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Should the rules for Scrabble be changed?

12:56 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The rules of word game Scrabble are being changed for the first time in its history to allow the use of proper nouns, games company Mattel has said. What's your reaction?

Place names, people's names and company names or brands will now count. Until now a few proper nouns had been allowed which were determined by a word list based on the Collins dictionary.

Mattel, which brings out a new version of the game containing amended rules in July, hopes the change will encourage younger people to play. However they said it would not be doing away with the old rules altogether and will continue to sell a board with the original rules.

Will you be buying the new version of Scrabble or do you prefer to stick to the original rules? Will the new rules help to introduce younger players to the game?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Make this an election issue; maybe then there'll be a respectable turnout at the polls.

  • Comment number 2.

    Never been a huge fan, though I do recognise the fun and educational values of the game. Personally, I'd rather play cribbage any day!

  • Comment number 3.

    I must be getting old, because things were better in the old days. Just because people these days are finding Scrabble to hard to play, the rules shouldn't be changed. How about improving literacy so people have a wide vocabulary and can play and enjoy this wonderful game. Mattel only manufacture Scrabble.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is horrible. Scrabble is a word game for people who know lots of words - words like "qat". So what if you know lots of names - who would be impressed?

  • Comment number 5.

    Lets have a game to include txt spk and street slang, maybe Pidgeon English and words with dropped 'aitches'.
    I will continue to use the old rules, ones that test the language, and doesn't pander to the illiterate.

  • Comment number 6.

    What does it matter?

    People have always been able to make their own 'house rules' for scrabble anyway - so if people want to use certain types of proper nouns in a game, who's going to stop them?

  • Comment number 7.

    Why wait for the manufacturer to suggest changes?

    For over 50 years I have enjoyed games like Scrabble and Monopoly played both to the published rules and to local variations.

    For instance try Scrabble when which only acronyms are allowed. Introduce multistory car parks and remove the building limits in Monopoly

    Other suggestions, please.

  • Comment number 8.

    The challenge of Scrabble was that excluding proper nouns made it harder. The current game doesn't put my son (10) off. By including proper nouns almost anything goes - I could get a triple word score by putting down QUEZTION - its a username on Facebook/Twitter so a valid word.

  • Comment number 9.

    No! No! No!

    Argh! If anyone puts down "Reebok" in a game, I will have to resort to violence.

  • Comment number 10.

    Nice publicity but come on who is going to decide that its OK to use CLWYD but not PLOZY even though you argue it was the name of the Polish baker down the road when you were a kid? The game will become unusable.

  • Comment number 11.

    The dumbing down of rules reflects the dumbing down of society as a whole.

  • Comment number 12.

    No, I don't agree with this. Playing Scrabble is supposed to challenge you and make you think, not go for the easy option. I always find it interesting to see what unusual words people put down - after all, the average human has a vocabulary of 20,000 words so really we should be using it! I would personally be quite annoyed if someone I was playing against put 'Lizzy' down on a triple score!

    Whatever next? Txt Spk being allowed???

  • Comment number 13.

    "Encourage younger people to play"! What does that mean exactly? Are they too thick to understand "real" words? How about keeping the game as it is and everyone else raising their levels if need be - just an idea. Rather than this constant dumbing down that seems to be par for the course.

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes, I think the rules need to be changed! It's manifestly unfair to expect the post-literate generations - with their superficial educations and stunted intellectual abilities - to be able to compete with people who've cheated by developing a vocabulary and learning how to spell. In fact, the changes don't go far enough - we should allow text-speak too!

    Shame on you Mattel for not catering enough to lazy ambitionless dullards!

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm surprised Scrabble is still relevant given that spelling appears to be an optional extra in english lessons today.

  • Comment number 16.

    "However they said it would not be doing away with the old rules altogether and will continue to sell a board with the original rules."

    What - are they going to come round to your house and watch you play to make sure you are sticking to the rules that came with the board ? I think I may have spotted a slight flaw...

