We are driving to Indianapolis for a four game Early Bird and an eight game Scrabble tourney. Marty is quizzing me on Collins two-letter words. For those not in the Scrabble-know, the Collins dictionary includes words used not only in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia, but also in many of the originally non-English speaking British colonies. It’s the more linguistically logical dictionary; words such as FEEDING and CLEANING, which do not take an -s in TWL, do so in Collins. (I’ve forgotten what TWL stands, but I think it’s The Wimpy Lexicon.) Words also make their way into Collins much more quickly than they do into TWL. The interjection MEH, for example, is good in Collins, but not in the Little Dic, as it’s sometimes referred to. And EMO, first used in the US to describe a type of post-punk-ish music, is not good in the Little Dic. But, yes, it’s good in Collins.
The reason Marty is quizzing me on Collins is because he needs me to play Collins in the Early Bird. For a tournament to be legit you have to have four players and so far there’s only three.
“So how much are you going to pay me for this?” I ask. “Because I’m going to get clobbered.”
“You’re only expected to win maybe a half of a game. Think of it as an adventure.”
I don’t understand the half-game thing, but that’s because my PhD is in English.
I already know some of the twos because I play Collins on Facebook with two of my former graduate students, one from Egypt, one from South Africa. I even know some of the threes—ZOL, for example, which is Emile Zolas’ nickname, and ALF, which was the name of the alien who liked to eat cats on the sitcom ALF. (And the favorite show of my ex-husband.) And DOH, the expression made popular on my favorite television show of all time.
I also know some longer Collins words because Marty is always saying things like “Here’s an interesting word. But it’s only good in Collins.”
I’m surprised how easy it is to learn the Collins twos.
KY and NY are abbreviations of states. IO is either one of Zeus’ lovers or the last word of the refrain to Old McDonald Had a Farm. In Lithuanian, JA is the accusative form of the pronoun SHE. As far as I know, there is no Lithuanian Scrabble. I can see why—people would go crazy. JI, JOS, JAI, JA, JOJE—five cases for one lousy pronoun. And that’s just the singular feminine. Add the masculine—JIS, JO, JAM, JI, JAME—and the plurals for both genders–JIE, JU, JIEMS, JUOS, JOMS, JOSE, etc. etc.—and what you get is J overkill. There are also a lot of words with K.
The first person I play in the tournament is Marty. I know how to play my husband—he is slow and I am fast (most of the time.) I can sometimes get him on time. But his memory is so much better than mine. He has better board vision. Even his handwriting is better. And, of course, he spends much more time studying words. In order to beat him, I have to get good tiles and play well and quickly.
I get good tiles and play well and quickly. I start off with a bingo. I think. (Yeah, my memory is not great.) I even make a Collins bingo: DUALISE. I know that the only word with those letters in TWL is AUDILES, but Marty has taught me that in Collins words that end in -IZE will also be good ending –ISE. As the game goes on and it’s pretty clear I’m going to win, I see steam coming out of Marty’s ears, like in one of those cartoons from the Sixties. I’m REALLY careful to hold the bag way up high when I’m drawing in order not to be called on any rule infringement.
When I do win, however, Marty is gracious.
“Congrats,” he says. “You played very well.”
“Praise from Caesar is praise indeed.”
He pauses and smiles.
“Though it was my opponents you were supposed to beat.”
I lose the other games but have a lot of fun. I gain a Collins rating that’s a little higher than my TWL rating. I’m not about to COLLINIZE (NOT a good word, even in Collins) the Scrabble playing world, but, yes, I’ll definitely play it again.