In a world of changing values, one set of values has never changed: the point values on Scrabble tiles.

Now word nerd Joshua Lewis has an idea that has some gamers reaching for pitchforks. He suggests changing the scoring values for some of the letters, and he has some good reasons to do so. Will this shake up Scrabble as we know it?

Linguist Daniel Midgley is on the tiles for this episode of Talk the Talk.

Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk

I love Scrabble. I’m just not sure that Q deserves to be worth 10 points anymore. It used to be a serious liability that required some skill to play off. Now? Pfeh. Just play QI, which is a word meaning new age energy horsecrap. It didn’t use to be this way back in the old days of the OSPD 3rd edition.

Well, this episode is half about suggested changes to Scrabble scoring, and then the other half is really interesting! That’s where I talk about Peter Norvig finding letter and word frequencies in English by using billions and billions of words. Cool!

Show notes

Should letter values change?

Joshua Lewis thinks so.

After all, the Official Scrabble Players’ Dictionary has changed quite a bit.

Especially those two-letter words

like QI and ZA, which caused something of an uproar in the OSPD4.

The point values haven’t changed since Alfred Butts invented it.

Here’s a scan of his frequency table.

Mattel proposed using proper nouns in 2010

but don’t worry; it’s not for reals.

I think we might have plagiarised this Metafilter commenter when talking about XZIBIT.

Bookmark this page: It’s Peter Norvig using publicly available Google data on a home computer, and coming up with letter frequencies, bigram (two-letter) frequencies, and most common words on a corpus of 3/4 trillion words.

Show tunes

‘A Letter from the Past’ by I’m Not a Gun
from the album We Think As Instruments
(No video, sorry.)

‘The Numbers Game’ by Thievery Corporation
from the album Radio Retaliation