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Scrabble Word Records

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Here at the _floss, we love Scrabble and have written about it often. Among others, there's Stacy's post on Scrabble words that will help you win, my post on how Alfred Mosher Butts, inventor of Scrabble, couldn't spell very well, and even a quiz by Jason Plautz testing your knowledge of 2-letter words.

One of the topics we haven't really covered, however, are those big point-getters—the words that earn the most points and the people who've played "˜em. But before we get to them, let's start with some hypothetical word plays, or words played in theoretical games.

Obviously you're going to need to cover three triple-word-score squares to achieve these first couple. According to this site, using the OSPD (2nd ed.) and Merriam-Webster (9th ed.), the highest-scoring single play word, found by Dan Stock of Ohio, is OXYPHENBUTAZONE for 1,458 points. Add in hooked words, OPACIFYING for 63, YELKS for 12, PREInTERVIEWED for 25, BRAINWASHING for 63, AMELIORATIVE for 17, ZARFS for 27, EJACULATING for 63 and a 50 point bonus, and the grand total for this theoretical move is 1,778 points!

Scrabulizer.com confirmed this move, and redid it using only words from TWL06. With the rack ABEOPXZ, playing oxyphenbutazone, they were able to up 1,778 to 1,780. See the image below.

They were also able to get all the way up to 2,015 points using TWL06 only and the word sesquioxidizing (which doesn't actually exist in any of the Scrabble dictionaries), from the rack DGIQSXZ. So where does this antiquated word live? Online, of course. Right here. ["Well the word is derived from the word "sesquioxide", and thus not found in the dictionary directly (Endangered)"]

2ndscrabble

Now on to some real world records!

Presently, Michael Cresta holds the record here in the U.S. for most points played in a single game. He set it in 2006, topping a 13-year-old record of 770 points. So how many points did Cresta rack up? How about a whopping 830!

Slate has a really long, well-written post detailing each play, if you're interested, but suffice it to say, Cresta started the game with a bingo, and eventually had a record-breaking single turn of 365 points for the word QUIXOTRY (quixotic action or thought). He and his opponent, Wayne Yorra, wound up breaking another record that game, too: the most total points in a game: 1,320, as Yorra racked up 490, and played several bingoes of his own!

slateboard

Wiki has some stats that are also worth noting:

# Highest opening move score (OSPD) "“ MUZJIKS (with a blank for the U) 126 by Jesse Inman (S.C.) at the National Scrabble Championship, 2008.[27] The highest possible legal score on a first turn is MUZJIKS 128, using an actual U rather than a blank.
# Highest opening move score (SOWPODS) "“ BEZIQUE 124 by Joan Rosenthal.[28] BEZIQUE 124 by Sally Martin.[28]

* High game score of 1,049 by Phil Appleby of Lymington, Hants, UK, on June 25, 1989 in Wormley, Herts, UK. His opponent scored just 253 points, giving Appleby a record victory margin of 796 points.
* High single-turn score of 392, by Dr. Saladin Karl Khoshnaw[29] in Manchester, UK, in April 1982. The word he used was CAZIQUES, meaning "native chiefs of West Indian aborigines".

What are the most points you've ever racked up on one word? How about one game? What were the words? We want to hear about it!

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Big Questions
Why Do Ghosts Say ‘Boo’?
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People have screamed "boo," or at least some version of it, to startle others since the mid-16th century. (One of the earliest examples documented by the Oxford English Dictionary appeared in that 1560s poetic thriller, Smyth Whych that Forged Hym a New Dame.) But ghosts? They’ve only been yowling "boo" for less than two centuries.

The etymology of boo is uncertain. The OED compares it with the Latin boare or the Greek βοᾶν, meaning to “cry aloud, roar, [or] shout.” Older dictionaries suggest it could be an onomatopoeia mimicking the lowing of a cow.

Whatever the origins, the word had a slightly different shade of meaning a few hundred years ago: Boo (or, in the olden days, bo or bu) was not used to frighten others but to assert your presence. Take the traditional Scottish proverb “He can’t say bo to a goose,” which for centuries has been a slick way to call somebody timid or sheepish. Or consider the 1565 story Smyth Whych that Forged Hym a New Dame, in which an overconfident blacksmith tries to hammer a woman back into her youth, and the main character demands of his dying experiment: “Speke now, let me se / and say ones bo!”

Or, as Donatello would put it: “Speak, damn you, speak!”

But boo became scarier with time. After all, as the OED notes, the word is phonetically suited “to produce a loud and startling sound.” And by 1738, Gilbert Crokatt was writing in Presbyterian Eloquence Display’d that, “Boo is a Word that's used in the North of Scotland to frighten crying children.”

(We’re not here to question 250-year-old Scottish parenting techniques, but over at Slate, Forrest Wickman raises a good point: Why would anybody want to frighten a child who is already crying?)

In 18th century Scotland, bo, boo, and bu would latch onto plenty of words describing things that went bump in the night. According to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, the term bu-kow applied to hobgoblins and “anything frightful,” such as scarecrows. The word bogey, for “evil one,” would evolve into bogeyman. And there’s bu-man, or boo-man, a terrifying goblin that haunted man:

Kings, counsellors, and princes fair,

As weel's the common ploughman,

Hae maist their pleasures mix'd wi' care,

An' dread some muckle boo-man.

It was only a matter of time until ghosts got lumped into this creepy “muckle boo-man” crowd.

Which is too bad. Before the early 1800s, ghosts were believed to be eloquent, sometimes charming, and very often literary speakers. The spirits that appeared in the works of the Greek playwrights Euripides and Seneca held the important job of reciting the play’s prologue. The apparitions in Shakespeare’s plays conversed in the same swaying iambic pentameter as the living. But by the mid-1800s, more literary ghosts apparently lost interest in speaking in complete sentences. Take this articulate exchange with a specter from an 1863 Punch and Judy script.

Ghost: Boo-o-o-oh!

Punch: A-a-a-ah!

Ghost: Boo-o-o-o-oh!

Punch: Oh dear ! oh dear ! It wants’t me!

Ghost:  Boo-o-o-o-oh!

It’s no surprise that boo’s popularity rose in the mid-19th century. This was the age of spiritualism, a widespread cultural obsession with paranormal phenomena that sent scores of people flocking to mediums and clairvoyants in hopes of communicating with the dead. Serious scientists were sending electrical shocks through the bodies of corpses to see if reanimating the dead was possible; readers were engrossed in terrifying Gothic fiction (think Frankenstein, Zastrozzi, and The Vampyre); British police departments were reporting a heightened number of ghost sightings as graveyards were plagued by “ghost impersonators,” hoaxsters who camped out in cemeteries covered in white robes and pale chalk. It’s probably no coincidence that ghosts began to develop their own vocabulary—limited as it may be—during a period when everybody was curious about the goings-on within the spirit realm.

It may also help that boo was Scottish. Many of our Halloween traditions, such as the carving of jack-o’-lanterns, were carried overseas by Celtic immigrants. Scotland was a great exporter of people in the middle of the 1800s, and perhaps it’s thanks to the Scots-Irish diaspora that boo became every ghost’s go-to greeting.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Words
How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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