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I acquired a copy of the 1953 Scrabble Word Guide in January 2012. I have pages devoted to changes to the Scrabble rules over the years, and changes to the design of the standard Scrabble set; here's a quick look at how that third component of the game, the word set, has changed over about 50 years.
The word guide has a copyright date of 1953. Remember that Scrabble was "born" at the end of 1948, and exploded on the scene in early 1953.
The Scrabble Word Guide was an "authorized Scrabble word list with over 30,000 words from Funk & Wagnalls New College Standard Dictionary." It includes words up to nine letters long, but, unfortunately, is not complete with respect to formatives. The introduction states, "You will not, in general, find... words formed by adding -LY, -NESS, -MENT, -ABLE, -ER."
Well, humph, that's the whole reason for buying an official Scrabble word list. Any dictionary will do for the base words; it's when somebody starts to fiddle around with REIRONED or UNPOURED or OUTRULED or WRONGER or PRAYINGLY or ABANDONMENT or AVOWEDNESS or CLONABLE or OVULATER, etc., that all heck breaks loose.
Fortunately, times have changed and North America has an official Scrabble word list which is explicit regarding the formatives. At the same time, though, the list brings in so many obscure words that Scrabble players barely have to look beyond the smallest words of the language for their scoring and strategic needs. (The World Scrabble word list is even crazier. All of which is why I've been campaigning for a more natural, longer word Scrabble for decades. See the Scrabble For Word Lovers link at the top.)
In fact, the two- and three-letter words account for more than half the words on tournament Scrabble boards. So I thought it would be very interesting to compare the Scrabble Word Guide (1953) with the Official Word List (2006) regarding the two- and three letter words. (The "Official Word List" is the same as the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary sold in stores, except that it includes offensive words and registered trademarks. Anything for a few extra points, I guess...)
But first, let me point out a touching little memento from the pre-computer age: 15 words appear in the Scrabble Word Guide twice:
ANNATTO - after ANATTO and ANNATES APICAL - after APEXES and APIARY BODE - after BIDE and BODDLE BOWPIN - after BOWHEAD and BOWMAN LUCIFEE - after LUCIDITY and LUCIFORM MELTON - after MELANOMIA and MELTAGE MINIMAL - after MINIM and MINIMA MOST - after MORE and MOSSY REACTIVE - shown twice after REACTION SEPTA and SEPTAL - appear together after SEPT and SEPTIME SERA - after SER and SERRY THOSE - after THAT and THOROUGH TRINAL - after TRIMORPH and TRINARY WIVERN - after WIVE and WYVERN
In the following lists, red draws your attention to words that are on one list but not the other. You won't be surprised to find that many more words have been added than have been dropped.
Here are the 52 two-letter words in the Scrabble Word Guide (1953):
AH AI AM AN AS AT AX AY BE BY DO EH EM EN FA GO HA HE HO ID IF IN IO IS IT KA LA LI LO MA ME MI MY NO OD OF OH ON OR OS OX PA PI RE SI TI TO UP US UT WE YE
Fifty years later, the list is almost twice as long. Here is the complete list of the 101 two-letter words in the Official Word List (2006):
AA AB AD AE AG AH AI AL AM AN AR AS AT AW AX AY BA BE BI BO BY DE DO ED EF EH EL EM EN ER ES ET EX FA FE GO HA HE HI HM HO ID IF IN IS IT JO KA KI LA LI LO MA ME MI MM MO MU MY NA NE NO NU OD OE OF OH OI OM ON OP OR OS OW OX OY PA PE PI QI RE SH SI SO TA TI TO UH UM UN UP US UT WE WO XI XU YA YE YO ZA
So . . . 50 out of the 101 two-letter words have been added since 1953.
Most of the newcomers fall into three main categories: spellings of letters; grunts and groans (sorry, I mean, interjections); and lazy-mouth (sorry, I mean, "informal") clippings (AB AG BI ED MO). A lot of people might be surprised that AD was "not a word" so recently in our past. I myself am shocked that HI didn't qualify in 1953. And I sure hope SO was just a simple oversight!
