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Scrabble Tournaments Move Toward Banning Racial And Ethnic Slurs Press "Enter" to skip to content

Scrabble Tournaments Move Toward Banning Racial and Ethnic Slurs

It was the competitive players who objected. In a compromise, slurs and profanities were taken out of the official Scrabble Dictionary, but clubs and tournaments could follow a separate lexicon, produced by the players’ association, that allows for the slurs.

“It is very difficult for a lot of people to understand why those words are still acceptable in Scrabble,” said Stefan Fatsis, the author of a book on competitive scrabble, “Word Freak.”

But, he added, “it is also hard for them to understand why ‘qi’ and ‘aa’ are words. For Scrabble players, they are just instruments with which to score points.”

During the 1990s furor, Steven Alexander, who is white and Jewish, was one of many players who wrote letters opposing any expurgation. He still opposes most exclusions, but he has amended his position after recent events.

“The one word that has actually been used to rally mobs into terrorism is the N-word,” he said. “It’s a word of conspiracy, a tool of oppression. If Black people demand something, a white person like me shouldn’t necessarily put their views first.”

Chew’s initial proposal came after an association member wrote a letter on the organization’s Facebook page calling for the body to take action. Chew agreed and made the proposal, then opened the topic for debate, which he says was fairly evenly split.

“I couldn’t have found a bigger wedge issue if I tried,” he said.

For those who objected to removing the words, Chew said, the three main arguments were: A word’s meaning is irrelevant in Scrabble; it’s a slippery slope, and — one he repeated with a tone of incredulity — if some people are not offended by the presence of those words, why should anyone else be?

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