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War over words: U.S. Scrabble leader overrules panel to ban slurs

9 Comments
By Matthew Lavietes and Oscar Lopez

North American Scrabble competitors will no longer be able to play racist and homophobic slurs from the "N-word" to "bumboy" and"poofs", the head of the players' association has said, in an 11th-hour ruling that went against his own advisory board.

John Chew, chief executive of the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA), said he was overturning a vote by the board against the proposed change, and would remove a list of more than 230 offensive words from the game.

"We cannot ... continue to look only inward or think that how we feel about our vocabulary is more important than broader social issues," he said in an emailed statement late on Thursday.

"Accordingly, on behalf of the executive committee, and with the consent of our board of trustees, I am ... overturning the advisory board's ruling and ensuring that the offensive slurs will be removed from our NASPA Word List by September."

Language has become a hotly debated topic after protests against racism following the death of George Floyd in U.S. police custody on May 25, with bands, consumer brands, and buildings and roads named after slave traders renamed.

NASPA represents competitive players in the United States and Canada and its list of permitted words also features on many popular Scrabble apps.

The decision came after a poll of its about 2,000 members and the general public showed members were split over removing the "N-word", but the public in favor of doing so.

Stefan Fatsis, a U.S.-based Scrabble player and author of"Word Freak" a non-fiction narrative of competitive Scrabble, was against the removal of the offensive words.

"Language is different from a statue. You can take down a statue of a confederate general, but you're not going to make the 'N-word' disappear by saying you can't play it in a board game," Fatsis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I'd rather people understood why these words are so damaging than to get rid of them altogether and start purging lists of words."

In a letter to NASPA's advisory board, published online last month, Chew had argued strongly for the removal of the "N-word" from its word list, saying, "I don't think that this is the time for us to be contributing divisively to the world's problems."

Hasbro, the American toy company which owns the U.S. and Canadian trademark for the popular board game, had previously said that it was changing the official rules to make clear that slurs are "not permissible in any form".

The company has not allowed offensive slurs in Scrabble's dictionary since 1994. However, technically, Hasbro does not have control over the nearly 200,000 playable words used by the independent association.

Scrabble, invented in 1933 by unemployed American architect Alfred Mosher Butts, is played competitively in North America by almost 15,000 people, Chew told the Thomson Reuters Foundation earlier.

The World English Language Scrabble Players Association(WESPA), which runs international tournaments, is talking to its dictionary's publisher, Collins, about whether to remove the slurs, chairman Chris Lipe said.

© Thomson Reuters Foundation

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

9 Comments
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All discrimination just officially ended

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The straightjacket fits!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

SouthPark has another Comedy Sketch to play...

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They should leave in the words, and players should ostracize anyone who uses them.

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They need to change the name of the game from Scrabble to Newspeak.

North American Scrabble competitors will no longer be able to play racist and homophobic slurs from the "N-word" to "bumboy" and"poofs"

I looked up poof in my North American dictionary, and it gives two definitions; (1) used to convey the suddenness with which someone or something disappears; once you've used it, poof - it's gone and (2) used to express contemptuous dismissal; "Oh poof," said Will. "You say that every year".

No mention of any racist or homophobic slur there.

I do know the British English term poofter is considered offensive, so I looked that up too; it gives British informal, offensive: another term for poof (second meaning).

Which of course is incorrect; poofter does not mean an expression of dismissal, contemptuous or otherwise.

There seems to be no reason for banning poof, part from an over-eager desire to appear woke or PC.

What's wrong with the rules we've always played by? If it's in the dictionary, it's OK.

I had a look at the NASPA website and it actually lists the banned words, divided into categories (anatomical, political, profane, etc) - but it coyly lists the words with the letters in alphabetical order, presumably so that your maiden aunt Agatha won't be unnecessarily shocked. No doubt teenagers with time on their hands can spend a pleasant afternoon or two deciphering the words, perhaps with the help of their Scrabble tiles to sort out the letters, and a dictionary to help them learn the meanings of the more obscure ones.

https://scrabbleplayers.org/w/Slurs

Next thing we know they'll be banning Monopoly on the grounds it glorifies economic inequality.

Invalid CSRF

2 ( +2 / -0 )

1984

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StrangerlandToday  12:38 am JST

They should leave in the words, and players should ostracize anyone who uses them.

In the 5th grade our teacher who was married to a Ukrainian Holocaust survivor, during one class period wrote on the board a whole slew of ethnic, racist, xenophobic, etc. slur words ('N-word', slur words for whites, everything) and she explained to us what they are, who they are aimed, why they are bad and why we shouldn't be using them in our eveyday speech.

Some TV shows at the time like 'All In the Family' and even the 'Jeffersons' had characters using these words but they were meant to show how ignorant and stupid these characters were. A lot of boneheads in America didn't get it. They don't now.

Nonetheless, Scrabble is a game where everyday words are to be used and that means ethnic slur words don't belong on the list. Only stupid people use those words in their ordinary language and they have no place in a game like this.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What happens if a black person uses the epithet?

Is that allowable?

They often do with a high level of frequency!

Should we ban country names in Africa or Latin translations for black as having similarities with epithets?

And where does the censorship end?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What happens if a black person uses the epithet?

It's called "empowerment."

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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