  • Comment number 17.

    How about allowing Txt speach and spelling?

    After all 90% of kids are very good at it and it adds a lot of hi scoring 2, 3 and 4 letter words that are a lot less obscure then the ones most scrabble buffs know

  • Comment number 18.

    I'll be sticking to the original rules thanks. Scrabble is meant to be an intellectual game where you have the opportunity to demonstrate the extent of your vocabulary, not a competition about who can name the most car companies or brands of chocolate! If I wanted to do that I'd play a Facebook quiz - I'd like to point out, before anyone brands me a snob, that I am partial to an online quiz or two as well as being a Scrabble fan.

  • Comment number 19.

    NO BBC, this is not a suitable subject.

  • Comment number 20.

    Now we are dumbing down board games to make it easier for the victims of our failed education system.

  • Comment number 21.

    Here's some news for Mattell. We have been making our own rules up for years. If we play with under 10's then most words are accepted as long as they are spelled corrctly. We spend time with children, working on spelling, and introduce words as they progress.
    Can people not use common sense. Does everything in the world have to be governed by a strict set of rules, or are we still allowed to be free-thinkers

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm sorry, I didn't realise Scrabble was bound by international regulations. I shall annul every result I've ever had just in case I've ever breached the rules.

  • Comment number 23.

    As a young - ish player of Scrabble, who admittedly only plays with her parents, I can't think that making the game easier (which is what will happen) is going to make Scrabble appeal to younger people. It's a game with an appeal for people who like words and enjoy expanding their vocabulary. If it's survived this long and ain't broke, why 'fix' it?
    What's worse, in my opinion, is the promise of no "hard and fast rule about which proper nouns are acceptable" - that's just going to cause more confusion and several family arguments. Thus becoming less of a family game and more relegated to the back of the game cupboard.

  • Comment number 24.

    The only Scrabble worth playing is Rude Word Scrabble. Hours and hours of childish fun, only improved by playing on a sunny balcony, lubricated with some appalling holiday wine.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Place names, people's names and company names or brands will now count"

    Can imagine the arguements when somebody uses an East European football player's name - like TSCHKZYK, for example

    How many points is that worth on a triple letter box then?

  • Comment number 26.

    What's next? Changing the chess rules so every piece can move freely in any direction?

  • Comment number 27.

    I don’t have a problem with these new rules. But surely, given the number of names in existence, virtually any combination of letters will now be legitimate.

  • Comment number 28.

    What gets me about this is they want to bring out a version allowing proper nouns and a version with traditional rules. Now why on earth does this need two separate boards? Do they think people will say, 'must get the new board so I can play with the new rules'? If people had wanted to use proper nouns in games before what exactly was stopping them?

    I think this is nothing more than a ploy to boost sales, which I'm guessing have been falling since they banned the facebook version.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    I have worked on Income Support for some years and have always said that some of the names that claimants give their kids look like they have just shaken a bag of scrabble letters, picked seven and called the kid by a name composed of said letters. That will be great now when playing scrabble just put your name on the board and get an extra 50 points!

    I will continue to play under the old rules as my name scores very poorly being mostly one point letters.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    If you're old enough to remember when The Times stopped using Shakespearean quotations in its clues then you're old enough to agree that this is a dumbing-down of a game that stretches the mind, the intellect and the brain. All three need exercising and Scrabble does it all, effortlessly.

  • Comment number 33.

    Great, why don't they allow words in text english as well and be done with. That'll make it popular with the masses.

  • Comment number 34.

    Of course not. If names are allowed how are you going to verify that the name is correct. People could put down a random arrangement of words and tell you it is a village in Central Africa. How would I know.
    I already play scrabble on my IPOD, and I don't believe half the words it comes up, and then it has the cheek to tell me the words that I put down aren't allowed, even when I know there, and they are in the English dictionary.

  • Comment number 35.

