75 years ago Alfred Butts invented Scrabble, the most perfect and elegant word game ever created. He assigned each tile in the game a value based on how often it appeared on the front page of the New York Times, but the English language has changed a lot since 1938. Now, a researcher named Joshua Lewis wants Scrabble to update the value of its tiles. People have suggested scoring changes in the past, but Lewis took the initiative and wrote a piece of software that changed the values in the game. I like your gumption, Lewis.
I'm a fairly serious competitive Scrabble player (no, really), which is why I was seriously freaked out to read this morning that Mattel was changing the rules of the game for the first time in 62 years to allow proper nouns like "Jay-Z" and "Shakira" as playable words. The story has been enthusiastically picked up by British media outlets, including The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and BBC News.
This would be a nightmare for a number of reasons, not least of which would be deciding which nouns are "proper": Which brands, celebrities, and acronyms are "big" enough that they warrant dictionary entries? Does "TomKat," for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' annoyingly portmanteaued relationship, work? Is "Bennifer" still valid even though Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez have since broken up? All of which raises another point: Scrabble as we know it would become really dumb.
Fortunately, we got in touch with a Mattel rep, and he confirmed that the rumors of a Scrabble rule change making the rounds in the British press are wildly overblown.