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22 Two-Letter Words to Boost Your Scrabble Score

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In Scrabble, two-letter words are often used only as a last resort. In a race to use up your final few tiles at the end of the game, low-scoring pairs like AD, AS, AN, and AT can suddenly become unexpectedly useful. But among competitive Scrabble players, two-letter words are a crafty means of boosting your score: Instead of linking one word perpendicularly to another, try playing one word directly on top of, alongside, or overlapping another on the board to form a chain of two-letter words between the two. So imagine, for instance, that your opponent has just played the word EARTH. If you play the word DREAM directly beneath it, one letter below the other, then you’ll not only pick up points for using your D, R, E, A, and M, but you’ll also score for the words ED, AR, RE, TA, and HM that are formed between the two.

More than 100 two-letter words are acceptable in Scrabble; 22 of the most unfamiliar and most bizarre of which are listed here.

Note: In North America, all the words that are officially acceptable in a game of Scrabble are listed on the TWL or Official Tournament Word List. In the rest of the English-speaking world—including the UK and Australia—Scrabble players use the so-called SOWPODS list, which combines Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary and the Official Scrabble Words list produced by The Chambers Dictionary. All of the words listed here are included on both lists, and so are officially playable in any English language game.

1. AA

You’ll only score two points for the name of this rough and rubbly basaltic lava, but it’ll be a useful two points if you’re sitting with a rack full of vowels. You can also play AI, the name of a species of three-toed sloth, and AE, a Scots variation of "one."

2. AG

An abbreviation of agriculture, used in phrases like "ag college" and "ag school."

3. AL

Another name for the Indian mulberry tree, Morinda citrifolia.

4. AR

You can play the names of all of the letters of the alphabet in Scrabble, including AR, ES, and TEE.

5. BA

BA is an old dialect word meaning "to kiss," but among Egyptologists it’s also the name given to a person’s immortal soul.

6. BO

American slang for a boy or best friend, and an exclamation used to frighten or surprise someone.

7. DE

You can use DE as a synonym of "from" or "of."

8. EL

As well as being the name of the letter L (you can play EM and EN as well), an EL is an elevated railroad.

9. ET

A dialect spelling of "ate."

10. FE

Also spelled PE (which is also acceptable, incidentally), FE is a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

11. HM

The expressions HM, HMM, UM, and MM are all acceptable in Scrabble, as are HA, HO, OH, and AH.

12. JO

An old Scots word for a sweetheart.

13. KA

Like the BA, in Egyptian culture, the KA is the spiritual part of a person's soul.

14. LI

A LI is a standard Chinese unit of distance, equal to 500 meters.

15. MU

As the names of letters of the Greek alphabet, you can play both MU and NU in Scrabble.

16. OD

OD is the Odic Force, a hypothetical life force theorized to exist by the 19th-century philosopher Carl Reichenbach.

17. OE

As well as being an old word for an island, the OE is a whirlwind near the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.

18. OM

Taken from Sanskrit, the syllable OM is used as a mantra in certain forms of meditation.

19. QI

In Chinese philosophy, QI is the vital life force inherent in all things.

20. UT

The first note of the musical scale, now known as DO, was originally called UT. The other note names RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, and TE (or TI) are all also acceptable.

21. XU

As well as the name of the Greek letter XI, you can also play the word XU in Scrabble as the name of a monetary unit worth one-hundredth of a Vietnamese dong.

22. ZA

As a slang abbreviation of "pizza," ZA is worth remembering if you need to ditch a letter Z at the end of the game. If you're playing with the SOWPODS list outside of North America, you can also play the word ZO or DZO, which is the name of a hybrid of a domestic cow and a Himalayan yak.

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Dollar Words: The Logophile Game That Has Math Geeks Hooked, Too
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Besides anagrams and palindromes, if there’s one thing wordplay aficionados like to mess around with, it’s the numerical value of the letters of the alphabet. Assigning numbers to letters—A = 1, B =2, C = 3, and so on, all the way through to Z = 26—opens the alphabet up to all kinds of mathematical and numerical games and trivia.

So add the value of ARM (32) to the value of BEND (25) and you get the value of ELBOW (57). Likewise, WHITE (65) plus HOUSE (68) equals GOVERNMENT (133). HAIR (8, 1, 9, 18) is a palindrome in this A to Z number system, as is INSULINS (9, 14, 19, 21, 12, 9, 14, 19). Add up the neighboring letter pairs in CAN (3 + 1, 1 + 14), and you’ll get DO (4, 15). The letters in FOURTEEN DOZEN add up to 14 dozen (168).