    This statement appears on the website for the Association of British Scrabble Players:

    "The ABSP has been contacted by several news associations looking for comment on Mattel's decision to launch a Scrabble spin-off game later in the year which will allow capitalised pronouns and other rule variations such as playing words backwards.

    We would like to make it clear that these rule changes only relate to a new Scrabble brand product which will be available in shops in time for Christmas. The original Scrabble game is entirely unaffected."

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Since it's a board game and the rules are not actually enforced you could, you know, just make up your own rules?

    Don't want to use proper nouns? - Don't then. Do want to? - Just use them. Certainly no reason to buy a new game or not to buy one.

  • Comment number 38.

    I can see this leading to problems - how do you check? Before it was simple if it is not in the dictionary it doesn't count. To me it seems like the ability to spell and knowledge of words has been removed from a word game making it all rather pointless.

  • Comment number 39.

    "Just because people these days are finding Scrabble to hard to play, the rules shouldn't be changed"

    We're already in a situation where 'too' is spelled incorrectly in an article about a word game. We don't even have a grip on the English language as it is. There is very little control over things like company names; people will be saying: "I'm sure I've heard of a company called ****". What's next? Numbers?

  • Comment number 40.

    There is already a version of scrabble in which you can put down anything you can vaguely justify. It's called silly scrabble, and in this version spelling mistakes, abbreviations, real nouns - anything in fact, can be played, as long as it vaguely resembles the word the player wants to make and the other players agree. My point here is that you can already play scrabble with any number of house rules or cheats, there is no need for Mattel to dumb down the rules. If you are playing proper scrabble then you have to be reasonably intellegent and have a good vocabulary of words you can actually spell. Start making it easy and it isn't fun for really good players anymore.

  • Comment number 41.

    Curses, I was hoping that they were going to require at least one word in any score to be at least four characters long. It is profoundly irritating to play Scrabble against people who have simply memorised the list of 'approved' two- and three-letter words. Yes, this shows a degree of application and tactical cleverness, but it's really off-putting for everyone else because it leaves nothing open and puts us at an enormous disadvantage.

    Oh, and for those of you who feel that young people should acquire a better vocabulary, I can't resist pointing out that people in glass houses (barryp) shouldn't throw stones: one assumes that you meant pidgin English, as pigeons are not renowned for their ability in this area.

  • Comment number 42.

    Silliest rule change I've ever heard of. Makes any combination of letters essentially playable. "It was the name of a guy I went to school with." It's amazing how many people I went to school with that had 7 and 8 letter names that just happen to fit right here across the triple word score.

    Mr Jquzikx

  • Comment number 43.

    If this had come out last Thursday I would have found it funny, as it is it only smacks of yet another advertisement poorly disguised as news...

  • Comment number 44.

    It's quite pathetic. Why does Mattel honestly believe a rule change will encourage more people will buy the game? As an earlier post pointed out, everyone can employ their own house rules. Let's face it, board games are on a continual decline because they cannot compete with multimedia games consoles.

  • Comment number 45.

    Why stop at simplifying Scrabble? The Trivial Pursuit Dullard Edition would go down a storm. Dumbing down still hasn't gone far enough if you ask me.

    It makes me so angry when I think of all those hours we wasted in class and at home spent learning how to spell. What were my teachers and parents thinking, for heaven's sake? I certainly won't be making my kids spell correctly, and will be first in the queue to snap up the new version. Bravo Mattel! (Incidentally, I take it someone will have to read the rules to the kids as they probably won't be able to read them for themselves.)

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    Clearly they are just doing this for the money since it has now lost it's popularity, and sales aren't up as much as it used to be. I can only hope that this sort of change is not swept across the board (pun intended!) with other thinking games. Next FIDE will allow people to call the knight 'Horsey' to attract toddlers!

  • Comment number 48.

    The only change I would make to classic Scrabble is to introduce an egg timer when overly competetive adults play children. My father used to take 20 minutes to play his turn and we got very bored as children. I will not be playing the proper noun version of the game as I like to be able to check that a word is real, so if it is not in the dictionary by my family's rules it does not count!

