From Iceland — Scrabble Society Board Member Resigns Over Compound Words

Scrabble Society Board Member Resigns Over Compound Words

Published November 3, 2014

One board member of the Icelandic Scrabble Society has resigned over a disagreement on compound words.
According to Vísir, he wanted more precise regulation than other board members, as to which compound words should be permitted, and which ones should not. The debate started ten days ago, but became heated this weekend. “But the next tournament is coming up and we had to cut the knot,” explained remaining board member Johannes Benediktsson.

The clause finally settled on goes as follows: “Original compound words are not permitted. If a compound word is not found in a dictionary, a judge will rule whether the word is permissible or not. examples of permissible words not found in dictionaries: Unpopular, marble-floor, hairless. Examples of impermissible words not found in dictionaries: Song-easy, ox-maiden, cat-dress.”

Skrafl / Scrabble

The dispute was originally reported by Nútíminn. The medium quoted the Scrabble Society’s Chair, Sigurdur Arendt, who said it is “terribly difficult” to lay out standardized rules for tournaments: “Many compound words are not found in dictionaries, such as ovinsaell (unpopular) and other words where the prefix or the suffix is self-evident.” This means, according to Sigurdur, that no dictionary is sufficient as a criterion for the existence of a word. The problem is that you can also “make very easily understandable compound words about things, without any precedent or evidence of their prior use.”

As an example, Sigurdur mentions “straetobilagulur”, bus-yellow, as a perfect word to lay out across the game board, but says it remains unclear on what grounds it would be ruled valid or invalid. “You might find a ‘bathroom-clause’ in a rental contract and what if a ‘blackfish-flu’ is the next plague? This is a complex issue, but someone must take the debate, and that’s what board game societies are for.”

Sigurdur further reasons that he wants to live in a world where people play by the rules, and sees the issue as a democratic concern. The rules should be, he says, “easily legible and accessible to most people, but at the same time extensive and technical enough to be useful in settling disputes.”

According to board member Johannes Benediktsson, quoted above, this is not the society’s first debate about the rule-book: “Last year we disagreed on the interrogative form of verbs. Whether words such as “heyrdu” (Listen!) could be used. Our conclusion was that their singular form should be permitted, but the plural not.”

The society held Iceland’s first championship tournament in Scrabble last year, and plans to proceed with the second tournament this November 8-9, incidentally during the music festival Iceland Airwaves. “This isn’t exactly the same target group,” Johannes explained.

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