Anagramming or How to be a Super Word Nerd



I recently read   Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players. It is a fascinating look inside the insular world of SCRABBLE tournaments and the subculture it has created. I have enjoyed playing SCRABBLE since I was 6 years old, but I am only what the professionals featured in the book dismissively call a “living room” player.


As a “Word Nerd” I enjoyed learning about how one goes about becoming a ranked championship player. It involves prodigious word knowledge which means initially memorizing lengthy lists of words sanctioned in the Official Scrabble Dictionary (OSD). You begin with all of the official 2 letter words (like “AA” and ” KA”) , then 3 unusual letter words (“KAB” and “DEP”) , all the words that have a ‘Q’ without a ‘U’  ( “QI” and “QAT”)and so on. The best players memorize thousands of words in various categories. Whew!


The other skill that the highest ranked players develop is the ability to quickly anagram or rearrange any combination of 7 letters on the SCRABBLE rack into as many playable words as possible and scan the board for  places to play the words for the best score. The idea is that  you want to play all 7 letters on your rack in one turn order to create a BINGO which adds a 50 point bonus to your score. Games at the championship level often feature games with multiple BINGOES.


For hard-core tournament players it is all about anagramming and making any word, no matter how obscure as long as it is in the OSD. The players do not bother learn what the words mean, that just slows down the process! In fact some of the top players in American tournaments  can barely speak English, but their abilities to memorize lists and anagram allow them to play competitively. They play word  like LINTERS and ACAROID, never learning or caring what they mean.


To practice, they choose 7 random letters and then proceed to create as many words as possible with those letters. Then they look them up in the OSD to see if they are “legal.” It was surprising to see some of the letter combinations that are actual words.


Another strategy top players use is to play anagram PHONIES which are letter combinations that look like real words but are not official. If their opponent does not challenge the word, they often can succeed with the ruse.


So here’s a fun word challenge. Grab some letter tiles or just choose 7 letters at random and then anagram them to make as many “words” as you can. You can make up your own definitions and create a story using them. You can also look them up to see if they are real words and then learn the meaning. Who knows you may create a new term or phrase or perhaps one day amaze friends/family in a game of SCRABBLE!




Have fun as a Super Word Nerd!