Here are the 618 three-letter words in the Scrabble Word Guide (1953):
ABA ABB ACE ACT ADD ADO ADZ AFT AGE AGO AHA AID AIL AIM AIN AIR AIT ALA ALB ALE ALL ALP ALT ANA AND ANI ANT ANY APE APT ARC ARE ARK ARM ART ASH ASK ASP ASS ATE AUK AWE AWL AWN AXE AYE AZO BAD BAG BAH BAN BAR BAT BAY BED BEE BEG BEL BET BEY BIB BID BIG BIN BIS BIT BOA BOB BOG BOO BOT BOW BOX BOY BUD BUG BUM BUN BUR BUT BUY BYE CAB CAD CAM CAN CAP CAR CAT CAW CAY CHI COB COD COG COL CON COO COP COT COY COZ CRY CUB CUD CUE CUP CUR CUT DAB DAD DAG DAM DAP DAW DAY DEE DEN DEW DEY DHU DID DIE DIG DIM DIN DIP DOE DOG DOR DRY DUB DUE DUG DUI DUN DUO DYE EAR EAU EBB EDH EEL EFT EGG EGO EKE ELF ELK ELL ELM EMU END ENS EON EPI ERA ERG ERR ERS ESS ETA ETH EVE EWE EYE FAD FAG FAN FAR FAT FAY FED FEE FEN FEU FEW FEY FEZ FIB FID FIE FIG FIN FIR FIT FIX FLY FOB FOE FOG FOH FOP FOR FOX FRO FRY FUB FUN FUR GAB GAD GAG GAM GAP GAR GAS GAT GAY GEE GEL GEM GET GIB GID GIG GIN GIP GNU GOA GOB GOD GOT GUM GUN GUT GUY HAD HAG HAH HAJ HAM HAP HAS HAT HAW HAY HEM HEN HER HET HEW HEY HID HIE HIM HIP HIS HIT HOA HOB HOD HOE HOG HOO HOP HOT HOW HOY HUB HUE HUG HUM HUT ICE ICY ILL IMP INK INN ION IRE IRK ISM ITS IVY JAG JAM JAR JAW JAY JEE JET JIB JIG JOB JOG JOT JOY JUG JUS JUT KAB KAS KEF KEG KER KEX KEY KID KIN KIP KIT KOB KOR KOS LAC LAD LAG LAP LAT LAW LAX LAY LED LEE LEG LEI LET LEU LEV LEX LID LIE LIP LIT LOB LOG LOO LOP LOT LOW LUG LYE MAD MAN MAP MAR MAT MAW MAY MEN MET MEW MHO MIB MID MIL MIR MIX MOA MOB MOL MOO MOP MOT MOW MUD MUG MUM NAB NAG NAP NEB NEE NEP NET NEW NIB NIL NIP NIT NIX NOD NOG NOR NOT NOW NTH NUB NUN NUT OAF OAK OAR OAT OBE OBI ODD ODE OFF OFT OHM OII OIL OKA OKE OLD ONE OPE OPT ORA ORB ORC ORE ORT OSE OUR OUT OVA OWE OWL OWN PAC PAD PAH PAM PAN PAP PAR PAS PAT PAW PAX PAY PEA PEE PEG PEN PES PET PEW PIE PIG PIN PIP PIT PLY POD POH POP POT POX PRO PRY PUG PUN PUP PUR PUS PUT PUY PYE PYX QUA RAG RAJ RAM RAP RAT RAW RAY RED REE RET RIB RID RIG RIM RIP ROB ROC ROD ROE ROT RUB RUE RUG RUM RUN RUT RYE SAC SAD SAG SAP SAW SAX SAY SEA SEE SER SET SEW SEX SHE SHY SIB SIC SID SIN SIP SIR SIT SIX SKI SKY SLY SOB SOD SOL SON SOP SOT SOU SOW SOY SPA SPY STY SUE SUM SUN SUP TAB TAD TAG TAM TAN TAP TAR TAT TAU TAW TAX TEA TED TEE TEN THE THO THY TIC TIE TIL TIN TIP TIT TOD TOE TOM TON TOO TOP TOW TOY TRY TUB TUG TUN TUP TUT TWO UGH URN USE UVA VAN VAR VAT VEE VEX VIA VIE VIM VOW VOX VUG WAD WAG WAN WAR WAS WAT WAX WAY WEB WED WEE WEN WET WHY WIG WIN WIT WOE WON WOO WOT WOW WRY WYE YAH YAK YAM YAW YEA YEN YES YET YEW YIP YON YOU ZAX ZIP ZOA ZOO
You see that 11 words have since fallen by the wayside: ABB DHU EPI HOA HOO KER NEP OII PUY SID UVA. I thought I had been noticing a decline in their usage since I was a kid!
