At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2012, the list of words allowed in Scrabble changed.
In this issue of Word Buff Stuff! I'd like to chat about the new words, help you learn them, and tell you where you can (and can't!) play them.
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Or, if that all sounds a bit too geeky and serious for you, just sit back and soak up some of the crazy new words you'll soon start seeing splashed across Scrabble boards all over the world ;-)
In short, this change is for people who play Scrabble to the 'World English' Scrabble lexicon, usually referred to as CSW (short for Collins Scrabble Words) or SOWPODS (an outdated but frequently used acronym). The Scrabble lexicons used in North America (often referred to as OSPD or TWL or OWL or OTaCWL) are not affected by this change.
Confused already? Scrabble is owned by Hasbro in North America and by Mattel throughout the rest of the world. Unfortunately, each has its own official Scrabble dictionary. The change I'm talking about here refers to the 'rest of the world' dictionary overseen by the World English-speaking Scrabble Association (WESPA) on behalf of Mattel. As Collins is commissioned with publishing the dictionary, the official name of the lexicon is Collins Scrabble Words, or CSW for short. The new version of this lexicon is known as CSW12, which replaces CSW07, with the version numbers indicating the years in which they were officially instated.
Just like any dictionary, a Scrabble dictionary needs to be updated from time to time to reflect changes in the English language and to allow errors to be corrected. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be allowed to play modern everyday words like EMAIL and BLOG!
Although there is no rule about the frequency of dictionary updates, Scrabble dictionaries tend to be updated every five years or so. And so it is quite timely that CSW07 has now been replaced by CSW12.
The task of scouring all the source dictionaries and identifying which words should and shouldn't be allowed, based on the guidelines provided by the game's creator more than half a century ago, is a long and arduous one.
If you're interested in some background about this process you might like to read this interview with Darryl Francis (the head of the Collins/WESPA dictionary committee) in which I asked him a long list of questions about the ins and outs of this tricky business.
But this newsletter isn't about the making of the new dictionary, it's about getting started with the new dictionary. In particular, I'd like to show you how you can familiarize yourself with all the new words and start playing with them.
TIP! If you plan to buy Collins Official Scrabble Words it's very easy to end up with the wrong edition or the wrong version, as Amazon is littered with confusing not-quite-clones. The link above takes you directly to the correct edition, but if you stumble across a physical copy somewhere, here are the tell-tale signs that you are about to buy the right book...
The exact cover title is Collins Official Scrabble Words.
As handy as it is to have a complete tome sitting on your bookshelf explicitly listing all allowable Scrabble words up to fifteen letters in length, it is not exactly an easy book to memorize.
Whether you are studying words to build your vocabulary or master Scrabble, most of us find it essential to organize the words we want to learn into manageable lists.
In particular, it is a good idea to have a separate list of all the new words so you can give them more attention than words you have already seen many times before. For this purpose, I've put together a list of all the new words in a simple format that I find useful, and I've made it available in the Members Area.
Or, if you're not a member of Word Buff — Why the heck not, by the way? It only takes a few seconds! — you can download it right here...
Even if you don't intend to study it as such, you'll get a blast from some of the superb little gems in there. Here are a handful of beauties (along with brief definitions, thanks to Zyzzyva) I can't wait to play...
BASIJ — in Iran, volunteer vigilantes who enforce strict Islamic behaviour and dress
code, esp on women, also BASEEJ [n]
DHIMMI — a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law [n -S]
FLEADH — a festival of Irish traditional music, dancing, etc [n -S]
GRRRL — as in riot grrrl, a young woman who plays or enjoys an aggressively feminist style of punk rock music, also GRRL [n -S]
INKHOSI — a traditional leader of a Zulu clan, also INKOSI [n -S]
KEEMA — (Hindi) in Indian cookery, minced beef [n -S]
PISHEOG — sorcery; superstitious nonsense, also PISHOGUE [n -S]
RITUXIMAB — a drug used in the treatment of B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma [n -S]
SUG — to attempt to sell a product while purporting to be engaged in market research
[v SUGGING, SUGGED, SUGS]
VLOG — a blog using the medium of video [n -S]
If you come across some favorites, make sure you tell us about them in the comments area right down near the bottom of this page!
Before leaving you with all these exciting new Scrabble words to munch on, I should also point out a word of warning for those of you who have a fairly good knowledge of the existing Scrabble dictionary. Namely, you will also need to unlearn a few words that were removed from the lexicon for a variety of reasons.
Fortunately WESPA — more specifically, its ever diligent wordsmith, David Sutton — has put together a list of all words removed from the existing Scrabble dictionary (CSW07) and has even included a brief note explaining why each word was deleted...
You can get this handy list of deleted Scrabble words here.
NOTE — In addition to studying lists explicitly devoted to the new words, it is also important to highlight new and deleted words when revising more comprehensive word lists. In the sections on Zyzzyva and Zarf (below) I'll show you how to do this.
