Scrabble players are in uproar after the popular board game banned a number of winning words that are considered slurs.
Scrabble players are in uproar after the popular board game banned a number of winning words that are considered slurs.

Words you can no longer use in Scrabble

The Scrabble world is in uproar over moves by the venerable board game's owners to ban a long list of words now considered slurs.

Three prominent members of the global Scrabble players' organisation have quit over the removal of words from official game lists.

They have complained that as Scrabble is a game of words, as long as terms are listed in the dictionary they should be able to be played. To do otherwise would be to pretend those words don't exist.

One of Scrabble's owners, however, has said there are no other games where players "can win by using a racial epithet".

But an Australian campaigner has questioned why derogatory terms for Irish people now cannot score points, but derogatory terms for Indigenous Australians can still be played.

More than 200 words have been banned from being used in Scrabble. Picture: Josie Hayden
More than 200 words have been banned from being used in Scrabble. Picture: Josie Hayden

 

Derogatory words dumped

The word war erupted when words began to be removed from the game's official word lists over the past 12 months.

Invented in the US in 1938, Scrabble is now owned by two of the world's biggest toy makers. Hasbro, makers of Monopoly and My Little Pony, holds the rights to the game in North America while Mattel, which produces Barbie, owns Scrabble elsewhere - including in Australia.

Gradually, both firms have started to restrict certain words from officially being able to score points. The removed words have varied between the two companies.

In total, more than 200 dictionary defined terms have now vanished.

There is no one list of the banned terms, but online Scrabble check websites allow players to type in a word to see if it can be played.

N****r and c**t are no longer playable. Other terms no longer allowed include "Paki," a slur against people of Pakistani origin and "Fenian," which is often used to demean Irish republicans.

"Shiksha," a derogatory term used to refer to a non-Jewish girl, or a Jewish girl who doesn't live up to traditional Jewish standards is also gone.

 

'Words should not be removed' in Scrabble

A number of players against the move have said they have no wish to highlight any offensive words but they should be able to be played.

British author Darryl Francis resigned from the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) because he said Mattel had forced the changes on the game.

"Words listed in dictionaries and Scrabble lists are not slurs," Mr Francis wrote, reported UK newspaper The Times.

"They only become slurs when used with a derogatory purpose or intent, or used with a particular tone and in a particular context.

"Words in our familiar Scrabble word lists should not be removed because of a PR purpose disguised as promoting some kind of social betterment."

Mattel has been open that the changes were being made because of recent global movements, such as Black Lives Matter.

"We looked at some of the social unrest that's going on globally. I've heard the argument that these are just words, but we believe they have meaning," Mattel's global head of games told The Times.

"Can you imagine any other game where you can score points and win by using a racial epithet? It's long overdue."

However, many terms that would be considered offensive are still allowed in the game. That's often because a benign word has taken on a secondary definition as a slur.

"Bitch" is allowed as it can define a female dog. A "f****t" is also a bundle of sticks. Nonetheless, "slut" is fine to use despite its meaning being seemingly only offensive.

RELATED: Coon cheese campaigner calls on footy club to change 'racist' song

Online Scrabble checkers have shown that many slurs can still be used.
Online Scrabble checkers have shown that many slurs can still be used.

Call for Scrabble players 'to be more creative'

Indigenous activist Stephen Hagan has chided Mattel for removing some terms but leaving in those which belittle Aboriginal Australians.

A key player in the campaign to have Coon cheese renamed, Dr Hagan has pointed out that "coon" can still score points in Scrabble.

"Abo" and "boong" have also not been added to the no play list.

In January, he submitted a complaint against Mattel to the Australian Human Rights Commission in an attempt to get the words removed.

"Players of Scrabble who object to the changes need to get with the times," he told news.com.au.

"This is the 21st century where multiculturalism and Black Lives Matter add up to inclusivity.

"Instead of complaining, Scrabble players - who in the main pride themselves as being wordsmiths - need to be more creative without the need to use slurs to score points to win games."

WESPA voted in February, by a slim margin, to accept Mattel's diktat and expunge the words from tournaments.

Influential UK player David Webb said, "Mattel basically pointed a gun at our head," because the firm could have prevented WESPA from using the Scrabble trademark at events.

He said the company has not responded to players' concerns about the expunging of words which was being done at the behest of "middle-class white people".

"Its actions are seen by many as virtue signalling, making a token gesture or 'woke'. Imposing American values on the world is pretty obnoxious," he added.

 

Originally published as Words you can no longer use in Scrabble



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