Ja, La, Za

In my first post of 2023, I want to talk about that weird limbo week between Christmas and New Year. It brought many delights, among them the chance for Mum, Dad and I to spend time with my brother Louis and his boyfriend Ali, who came down from Birmingham for the festivities. Of course, these largely consisted of a great deal of eating and lounging, but we did also set time aside for a few games – including a couple of rounds of Scrabble. Let me tell you, playing Scrabble can be a real experience in our house, particularly if Louis and Ali are involved. While we’re all capable of spending a nice hour or two rubbing along without causing any disagreements, more often than not, we tend to very vocally challenge certain words that appear on the board. The boys are particularly prone to coming up with questionable suggestions.

Take the other night, for example. Once Louis, Ali, Mum and I had started playing, we were quickly faced with the age-old obstacle of a board on which large parts had been blocked off early. Certain Triple Word Score squares were impossible to reach, and elsewhere there was no room to spread out anyway, leaving us with no choice but to pick up what points we could with shorter, less rewarding submissions. This was where the disputes arose, and they continued without end until the final stages – the most notable of these concerned the three words you see at the very top of this post. You might be forgiven for thinking that they’re barely words at all, at least not in English. According to our 2012 Scrabble Dictionary, however, they’re not only clearly defined, but they’re all permitted in the game. ‘Ja’ is, of course, the German for ‘yes’, while ‘la’ is included in its capacity as the sixth note of the musical scale. ‘Za’, meanwhile, was the one that infuriated me most of all, since it merely appears to be an American colloquialism for ‘pizza’. A colloquialism – and an abbreviation too – allowed in Scrabble? Surely not. I think the game is going downhill, and I reckon any normal player would agree with me, but Louis and Ali are not normal players.

Louis won in the end. There may only have been seven points separating him and Mum in second, but we all know what it was that put him ahead – this farce has reminded us to get an updated Scrabble Dictionary, so we don’t have as many issues in future. It was a lot of fun, though, and while it might seem like a random story for me to tell here, it’s the kind of daft memory you want in black and white for posterity. There are good vibes, and I’m not actually going on an anti-Scrabble rant (hopefully you can tell I’ve written this with tongue planted firmly in cheek). I’m sure you’ll agree it makes for a fitting post to start the new year with – one that I hope will have plenty more good things in store for me. The first post I write next January will reflect on much more than just a board game, I’m sure of that…

Mason

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