With around one quarter of a million words in the official Scrabble lexicon, it's only occasionally that the addition of an extra word makes a noticeable difference to the game. Years ago, such a game-changer was the two letter word QI, which almost made the dreaded Q-stick a thing of the past.
Although there are no new words in CSW12 that will have the level of impact of QI, there is one little gem you'll be playing time and time again. That word is QIN; a very handy hook to QI as it turns out, which otherwise only takes an S.
And what is a QIN you ask? It's actually a common shortened form of GUQIN (also debuting in CSW12), which is a zither-like Chinese instrument. It's easier to show you one in action than it is to explain what one is...
Below I provide detailed instructions for updating three popular Scrabble Apps with the new international Scrabble lexicon. The first two apps, Zyzzyva and Quackle, are used by virtually all competitive Scrabble players, while the third, Zarf, is a lovely new app that appears to be on the rise.
Here's a quick summary of each app...
Zyzzyva — a word study and word search application that is especially designed for Scrabble players. Virtually all competitive Scrabble players use Zyzzyva and I recommend you do too. Mainly because it is fantastic.
Zyzzyva is available for both desktop computers and Apple iDevices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). To keep things clear, I'll provide instructions for each of these options separately.
Quackle — a free Scrabble game player and analysis tool that identifies available moves during a game and simulates options to find out which move is best. Quackle is only available in a desktop version.
Zarf — a free iPhone app that lets you search for Scrabble words satisfying various criteria, adjudicate word challenges during a Scrabble game, and time-keep games being played in tournament style. The new Scrabble words will affect the first two of these functions.
Ok, so that's a quick introduction to the most popular apps Scrabble players use to study Scrabble words and analyze games. Now let's go through each one and set it up step-by-step to use the new CSW12 Scrabble word list...
Make sure you have the latest version of Zyzzyva installed. To use CSW12 you should use version 2.1.6 or later. (An earlier version also supports CSW12, but has some known bugs which have since been corrected).
To check the version number you are using just select Help > About from the main menu bar...
You can download the latest version of Zyzzyva here
Click the button on the toolbar to open the Preferences window. In the Preferences window, click the Edit... button next to "Load lexicons" checkbox...
In the Select Lexicons window, select the "Load" checkbox next to CSW12. Also select the "Default" button if you want CSW12 to be your default lexicon...
Click OK, then OK again. If Zyzzyva prompts you to create lexicon databases, say Yes. This will take a while.
At this point, Zyzzyva should be using CSW12 with its updated database. You may want to restart Zyzzyva just in case.
To check that everything is in order, open the Search tab and check that the "Lexicon" dropdown contains the CSW12 option...
NOTE — I use Zyzzyva on the iPhone, so my instructions and screenshots are based on that device. If you're using Zyzzyva on an iPad or an iPod Touch, the instructions should still be exactly the same, but I can't personally vouch for it.
Also, the Zyzzyva iDevice app comes in two flavors: a free version and a paid version. Only the paid version has all the word study features relevant to the present discussion, so that's the one I'll describe below.
Ok, let's get started. Here's how to add the CSW12 word list to your Zyzzyva iPhone app...
Open Zyzzyva and tap the Settings icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
In the General area (at the top of the Settings screen) tap Lexicon to get a list of installed word lists.
You should see ODS5, OSPD4, OWL2, and WWF.
Tap Add Custom Lexicon... to open the Add Lexicon screen.
In the Add Lexicon screen, enter CSW12 next to "Name". Next to "URL", immediately after the 'http://' prefix, enter the following file location exactly as it appears here...
so the full URL should be...
Now tap Save and a timer will display while the system loads, validates and installs the word list file you've directed it to. (This could take a couple of minutes.)
Once the process has completed, return to the Settings screen and tap Lexicon to open the Lexicon screen. Tap the newly installed CSW12 option to set it as the default lexicon...
If you would like all your generated word lists to clearly indicate which words are new to CSW12, return to the Settings screen and tap Lexicon Symbols in the Search panel to open the Lexicon Symbols screen.
In the Lexicon Symbols screen tap Add Lexicon Symbol to open the Lexicon Symbol screen...
Select CSW12 in the "Lexicon" field and CSW7 in the "Other Lexicon" field. (Leave the middle box as 'and not'; you can change it to an 'and' for other purposes, but it won't make sense for the task we're doing!). Enter a "Symbol" to indicate additions (I use a '+' sign) and then tap Save to activate the new setting.
Do a test search to generate a word list from CSW12 and confirm that the symbol you specified is displayed next to all newly added words.
Note that the symbol is not only added to new words in a list, but is also added to any hooks that form newly added words. Very handy!
If you have any more questions about Zyzzyva (either the Desktop or iDevice version), you can join the Zyzzyva Users list. I'm on this list and in my experience questions get answered promptly and thoroughly.
Make sure you have the very latest version of Quackle installed on your computer. You can download the latest version here.
