Played Scrabble Last Night and Decided I Am Illiterate

MUFF Scrabble Tiles

Do writers feel pressure when they play Scrabble? Is the sky blue?

Do doctors run and hide when they see a person choke in a restaurant? Do professional dancers hate bachelorette parties?

I write vernacular, observational humor. I am not an intellectual, nor a linguist. Yet, an innocent game like Scrabble stokes my competitive spirit. I should know words, right? I live with them every single day.

But how wrong I am! There are words and then, there are Scrabble words.

Playing Scrabble last night crystallized one thing: I am illiterate.

I lost the game. I high-fived and celebrated when playing words like: “muff”, ” jugs”, and “ox”. Ox was a triple word score! Hooray, we made a 12-point word! Amateurs.

MUFF Scrabble Tiles

But after a night’s rest, I realize that if I memorize the following key words, my Scrabble future will be a success. Bingo. (15-point word, fyi…).

Za is an accepted word for pizza. What the hell? Ridiculous.

Muzjiks are Russian peasants. My spell check doesn’t recognize this word for a reason.

An Aerie is an eagle’s nest or some kind of a bird home, high in the air. I could use this in everyday life like in the following sentence: “I will launch myself off an aerie when I present this word on my last turn and die of smugness.”

Caziques — what the F? is going on here! I have NEVER heard of this word, but now, I will never forget. Here’s a little intel on this word from the internet:

“When Spanish explorers first reached the West Indies, they found tribes of Indians who described their chiefs using this word. The conquistadors applied the word, which can also be spelled “caciques,” to all native chiefs. It also refers to a tropical bird similar to an oriole. In a game in England in 1982, Dr. Karl Khoshnaw set the record for the highest single word score Scrabble competition. He played “caziques” across two triple word squares for a total score of 392.”

The expression of superiority after creating a 392 point word, must have been amazing. Did it look like this?

Dr Karl Khoshnaw

Faqirs were originally monks in the Sufi sect of Islam, who took vows of poverty.

Quixotry means a visionary scheme, action or thought and is derived from the fictional character Don Quixote, whose visions led him to joust with windmills. Hey, Scrabble gods? It seems a bit of a stretch to make a word based on a character in a book!

Silly words evolve from legendary works of fiction. In fifty years, will we refer to Bellazing as the act of falling in love with a vampire and then having his demon baby after a love tryst on a remote island of Brazil.

Zax came to describe a tool for cutting and punching nail holes in roofing slates. Is this a tool used in Minecraft? Should be.

Chutzpah is a winning word. It’s a winning attitude in life, too. This goyem balabusta has some chutzpah by being a yenta in this mishpocha. Oh, bubbameisse! Punkt farkert!

A qanat is a tunnel used in arid regions for irrigation. It was invented in Iran, then called Persia, about 2,500 years ago and is still used today. It taps into underground water and uses the slope of the land to bring that water to where it’s needed without pumping. Despite living during one California’s worst droughts in history, I do not use this word enough.

And, in case you didn’t know, but solidified lava comes in two forms. Aa is rough-like cinders. Pahoehoe, formed from hotter lava, is smooth. Both words are Hawaiian. My young daughters are fascinated by this, but confused by the spelling. They are not alone.


Xi – is a Greek letter.

Syzygy – an alignment of three heavenly bodies.

Yo  – a greeting.

Cwm – a valley, especially one created by glacial movement.

Xu – Vietnamese money.

I am ready to play Scrabble again and annoy my friends and family. “Booyah!” I will decry and then sit down and tell them booyah is not actually a word.

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