This GalleyCat editor has lost countless games of Scrabble to his wife over the years, but recently discovered that literary knowledge can be a powerful tool while playing the popular word game.
Today’s guest on the Morning Media Menu podcast was David Bukszpan, author of the new book Is That a Word?: From AA to ZZZ, the Weird and Wonderful Language of SCRABBLE. Press play at the bottom of this post to listen to the whole interview.
He shared a variety of resources for readers, but also gave GalleyCat readers a special gift: an enormous list of book-related words you can play in Scrabble.
Words with Books: Using Your Book Smarts to Win at Scrabble by David Bukszpan
(Capitalized words are all playable in Scrabble)
Scrabble, Words With Friends, and Banagrams players know well that proper nouns are not allowed in those games, but sometimes there are playable words that also happen to proper nouns, such as the name Bill and the noun and verb bill.
BIBLIOPHILES may be pleasantly surprised to find that the names of many of their favorite writers and characters are playable. Take for instance MARK (to make a physical designation, or to heed) and TWAIN (a pair).
Below are some of my favorite playable Scrabble words taken from the world of books. And while many of those based on characters are EPONYMIC (like LILLIPUTS), some connections are completely coincidental.
We can start in classical literature, where HOMER’s (a homerun) HOMERIC (large, grand) ILIAD (a lengthy poem) and ODYSSEY (a long, adventure-filled journey) birthed many playable words:
AENEUS: greenish-gold in color
APHRODITE: a type of butterfly
APOLLO: a handsome man
ARGOSY: a large merchant ship
CALYPSO: a style of music
CYCLOPES: a tiny, one-eyed crustacean
HECTOR: to verbally abuse
ILIUM: a part of the pelvis
MUSE: to think about
NESTOR: a wise, elderly man
TROY: a system of weights for gems
A few millennia later, BILL SHAKES PEAR gave us
ROMEO: a lover
PUCK: a disc
SHYLOCK: to lend money with a high interest rate
ARIEL: a type of African gazelle
CHARLIE DICKENS books give us GAMP, FAGIN, SCROOGE and PICKWICK.
In the States, MARK TWAIN could play TOM SAWYER, HUCKLEBERRY, JOE HARPER, and JUDGE THATCHER against HER MAN MEL VILL(e), who could put down DICK, AH AB, STAR BUCK, FLASK, PIP and DAG GOO
Sinclair LEWIS could play BABBIT, but HARPER LEE could beat him with SCOUT FINCH and BOO. JAY DEE Salinger has HOLDEN and ZOOEY, and Vonnegut has BILLY PILGRAM and those two TROUBLEMAKERS, ROSEWATER and TROUT.
JANE Austen could show up with MISS BENNET, HENRY and FANNY DASH WOOD, LADY MIDDLE TON, EM MA WOOD HOUSE, and BILL (William) COLLINS.
Playwright ART MILLER could make WILLY LO MAN play his sons, BIFF and HAPPY.
Meanwhile, JORDAN BACKER, JAY GATS BY, and (almost) NICK CARAWAY (not CARROWAY) could mix it up on EF SCOT(t) Fitzgerald’s board.
Maybe you remember LEWIS CAR ROL(l)’s JABBERWOCKY from A LICE’s adventures in WONDERLAND.
Other characters you could invite to your Scrabble party are JANE EYRE, FAUST, QUIXOTE and LOTHARIO, and HARRY POTTER (but first you’ll have to ask JAY KAY ROW LING).
But watch out—writers are notoriously good Scrabble players. You might want to brush up before you challenge SAUL BELLOW, MARTIN AMIS, JOSEPH HELLER, HART CRANE, MARK STRAND, HA JIN, or even DAN BROWN.
And if you don’t mind getting a little creative, you could also play against
PEARL ES BUCK
NORM AN MAILER
ED WARD GIBBON
ED WARD ABBEY
ROB PEN(n) WARREN
JOHN BERRY MAN
ED WIN ROBIN SON
EL WYN (E.B.) WHITE
WALLY WHIT MAN
ROB LOW ELL
CARL SAND BURG
THORN TON WILDER
JOHN UP DIKE
EL DOCTOR OW
COLS ON WHITE HEAD
BARBIE KING SOLVER
MIKE CUNNING HAM
JO AN DID ION
JOHN STEIN BECK
RALPH ELL IS ON
STEP HEN KING
CEE ESS (but not Clive Staples) LEWIS
Three of my favorite authors that are oh-so-close are DON DE LI (l) LO, PHILIPIC WROTH, and BE (r) NARD MA LA MUD. Maybe someone should write a letter to NO AH WEBSTER!
Press play below to listen to the whole interview.
David Bukszpan is the author of IS THAT A WORD? From AA to ZZZ: The Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble. He blogs at isthatascrabbleword.com. No, his last name is not playable in English language Scrabble. Though it works in the Polish language version.
He’ll be speaking at PowerHouse Arena in DUMBO this Thursday, December 13, at 7pm.
Here’s the With Or Without U book trailer.