When is a word a word?
by Peter Herring
I live in Germany and recently purchased a Scrabble game, mixing two sets of tiles so that my wife and I can play using both German and English words. I also purchased the Collins Ultimate Scrabble Word List (edition 2009) and German "Duden Scrabble Woerterbuch".
We were quite amazed to find there are thousands more valid words in the English dictionary compared to the German. The reason seems clear - namely, the English collection (around 260,000 words) contains a huge number of "foreign" words.
I can appreciate, thanks to the expansion of the British Empire, that the English vocabulary has been extended with words like bungalow, khaki, boomerang, kosher, fjord etc. which are in (relatively) common use, but surely "kharif" - a Pakistani crop, "aglu" - a breathing hole in the ice made by a seal, are words principally used by ethic people. (These may be poor examples, but I think you know what I mean).
In addition, there are British dialect words like "Faa" (Scottish for "fall") - but NOT "hacky" (a common word in my hometown, Sunderland, meaning "dirty"). My wife also complains that many German/Austrian dialect words are missing.
I always thought abbreviations were are not allowed - but we find both "ab" and "abs" (abdominal muscles) are valid!
We still enjoy the game, but would never consider entering any competitions which are no more than tests in memorising lists of "official" words.