One more game that can be played with the numerical values of the alphabet is to search for words that total a specific value—the holy grail of which is precisely 100. Words that total 100 in this A to Z way are affectionately known as “dollar words.” They’re actually not all that rare in English, and a full list of them includes some fairly familiar words:

ANNUALLY BOUNDARY CULTURE DRIZZLE

MITTENS MOODIEST NASTILY OUTSET

PAYPHONE PORTLAND PREVENT PRIMARY

PRINTER SESSION SOURCES STRESS

STYLES SWIMMER TATTOOED THIRTY

TOILETS TURKEY UNDRESS USELESS

WHENEVER WHISKING WHISTLES WEDNESDAY

But given a set total in mind, that raises a couple of questions: What are the shortest and the longest dollar words in the dictionary?

Because 100 is a relatively large total for a short word (and because a lot of the highest value letters at the tail end of the alphabet are hard to find homes for, like V, X, and Z) shorter dollar words are fairly hard to come by. As a result, only a handful of 5-letter dollar words have ever been discovered, including:

BUZZY NUTTY PUSSY

In fact, as proof of just how many seldom-used letters lie at the end of the alphabet, if you were to change the numbers around so that A = 26, B =25, and so on through to Z = 1, the number of five-letter dollar words increases enormously:

ABBEY ACRID BACON BASAL

BEFOG BEGET CATCH CHAIN

CHALK CHINA DODGE ELIDE

FACET HENCE IMAGE LAGAN

LANCE MAGMA MEDAL NAKED

But shortest of all are two 4-letter words: acca, an Australian slang word for an academic, and caca, a childish word for poop.

Oppositely, it can be just as difficult looking for as long a dollar word as possible; the more letters a word has, the higher its total grows. But the relatively high frequency of the letters in the first few places of the alphabet means that there are quite a few lengthy dollar words, including some with as many as 12 letters:

BACKTRACKING COMMANDEERED

DEBAUCHERIES DESEGREGATED

INAPPLICABLE NON-BREAKABLE

Apparently longest of all is the 13-letter word adiabatically, a term from meteorology and thermodynamics referring to any process that occurs without a loss or gain of heat.

But why stop at adding up? Multiplying the numerical values of words leads to some considerably larger numbers—and some considerably higher targets.

Multiply the letters of the word TYPEY together, for instance, and you’ll end up with 1,000,000 (= 20 × 25 × 16 × 5 × 25). TEETHY multiplies to 2,000,000 (= 20 × 5 × 5 × 20 × 8 × 25). And PEYOTE multiplies to 3,000,000 (= 16 × 5 × 25 × 15 × 20 × 5). No word has yet been found that totals precisely 4,000,000 or 5,000,000, but some—like LURING (4,000,752) and JUICING (5,000,940)—have come tantalizingly close.

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Why Do Americans Call It ‘Soccer’ Instead of ‘Football’?
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While more Americans than ever are embracing soccer, they can't even get the sport's name right, according to some purists. For most of the world, including the vast majority of Europe and South America, it’s football, fútbol, or some other variation. In the United States, Canada, Japan, and a few other stragglers, it’s firmly known as soccer, much to the annoyance of those who can't understand how a sport played with feet and a ball can be called anything else. So why the conflict?

According to a paper [PDF] by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski, it all began in England in the early 1800s, when a version of the sport of football—based on a game played by “common people” in the Middle Ages—found its way into the recreational scene of some of the country’s most privileged schools. To give uniformity to the competitions between these schools and clubs, a set of standard rules was drafted by students in Cambridge in 1848. These rules would become further solidified when they were adopted by the more organized Football Association in 1863.

It wasn't long before variations of the sport began to splinter off—in 1871, the Rugby Football Union was founded, using Rugby School rules from the 1830s that allowed a player to run with the ball in their hands. This new take on the sport would be known as rugby football, or rugger, to separate itself from association football, the traditional feet-only version of the sport. From there, association football would get the nickname assoccer, leading eventually to just soccer. The addition of an "er" at the end of a word was something of a trend at the time, which is why we get the awkward transformation of association into assoccer and soccer.

The first recorded American football game was between the colleges of Rutgers and Princeton in 1869 and used unique rules derived from those in both association and rugby football. Though this new, evolving game would just be called football in the U.S., elsewhere it would become known as gridiron football or American football, much in the way Gaelic football and Australian football have their own distinctions. Eventually in England, rugby football was shortened to just rugby, while association football simply became known as football. Which meant that now there were two footballs, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and neither side would budge. And Americans would begin referring to England's football by the previous nickname, soccer.

Despite the confusion nowadays, soccer was still a colloquial term used in England well into the 20th century—it rose in popularity following World War II before falling out of favor in the 1970s and ‘80s, according to Szymanski. In more recent years, it’s mostly been used in England in a strictly American context, like when publications and the media refer to U.S. leagues like Major League Soccer (MLS). Currently, soccer is mostly used in countries that have their own competing version of football—including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

While it boils the blood of certain traditionalists, soccer is by no means an Americanism—like the sport itself, this is purely an English export.

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