Friday, April 10, 2009

He made Squares Cool - Happy Birthday Scrabble's Alfred Butts!

Quick pop quiz. How much is the J worth?

He was a rebel. A loner. He was a trailblazer. So many gamers, craftspeople, competitive souls who gather throughout the year and compulsive two-letter word buffs think of Alfred Butts often and do so warm smiles on their faces. Okay, maybe they don't really think much about Alfred Butts, himself. Maybe there is someone somewhere who didn't hear at her Scrabble-crazed mother's knee that Alfred Butts is the one who invented Scrabble. Yes, if you're wearing a Scrabble tile pendant at this moment, we can give some credit along the line to Mr. Alfred Butts.

Alfred's birthday is April 13th, 1899. Scrabble turned 60 in 2008. My mother was a ruthless Scrabble player. She knew more two-letter words than anyone I've ever met. If you challenged her, you'd regret it. I read that there are 124 permissible two-letter words containing every letter in the alphabet except V. I would bet that she could've come up with a 125th word!

I also read that the US Scrabble Dictionary has banned all offensive words. I remember a librarian I used to know had a T-shirt he got at an American Library Association conference. It said something like, "Visit your local library. There's something there to offend everyone."

There's been a ballet named for Scrabble. People have played the game underwater. I've seen dictionaries slammed open and shut during heated games. Second and maybe even third dictionaries produced from other rooms. This is a highly emotional game.

I wonder if Alfred (whose first and last name adds up to a so-so score of 28) could've predicted that people would be wearing his tiles as pendants and charms in the years to come? I wonder if he'd know Scrabble is used as a method of teaching English. It's hard to say with a guy like Alfred what he might have hoped for Scrabble's future. I'm glad he came up with the game since it's been a favorite of mine for a long time.

The highest number of points that can be scored on the first go is 128 - with 'muzjiks' (Russian peasants).

I don't know if Scrabble tiles were the first game pieces used in jewelry. There is some really great art jewelry out there that incorporates all kinds of game pieces. It's highly creative, often gives you one-of-a-kind results, and it's upcycling at the same time. I have some pieces in the works using game pieces, tokens and other items. Alfred Butts couldn't help but be proud of the status his game has achieved.

Oh yeah, J is worth Ten Points. :-)

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