Once you've installed Quackle (by double-clicking on the file that you have downloaded and then following your nose), start the application and select Help > About Quackle from the main menu. The window that pops up will display the version number, which should be 0.97 or greater...
Earlier versions will not support CSW12!
Once you're happy that you have the correct version of Quackle installed on your computer, you need to point it to the right dictionary. To do this, click on the Settings tab and select CSW12 from the "Lexicon" dropdown list...
By the way, don't be fooled (like I was) into clicking that Settings item on the main menu bar at the top of the screen! It's the Settings tab you're looking for.
If you're a bit of a pedant like me, you might like to make absolutely sure that everything is AOK. Click Generate Word list from the shortcuts bar (under the main menu). When Quackle's word list generator pops up, enter QIN in the text box and click the blue search button.
If the results area displays the new CSW12 word QIN, you're good to go!
NOTE — Just as I was finishing off this newsletter my iPhone self-destructed! As a result, I don't have as many Zarf screenshots as I would have liked. Sorry about that. Hopefully my instructions are still clear enough for you to follow.
When you first open Zarf you'll see a Word List area with a dropdown list next to it in the upper right area of the screen.
The following lexicons are automatically populated in this list...
Here's how to add CSW 2012 to this list of options...
Tap the Settings icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen to open the Settings screen.
In the Settings screen tap Word Lists to open the Word Lists screen.
In the Word Lists screen tap Download New Word List... to open the New Word List screen.
In the New Word List screen you will see a field called "URL", followed by the prefix 'http://'. This is where you enter the Web location of the word list you'd like to use.
Fortunately, Michael Thelen (of Zyzzyva fame) has made a file containing CSW12 publicly available. The location of this file is...
So enter that file name exactly as it appears above immediately after 'http://'. The entire URL should now read...
Select English as the "Language" (if you don't remember to do this, the app will complain later) and then tap Go (in the lower left corner of the screen).
If you've entered the URL correctly, you'll get a 'Downloading CSW12 from...' message while the system locates and loads the CSW12 lexicon (it only a took a few seconds on my phone).
Navigate back to the Search screen of the app and check that the "Word List" dropdown contains the option CSW12. Select CSW12 and tap Done.
As a final check, tap the Judge icon at the bottom of the screen to open the Word Judge screen. Select CSW12 from the "Word List" dropdown. In the "Enter Disputed Words" field, type in a CSW12-only word (e.g. QIN or CHOON). Tap Judge and check that the word is allowed.
How to Highlight New and Deleted Words
To help emphasize both new and deleted words when you're revising, Zarf supports the concept of a baseline lexicon. The baseline lexicon refers to a lexicon you are already familiar with prior to studying a new one. If you specify a baseline lexicon, Zarf will clearly highlight which words in a list are new and which words have been deleted from the baseline list...
Nice huh? In our case we want to specify CSW07 as the baseline lexicon, so that when we generate a list of CSW12 words, the new and deleted words will appear just like in that picture above.
Here's how to do this...
Open the Settings screen and tap Search to display the Search Settings screen. On the Search Settings screen tap Baseline Word List and select CSW 2007 from the displayed list of lexicons.
Tap Done to return to the main Search Settings screen. If you would also like to see deletions highlighted (which I recommend until you're familiar with them) toggle the "Hide Deletions" option to OFF.
Zarf will now automatically highlight newly added words (and deleted words, if you requested it) in any search lists you generate.
The two most popular avenues for playing Scrabble online are the Internet Scrabble Club (ISC) and Facebook Scrabble...
Internet Scrabble Club (ISC) — This popular Scrabble venue was quick to update its wordlists to include the new Collins lexicon. To play ISC games to the new dictionary, simply choose CSW12 when selecting from the available wordlists before starting a new game.
Facebook Scrabble — If you live outside of North America you will be able to access Mattel's Scrabble Worldwide Facebook app (as opposed to the North American, Hasbro-owned app) which uses Collins Scrabble Words...
The bad news, though, is that they have not yet updated their lexicon to CSW12. It is hard to imagine that they won't get around to doing this sometime, but despite being petitioned by many regular players they haven't got around to it yet.
It is a disappointing state of affairs that an unofficial Scrabble site is ready to go with the new word list on new years eve, while we are still waiting for the owners of Scrabble who oversaw the new dictionary to allow us to play to it!
If/when they implement the new word list, I'll let you know by sending out a brief update via Word Buff's Daily Digest, which will also appear as a post on Word Buff's Facebook Page, and as a Tweet on Twitter.
You do follow Word Buff on at least one of those channels, right? ;-)
To the best of my knowledge, there is currently no (legal) way to play Scrabble to the new Collins dictionary (or the old one for that matter) on Apple iOS devices (i.e. the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch).
NOTE — For the technically inclined, this seems to be because GameHouse (the company Mattel licensed to build their Facebook app) have built the app using Adobe's Flash technology, which Apple famously refuses to support on its iDevices.
You probably play online Scrabble more than I do, so if you know something I don't on this subject, please let other word buffs know using the comments area below...
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