10 Words That Will Win You Any Game of Scrabble

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Whether you consider winning at Scrabble a case of extreme luck or supreme spelling ability, here are 10 words that—if conditions are right—will help you trump any opponent.

1. OXYPHENBUTAZONE

Definition: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis and bursitis.
Conditions: The theoretically highest-possible scoring word under American Scrabble play—as calculated by Dan Stock of Ohio—has never actually been played … and probably never will (unless you’re really, really lucky). That’s because it has to be played across three triple word score squares and built on eight already-played (and perfectly positioned) tiles.
Points: 1778

2. QUIZZIFY

Definition: To quiz or question.
Conditions: Not only will you need to draw the game’s only Q and Z tiles (there’s only one of each), but a blank tile, too (in place of the second Z). Play this verb as your first word across two triple word squares with the Z on a double letter score square and you’ve got the game’s most valuable eight-letter bingo.
Points: 419

3. OXAZEPAM

Definition: An anti-anxiety drug.
Conditions: All that stress will melt away if you can build on one existing letter, play across two triple word score squares, place one of the most valuable tiles (i.e. X or Z) on a double letter score square and net a 50-point bingo.
Points: 392

4. QUETZALS

Definition: The national bird of Guatemala as well as one of its monetary units.
Conditions: Placement is everything to score this whopper of a word: Building on one letter, use all seven letters on your rack for a 50-point bingo, with Q and S on triple word score squares and Z on a double letter score space.
Points: 374

5. QUIXOTRY

Definition: A romantic or quixotic idea or action.
Conditions: In 2007, Michael Cresta used an already-played R and all seven of his tiles across two triple word score squares to earn the most points ever on a single turn, which aided in a second record for the full-time carpenter: the highest-ever individual game score (830 points).
Points: 365

6. GHERKINS

Definition: A small pickle, made from an immature cucumber.
Conditions: In 1985, Robert Kahn paid tribute to the pickle at the National Scrabble Championship in Boston—using an E and R already on the board—to set a record for a non-bingo word score.
Points: 180

7. QUARTZY

Definition: Resembling quartz.
Conditions: Quartzy held the record for highest-ever single turn score until Quixotry nearly doubled its total in 2007. Play it across a triple word score square with Z as a double letter score, and get a 50-point bingo for using all seven letters on your rack.
Points: 164

8. MUZJIKS

Definition: A Russian peasant.
Conditions: On its own (with no bonuses or extra points), muzjiks is worth an impressive 29 points. But exhaust all of your tiles on your first turn to spell it, and you’ll earn more than four times that—which is what player Jesse Inman did at the National Scrabble Championship in Orlando in 2008 to earn the record for highest opening score.
Points: 126

9. SYZYGY

Definition: An alignment of three celestial bodies.
Conditions: Forget trying to pronounce it (though, for the record, it’s "SIZ-i-jee"). Instead, just remember how to spell it—and that it’s worth 21 points au naturel. You’ll need one blank tile to make up for the lack of Ys (there are only two in the game). For a higher total, land the Z on a double letter score square and the final Y on a triple word score square.
Points: 93

10. ZA

Definition: Slang term for pizza.
Conditions: Big words are great and all, but two-letter words can also score big—and be especially annoying to your opponent. Build on two As—one directly below, the other directly to the right of a triple letter square—to spell this two-letter delectable across and down.
Points: 62

26 of Noah Webster’s Spelling Changes That Didn’t Catch On

Noah Webster had a lasting impact on language in the United States. Before publishing his American Dictionary of the English Language, he produced a series of spelling books (including the one pictured above) that dominated American classrooms for almost a century. He was a proponent of spelling reform, believing that more regular orthography would not only make learning easier, but more importantly, it would distinguish the American way from the British, “an object of vast political consequence” to a young nation. Some of his suggested reforms caught on and still mark a difference between American and British writing: he replaced “colour” with “color,” “centre” with “center,” “defence” with “defense,” “plough” with “plow,” “draught” with “draft,” and “gaol” with “jail.”

However, many of Webster’s reforms went nowhere. Here are 26 spellings that didn’t catch on—at least until the dawn of LOLcats.

1. Cloke — cloak

2. Soop — soup

3. Masheen — machine

4. Tung — tongue 

5. Greef — grief

6. Dawter — daughter

7. Korus — chorus

8. Nightmar — nightmare

9. Turnep — turnip

10. Iland — island

11. Porpess — porpoise

12. Steddy — steady

13. Hainous — heinous

14. Thum — thumb

15. Gillotin — guillotine

16. Spunge — sponge

17. Ake — ache

18. Wimmin — women

19. Determin — determine

20. Giv — give

21. Bilt — built

22. Beleev — believe

23. Grotesk — grotesque

24. Stile — style 

25. Neer — near

26. Sley — sleigh

Inspired by this post from Reddit's Today I Learned.

This article originally ran in 2013.

How and Why Did Silent Letters Emerge in English?

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iStock/Bychykhin_Olexandr

Kory Stamper:

The easy answer is “"because English can’t leave well enough alone."

When we first started speaking English around 600 AD, it was totally phonetic: every letter had a sound, and we sounded every letter in a word. But English—and England itself—were influenced quite a bit by the French, who conquered the island in 1066 and held it for a long time. And then later by Dutch and Flemish printers, who were basically the main publishers in England for a solid two centuries, and then by further trading contact with just about every continent on the planet. And while we’re shaking hands and stealing language from every single people-group we meet, different parts of the language started changing at uneven rates.

By the 1400s, English started to lose its phonetic-ness: the way we articulated vowels in words like “loud” changed slowly but dramatically, and that had an effect on the rest of the word. (This is called “The Great Vowel Shift,” and it took place over a few hundred years.) Somewhere in the middle of the GVS, though, English spelling became fixed primarily because of the printing press and the easy distribution/availability of printed materials. In short: we have silent letters because the spelling of words stopped changing to match their pronunciations.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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