  • Comment number 49.

    As long as a word is listed in the OED, what does it matter?

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    The rule change is absurd. All that would be necessary to win is to learn a few foreign place names with Q, Z, X and J. China would be the obvious place to start.

  • Comment number 52.

    Any controversy is good to give sales a bit of a bump up, init?

    Time I bought one for my kids, but if it hasn't got the standard rules ONLY, I won't be buying it.

    ("Init" is in it, init?)

  • Comment number 53.

    April Fools day was last Thursday, guys.

  • Comment number 54.

    This is yet another sign of the dumbing down of society. Literacy is very low among school leavers, but they can spell their favourite brand of trainers or game console, how sad.

  • Comment number 55.

    Rearrange the following letters


  • Comment number 56.

    I think it's great. It enables everyone to play; literate and illiterate. In fact why should we penalize people based on the letters they have happend to grabbed, it wasn't really their fault, so make all the letters worth 3. And what if you have a good word but all of the tiles for one letter are already used up? Should you be punished for the whims of chance? No, lets make all the letter tiles blank to maximize the possibilities. And since we're improving it, why make some spaces worth more than others? That only reinforces class sterotypes, so make all the spaces triple word scores. There now the game is perfect.

  • Comment number 57.

    Do you think it's wise to use a reader comment on the article page saying: "Just because people these days are finding Scrabble to [sic] hard to play, the rules shouldn't be changed"? If you can't even write a proper sentence then maybe you shouldn't be quibbling over words in Scrabble.

  • Comment number 58.

    This sounds like an ideal change for a nation that is too lazy to think. Or maybe its the fact that we have so many illiterates who cannot spell.

  • Comment number 59.

    What is the world coming to?? Dumbing down Scrabble just because this latest generation can't work within the rules. Says very little for today's standard of education.
    Youngsters already have Junior Scrabble - leave the adult version alone.

  • Comment number 60.

    Watt a bout won witch has a spell chequer?

  • Comment number 61.

    "Mattel, which brings out a new version of the game containing amended rules in July, hopes the change will encourage younger people to play"

    Don't they already have Junior Scrabble?

    I suggest if people cannot cope with having to spell the words that are currently allowed in Classic Scrabble then they should stick with the junior version. Or failing that I believe there is a Dora The Explorer version available.

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree with most of the posts on here that Mattel seem to be dumbing down their product, which is a shame.
    I remember playing this with an elder sister when I was about 7 or 8 and it really helped me improve my spelling, something today's young (and some of the posts on here) can't seem to do very well!

  • Comment number 63.

    I can't see many people who actually play Scrabble paying too much attention to this. They'll just ignore this ridiculous rule. Still, I should be able to win for once if it's used. I've just renamed the cat "Zijqix" - no need to rely on "zax" now (a tool for splitting slate, apparently).

    Anyway, is this real? It sounds like an April Fool that the press have been a little late picking up on.

  • Comment number 64.

    Mattel (makers of Barbie) must have just got the licence for Scrabble because it was with Hasbro/Parker for years. This reminds me of the Classic Coke debacle - i.e. a fundamental misunderstanding of their core customers in a misguided attempt to reach out to new users. People always make up their own house rules which is one thing but to change the official rules to make the game easier is silly and is bound to alienate the core users. It will probably create a tidy market on ebay for the 'proper' pre- Mattel gamesets - i.e. before the Californication of the game.

  • Comment number 65.

    Ah, here we go! Another thing of beauty diminished by some need to be all inclusive. We are different - we should celebrate that some have a desire to expand their vocabulary, enrich their capacity for self expression. Others are happy as they are. Both are valid and wonderful ways to approach life; just different. Yes, house rules often apply (Ours: re-use blanks - ghastly to some) but in allowing Proper Names the principle of the game is being changed.

  • Comment number 66.

    Perhaps nouns should only be allowed when book-ended by "like".

  • Comment number 67.

