's Baby. It was right at that part where the Scrabble letters help a very young and beauteous Mia Farrow figure out what's going on in that OTHER apartment in the Dakota. It got me wondering: who the heck invented Scrabble, anyway?

Turns out, had the Great Depression never happened, the board game we love so much (1 out of every 3 homes in America owns it) might never have been invented.

In the early 1930s, unemployed architect, Alfred Mosher Butts from Poughkeepsie, New York, decided he'd invent a board game. (Perhaps he was bored being out of work?)

amb.jpegButts studied crossword puzzles, which were popular at the time, and games like Anagrams, but(ts) got his best idea when he took a detailed survey from the front page of The New York Times. By tallying up the frequency with which each letter appeared, he was able to determine how many As, Bs, Cs, and so on, he'd include in the game.

Scrabble-assoc.com says:

Established game manufacturers were unanimous in rejecting Butts' invention for commercial development. Then Butts met James Brunot, a game-loving entrepreneur who became enamored of the concept. Together, they made some refinements on rules and design and, most importantly, came up with the name "SCRABBLE," a real word which means "to grope frantically."

So what was it called before Scrabble? Whelp, first it went by the name Lexiko (Greek for "lexicon"), and then later, Criss Cross Words. After doing all that exhilarating research for you, I decided to look up some Scrabble records. Here are a couple that made my jaw drop:

  • Highest opening move score — BEZIQUE (a card game resembling pinochle ) for 124 points by Sam Kantimathi of California.
  • Highest score for a single move "“ CAZIQUES (West Indian Chiefs) for 392 points, by Karl Khoshnaw of Manchester, UK.

So what's the best word you've ever played in Scrabble? We'd love to hear some of your rarities or top scorers. Or even funny stories about words you tried to play but were called on.

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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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