Fifty-three years later, the list of three-letter words has grown by about 400 words. The Official Word List (2006) has 1015 of them. Here are just the 392 three-letter words not already on the 1953 list:
AAH AAL AAS ABO ABS ABY ADS AFF AGA AGS AHI AHS ALS AMA AMI AMP AMU ANE APO APP ARB ARF ARS ATT AVA AVE AVO AWA BAA BAL BAM BAP BAS BEN BES BIO BIZ BOD BOP BOS BRA BRO BRR BUB BUS BYS CEE CEL CEP CIG CIS COR COS COW COX CRU CUM CWM DAH DAK DAL DAN DEB DEF DEL DEV DEX DIB DIF DIS DIT DOC DOL DOM DON DOT DOW DUD DUH DUP EAT ECU EDS EEK EFF EFS ELD ELS EME ENG ERE ERN FAB FAX FEH FEM FER FES FET FIL FIZ FLU FON FOU FOY FUD FUG GAE GAL GAN GED GEN GEY GHI GIE GIT GOO GOR GOS GOX GOY GUL GUV GYM GYP HAE HAO HEH HEP HES HEX HIC HIN HMM HON HOS HUH HUN HUP HYP ICH ICK IFF IFS IGG ILK INS JAB JEU JEW JIN JOE JOW JUN KAE KAF KAT KAY KEA KEN KEP KHI KIF KIR KIS KOA KOI KOP KUE KYE LAB LAM LAR LAV LEA LEK LES LEY LEZ LIB LIN LOX LUM LUV LUX MAC MAE MAG MAX MED MEG MEL MEM MIC MIG MIM MOC MOD MOG MOM MON MOR MOS MUN MUS MUT MYC NAE NAH NAM NAN NAW NAY NEG NIM NOB NOH NOM NOO NOS NUS OBA OCA ODA OES OHO OHS OLE OMS ONO ONS OOH OOT OPS ORS OUD OXO OXY PAL PEC PED PEH PEP PER PHI PHT PIA PIC PIS PIU PIX POI POL POM POO POW PSI PST PUB PUD PUL PYA QAT QIS RAD RAH RAI RAN RAS RAX REB REC REF REG REI REM REP REV REX RHO RIA RIF RIN ROM ROW RYA SAB SAE SAL SAT SAU SEC SEG SEI SEL SEN SHA SHH SIM SKA SOM SOX SRI SUB SUK SUQ SYN TAE TAJ TAO TAS TAV TEG TEL TET TEW TOG TOR TOT TSK TUI TUX TWA TYE UDO UKE ULU UMM UMP UNS UPO UPS URB URD URP UTA UTE VAC VAS VAU VAV VAW VEG VET VID VIG VIS VOE VUM WAB WAE WAP WAW WHA WHO WIS WIZ WOG WOK WOP WOS WUD WYN XIS YAG YAP YAR YAY YEH YEP YID YIN YOB YOD YOK YOM YOW YUK YUM YUP ZAG ZAP ZAS ZED ZEE ZEK ZEP ZIG ZIN ZIT ZUZ ZZZ
That's right, the COW had not been invented by 1953. And BUSes. Erudite drivers were still barking, "Get to the back of the omnibus!" in the early fifties.
Other newcomers I can live with are ADS BIO BRA DON (not because some people call me that or anything) DOT DUD EAT FLU GAL GYP ILK JAB KEN LAB LAM MIC MOM NAY PAL PEP PER PUB RAN REF REP REV ROW SAT TUX UKE UMP VET VUM and WHO. Yeah, WHO definitely stays.
That's a total of just 36 out of the 392 johnny-come-latelys that get my seal of approval. (On the other hand, who am I, really?) Obviously, some of those 36 words had simply fallen through the cracks in compiling the Official Word Guide back in 1953. Most of the others may be described as "informal" clippings that have more or less paid their dues over the decades. Maybe. Now be honest, don't REP, LAB, UMP and their fellows still sound thoroughly low-class after all the time we've had to get used to them?
But the other 356, hmmm... they've got some explaining to do. How would you like to write a homework assignment using them? I suppose they keep dictionary makers in work, but I sure hope they don't try to take over my Scrabble boards!
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Keywords not in text above: grosset & dunlap, publisher; official word list = owl2; official scrabble players dictionary = ospd.
Note: to make the three-letter word counts work out, I am assuming the Scrabble Word Guide (SWG) would allow plurals for 16 of the two-letter words, such as for the notes of the scale, etc. Then we have, 618 explicit in SWG + 16 short plurals + 392 added words - 11 dropped words = 1015 in current OWL2.