    I always suspected that the standard of education in this country was slipping. I just didn't appreciate by how much, if they must resort to proper nouns to enable people to play Scrabble !

  • Comment number 68.

    WHO reads the rules anyway?

    I cannot imagine anyone purchases SCRABBLE without having a fairly good idea of what is required; and the board is fairly self-explanatory.

    As to family/friendly games, acceptability of words has always been a matter for negotiation - regardless of what the written rules specify!

    "Dumbing Down For Dummies!"

  • Comment number 69.

    Well, this is a a Forest Gump moment "stupid is as stupid does"

    Oftentimes, people will chop & change rules of an existing game. I'm sure its been said during the course of a game "ok, we'll allow proper nouns in this round" What's all the fuss?
    Be a purist with the game or let those who wish to be 'flexible' get on with it - the purists will still win out!
    Wake me when the furor is over zzzzzzzzzzz - oh, look at all those 10's!

  • Comment number 70.

    The whole point of Scrabble being an educational but enjoyable family game has now been DIMINISHED. its an absolute DISGRACE and completley pointless. What are we going to learn by being able to put words like "tesco" on a Scrabble board? The English language is a beautiful thing that is slowly becoming more idiotic every year, and its rules like this that is not helping!
    Sorry, rant over!

  • Comment number 71.

    I can barely begin to imagine how dull this will make Scrabble - endlessly unimaginative games full of people's names, with futile arguments to match.

  • Comment number 72.

    What is next - the addition of "emoticon" tiles, with smiley and sad faces? Pathetic.

  • Comment number 73.

    Good grief even Scrabble is getting dumbed down. I will continue to play with the old rules and run the risk of the wife divorcing me (again) after she accuses me of cheating.

  • Comment number 74.

    .....just another thought - why not produce a separate version?

    "Proper Nouns for Numb skulls"

  • Comment number 75.

    "Say it isn't so, Ethel! (Ray Stevens, The Streak)

    I thought Mattel (being headquartered in El Segundo, CA) would only be around 9 hours behind us, but apparently it's more like 129.

    This has GOT TO BE a mis-timed April Fool; Shirley....

  • Comment number 76.

    #70, Emma wrote:

    "...its rules like this that is not helping!"

    Oh dear!

  • Comment number 77.

    This sounds like Mattel released an April Fool a little late. Proper nouns means that every single combination of letters is theoretically possible if one names a creature with that name. I'm not sure how my cat will react to being renamed QADEIKH, but it will help me beat the people who have the up-to-date Offical Scrabble Words memorised!

  • Comment number 78.

    In my household, the word MATTEL will not be allowed in any game.

    It would never have happened when J W SPEAR & SONS PLC was [English] guardian of the game...

  • Comment number 79.

    This is clearly just a marketing thing for Scrabble, but I'll look past that for now. I don't care about the issue of it being 'dumbed down', because you can still play it as originally intended, so really there is no reason to complain about that. My issue is with how they go about introducing proper nouns. If there isn't a hard and fast rule, then it won't work. People will just try and make up words.

  • Comment number 80.

    Absolute joke. There's so many proper nouns you'll be looking up words for years to prove they exist.

  • Comment number 81.

    Yet another example of: (chose at least one from list below)
    -Political Correctness gone mad
    -Broken Britain
    -Falling education standards

  • Comment number 82.

    Why not just get a life and throw the box away?

  • Comment number 83.

    This is just another case of dumbing down games to suit declining standards in literacy.

  • Comment number 84.

    Ludicrous and ridiculous!! Another example of dumbing down our society. Scrabble has been a great family game for decades, fun and for the purpose of making people THINK and develop their vocabulary.

    Anyone playing can chose to adopt their own 'house rules' if they wish to encourage children to participate, (I have done this for years with my children) so why the need to change the game rules? I am appalled at how my children's spelling has deteriorated as they have all passed through the education system.

    I personally will stick to the REAL game of word-play, and resist this DUMBING down.

  • Comment number 85.

