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New Scrabble words get the 'OK'

New York

THE official international Scrabble dictionary has updated its list of approved words for the first time since 2015, opening up an additional 2,800 words to players at tournaments and at home.

The new words approved by Collins, the publisher behind the Collins English Dictionary in Britain, come after some of the same terms were approved last year by Merriam-Webster, which oversees the Scrabble list for the US and Canada.

The Collins additions help standardise the dictionary for English-language players worldwide.

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The new words include an array of coinages that reflect modern life, like terms about gender identity (such as "genderqueer" and "cisgender"), online slang ("bae" is now on the table) and words related to political and cultural controversies ("antivaxxer" is as potent on the Scrabble board as in real life, with a whopping 19 points).

The Scrabble dictionary by Collins, published last Thursday, adds to the 276,000 words already in play, making it the most comprehensive Scrabble word list ever produced, Collins said in a news release.

The new list applies to international players, from English-speaking countries such as Britain and Australia to places like Thailand and Pakistan, where English-language Scrabble is popular among school-age children.

Some players in North America also use the Collins dictionary, which includes more words than the Merriam-Webster version.

Many of the new words, which will be accepted in tournaments and club play starting in July, are already frequently used in common conversation.

But this is Scrabble, an enduringly popular board game with an ardent fan following, and the new list was not without controversy, OK? (Now worth six points!)

The decision to approve "ok" was subject to much debate when Merriam-Webster announced that it had included the two-letter word last year.

"We spent a week last summer debating this," said John Chew, co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association. (When asked to spell his first and last name in an interview on Thursday, he helpfully noted that "they are both spelled the way they are in the dictionary.")

Range of options

People expect to be able to play "ok", he said, and when new players trying to use it find that it's not allowed, it can be a turnoff.

While the four-letter spelling "okay" was already approved, the shorter version had not previously been included because of debate about whether it was an abbreviation.

"Eventually, we came down with the point that we're not sure if it's an initialism, so we should give it the benefit of the doubt," Mr Chew said. "I'd say 95 per cent of the people in the community agreed with the decision, but the 5 per cent of people who disagreed were disproportionately loud."

For competitive players, the addition of "ok" will open up a range of options on the board. It was one of three newly approved two-letter words, which can be easily tacked on to existing words to rack up fast points.

For example, Scrabble players will soon be able to play the word "fatberg", defined as a large mass of fat in a sewer, and hook on the interjection "ew!"

The third two-letter word approved by Collins, the gender-neutral pronoun "ze", not only offers inclusivity, but also has the potential to transform the game, according to Mr Chew, who recalled that there were no two-letter "z" words allowed when he began playing, in the early 1990s. Soon, he said, the Collins list will have three.

"Whoever draws the Z tile is going to have a huge advantage," he said.

To purists, some of the new entries may seem a bridge too far. "Plogging," the act of picking up litter while jogging (apparently this is a thing), and "sharenting", when parents share news and photos of their kids on social media, are among the new words.

But in the world of word lovers, or "wordies" (now approved for 11 points), there will always be debate - not only over what is included, but also over what isn't.

"On publication of the last list, I was personally accosted by two irate elderly gentlemen who were fans of figgy pie and couldn't believe that 'figgy' wasn't allowed," Philip Nelkon, a four-time Scrabble champion in Britain, wrote in a foreword for the updated dictionary, noting that the word "figgy" had now been approved.

"That's the sort of passion Scrabble can engender," he said. NYTIMES