MUCH PROGRESS: Scrabble Community Contemplates Removing Offensive Words

July 6th, 2020 5:22 PM

You would never think it possible but – and make sure you’re sitting down for what we’re about to tell you – a board game, a literal board game might have the proposal that will save the world. Yes, we kid you not. A Hasbro product, meant for rainy days and lame nights for bonding with the in-laws, may be humanity’s next small step in eradicating racism.

According to Reuters, all this Black Lives Matter-ing has been so concerning for the Scrabble professional gaming community that various members have decided to sit down and hash out whether offensive terms should be erased from the game’s point system. 

The outlet reported on July 6 that the “North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA)” is set to update its list of words that are recognized in competitive play and the “N-word” and other offensive terms may be left out. NASPA Chief Executive John Chew made the announcement.

He explained to the outlet that his move to remove language from play isn’t a big deal for most, saying, “We are told when we get for the first time to a Scrabble club or tournament that words have no meaning on a Scrabble board. Most people accept that without question.” He added that NASPA considered removal of the terms because they don’t want people “put off joining because of offensive language in the organisation's dictionary.” 

Then again, he acknowledged that others find it problematic that meanings are being removed from words. He claimed, “some people find they cannot accept ... the 'N-word' being treated as though it has no meaning.”

The executive also acknowledged that NASPA members aren’t unanimously behind the group’s decision. The outlet recorded his claim that the community’s 2000 members are “split over removing the N-word,” though the general public is “in favour of doing so.”

The larger Scrabble gaming community, the “World English Scrabble Players Association” has been dealing with this same quandary as well. WESPA, which runs international Scrabble tournaments, is still discussing whether to remove terms with its Collins Dictionary, which of course dictates which words have meaning for the game. WESPA Chairman Lipe claimed to understand both sides of the issue. 

Though he claimed that racially-offensive terms are “terrible words and you don't want people coming in to be exposed to them if necessary,” he admitted that changing Collins Dictionary in order to alter the playability of offensive words doesn’t actually solve any real world issue. 

He claimed, “Removing words from the word list doesn't actually address any of those issues.” Oh, wow, a man of common sense. 2015 Scrabble World Champion Wellington Jighere from Nigeria took that statement further, stating, “It's just a word. Playing it on the board doesn't mean that the person is being offensive.”

Well, if only more people had that kind of common sense, western society wouldn’t be going through this kind of ugly and violent iconoclasm. We might not be able to recognize racism and oppression when it inevitably returns to us after the revolution, but at least people don’t have to be offended in the meantime.