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.


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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?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20984707

Joshua Lewis thinks so.
http://blog.useost.com/2012/12/30/valett/

After all, the Official Scrabble Players’ Dictionary has changed quite a bit.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9806130/True-Scrabble-lovers-could-soon-have-the-last-word.html

Especially those two-letter words
http://www.wolfberg.net/scrabble/wordlists/twos/

like QI and ZA, which caused something of an uproar in the OSPD4.
http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Rec/rec.games.board/2009-12/msg00017.html

The point values haven’t changed since Alfred Butts invented it.
http://www.scrabble-assoc.com/info/history.html

Here’s a scan of his frequency table.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred_Butts_letter_frequencies.JPG

Mattel proposed using proper nouns in 2010
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8604625.stm

but don’t worry; it’s not for reals.
http://www.geekosystem.com/scrabble-rule-change-proper-nouns-fake/

I think we might have plagiarised this Metafilter commenter when talking about XZIBIT.
http://www.metafilter.com/90762/LADYGAGA-for-14-points#3028067

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.
http://norvig.com/mayzner.html


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