I majored in English but ...

Friday, August 16, 2013

I will soon be an instructor at a Road Scholar program over at the YMCA of the Ozarks, near Potosi. While I am there I will be leading five sessions on Humor and Games. Because of family responsibilities, it has been several months since I have been an instructor, so I have been trying to bone up on the type of things we participate in at these Road Scholars. My very favorite thing is playing Scrabble with other instructors or guests. One instructor friend almost always beats me, even though we have played together for several years.

My daughter got me fixed up so that I can play Scrabble on Facebook with my friend, even if we are not together in person. I can take my time to figure out good plays, and even use the Scrabble dictionary for ideas. I know this will spoil me when I am in person and it is not legal to look in the dictionary until after you have played a word. But I am trying to become aware of some of these odd words and put them in my memory bank to use in a "real" game.

I hadn't known until I started playing Scrabble that qi was a word. It is the vital force that in Chinese thought is inherent in all things. How I ever became this age without having that word in my vocabulary, I'll never know. My father used to like to use big words to impress us, and he would always make sure that we really understood the meaning. But somehow, this qi word escaped him. It was probably too short a word.

In Scrabble, the short words are often the point adding ones because you can sneak them in to make a word going two ways at once. So, the word qi could be placed where the 10 points for the Q could be counted twice, (or more if you can place it on a double or triple letter square.) If you don't play Scrabble, this sounds like Greek and I apologize. I get carried away with my enthusiasm for the game and trying to become better at it. When some of you readers discuss strategies in, say, golf or tennis, I am just as lost as some of you may be in this discussion. We each have our favorite games.

But I have learned a lot of confusing things by my constant use of the dictionary. For example, the word alms, meaning a gift for charity, is listed in the dictionary as "n pl" but alm is not a word. If a word can have a plural form, doesn't there have to be a singular version of the word? If a person is stingy in giving, there is no way to only give an alm. Maybe that is why we now usually use the term tithing, even though most of us don't really give the 10 percent.

Another confusing one is the word deer. In the dictionary, it is also listed as "n pl," but it says you can use an s on the end of it also. If it is already a plural, how can you add an s to it? If I see a deer at our pond, I use the same word as if I see SEVERAL deer at our pond. I guess the plural form might be used when you are referring to the species, such as "there are two different types of deers in Missouri." It still doesn't sound correct, but my opponent got to use it and made good points.

I mentioned unusual two letter words. One word that really caught my attention because it also could be used to gain points if used in doubled or tripled squares was the word za. That is not some technical oriental word like qi is. It merely means pizza. Can you imagine driving up to the drive-through and telling the waitress that you are here to pick up your two zas? I imagine she would ask you to repeat your request.

I probably have bored some of you with this column, but I feel somewhat verbally challenged since beginning this Facebook Scrabble game playing. Come to think of it, I am also somewhat nounally challenged also.