    So presumably Scrabble is permissible in Scrabble.

    I can hardly stand the excitement!

  • Comment number 86.

    Yes, nice for it to move with the times.

  • Comment number 87.

    3. At 1:25pm on 06 Apr 2010, Mike from Brum wrote:
    I must be getting old, because things were better in the old days. Just because people these days are finding Scrabble to hard to play, the rules shouldn't be changed. How about improving literacy so people have a wide vocabulary and can play and enjoy this wonderful game. Mattel only manufacture Scrabble.

    I wouldn't ordinarily bother correcting grammer, put in a discussion about Scrabble it's the only thing to do. Mike from Brum, shouldn't it read 'Just because people these days are finding Scrabble TOO hard to play' obviously without the capital letters.

  • Comment number 88.

    So all words must now start with "basically..."

    And the word lose (as in - don't lose money on this horse) is banned now that everyone on HYS has decided it is spelt "loose".

    Let's sort out the standard of education rather than dumbing the game down to meet competence levels - this is redolent of A levels!

  • Comment number 89.

    An issue to realise with the new Scrabble rules is that there could be the opportunity for players to agree to play a game to the orthodox rules or the new rules. If the tileset and the board are the same layout and values, this could be made easier with a rulebook that has the old ruleset and another rulebook that has the new ruleset.

    Of course, like with some other games like Monopoly, there is the provision for "house rules" that are variations of the standard rulesets that are agreed on by a particular group of players like a club or a household when they play these games. In the case of Scrabble, this could be the dictionary that is to be used for the game.

  • Comment number 90.

    I never managed to get the hang of backgammon. Can we change the rules for that, too?

  • Comment number 91.

    87. At 3:57pm on 06 Apr 2010, Pete wrote:
    I wouldn't ordinarily bother correcting grammer, put in a discussion about Scrabble it's the only thing to do. Mike from Brum, shouldn't it read 'Just because people these days are finding Scrabble TOO hard to play' obviously without the capital letters.

    I wouldn't ordinary bother correcting GRAMMAR, but...

  • Comment number 92.

    My word. Scrabble seems to have got all the publicity it wanted. What a cheap trick.

  • Comment number 93.

    We always used a private rule to determine the validity of a word in Scrabble: The "five minutes library rule". If your word is disputed, you get up to five minutes to find a book in the library (a wall in the living room containing about ten thousand books), and the word within that book. If you can present it, you get your points, if not, you get your tiles back...

    This rule allows for many interesting words not found in a dictionary. You could even use the word "Xyzzy" and get away with it, if you can find a book covering the game "Adventure", or "grok", if you know where in "Stranger in a Strange Land" the word can be found.

  • Comment number 94.

    Leave the old game as is .... Invent a New Dumber version for Those who need it .

  • Comment number 95.

    I think I have to agree with Mattel on this idea, purely in the interests of not making anyone feel inadequate. It's blatantly unfair that those who are more skilled should have an advantage. Now if we could extend this to the extent that a prima ballerina is obliged to wear lead lined boots, beauty contestants to have a bag over their heads, and talented musicians to play while wearing boxing gloves, we would go a long way towards achieving true equality.

  • Comment number 96.

    I dont even play it and I think it shouldn't be changed

  • Comment number 97.

    Make it easier so young people can feel more involved by getting better scores instead of improving their vocabulary?

    Sounds familiar.

  • Comment number 98.

    "Encourage younger people to play"? What Mattel REALLY means is "sell more games", or maybe they'll branch out into publishing a special Dumbed Down Dictionary to go with the new rules.

  • Comment number 99.

    In our Finnish/English family we always played the game according to house rules, meaning that English, Finnish and Swedish words were permitted. Great fun, even if there were problems with letters that exist only in the non-English alphabets. Proper nouns, though? Seems a bit too easy.

  • Comment number 100.

    Typical "me generation" move: if the game's too hard, change the rules and make it easier. It never occurs to them that winning won't mean as much.


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