For several daily word prompts, I present a window into one of our oldest family traditions: playing board games.
Every New Year’s Eve, it’s a tradition for my sister and brother-in-law and the two of us to dust off the Scrabble game. Accompanied by wine, you would think everyone would have fun!
I’m sorry to say, however, that my brother-in-law is a sore loser! I was surprised to discover this trait in him, because he is usually laid back and accepts whatever comes with a chuckle. But coming in last in Scrabble – he just can’t take it!
Here’s the scenario:
I’m looking over the board, trying to find a place to place at least one of my difficult-to-play letters. There are few openings. I’m in third place with few options at this point in the game.
Aha! I spot an “I” with spaces around it! And one of them is a double letter square – usually not great, but by placing my “Q” in that spot, it boosts my score by 21 points, and I move into second place!
“QI?? What the hell is that?” says E–. (I am not disclosing his full name, in case he or anyone who knows him happens to read this!)
“Qi – you know, it’s a Chinese word,” I try to explain. “It means ‘energy’.”
“Well, whatever it means, it’s not English!” he retorts.
“But everyone – (ahem) – lots of people know about it,” I reply. “And it is frequently used in my Words With Friends game which is based on Scrabble.”
“Words With Friends?? I don’t know what that is. We are playing Scrabble here.”
With a sigh, I try to explain that it has come into general usage in English. “I know at least one blogger who uses it a lot.”
“Well, one blogger isn’t general usage,” he insists stubbornly. “Katy, you’re being really ostentatious.”
“Oh, come on!” I protest, getting flustered and trying to think of another example of a foreign word that is used in English.
“Qi is an acceptable word,” my sister puts in. “It’s in the Scrabble dictionary.”
“And also the English dictionary, which we have right here!” I say exuberantly, and jump up to look it up in our Webster’s 20th Century Unabridged Dictionary, which lies open on the chest next to the dining room table.
“Wait, wait,” E– says. He turns to his wife. “Why do you say it’s acceptable?” He still clings to the slim hope that he can prove us wrong.
“I just told you – it’s in the Scrabble dictionary,” my sister says.
“And here it is in this dictionary, too,” I reiterate as I put a finger on the word in the massive dictionary.
“But we don’t use dictionaries when we play Scrabble,” E– insists.
“Huh?” both my sister and I exclaim. “Yes, we do,” she continues.
“We only use a dictionary when a word is contested,” says E–.
“Yeah, and you are contesting my word,” I put in.
“Which means you lose your turn,” my sister says smugly.
Now my sister’s husband is really mad. He begins to sulk.
I try to smooth things over by being reasonable. “You know, we use a lot of foreign words in English. What about taco?”
“Everyone knows what a taco is,” he replies resentfully. “Qi – what’s qi?? – It’s not in general usage.”
Because it is three against one (my husband, who has kept out of this conversation, votes with us women), E– has to accept it. It’s supposed to be his turn next and he slams the letters he was going to play on the table. He really does have crappy letters, I notice with chagrin.
When the game is over, I’ve won and E– is in last place.
We have had this argument at least three times. Now when someone plays “qi,” he just shakes his head and grumbles to himself.