Latin Scrabble V: Why Latin Scrabble is Even Better than English Scrabble

English Scrabble mostly proceeds by adding words that cross those already on the board. Of course, one can also extend a word at either or both ends, turning CAP into CAPE and then into ESCAPE or CAPED or CAPER and finally into ESCAPED or ESCAPER. Inflectional endings seem to provide a lot more opportunities for this sort of play in Latin Scrabble. For instance, if proper names are permitted, one can turn CICER (garbanzo bean) into nominative CICERO, then ablative CICERONE, then accusative CICERONEM. Or consider this sequence:

EGI (“I have done”)
LEGI (triple score: “I have read”, “to be read”, or “for a law”)
LEGIS (double score: “you read” or “of a law”)
LEGISTI (“you have read”)
LEGISTIS (“y’all have read”)
ELEGISTIS (“y’all have picked out”)
DELEGISTIS (ditto)

These possibilities also complicate one’s strategy. You should never leave the likelier possibilities open unless you have to. For instance, don’t turn CICER or CICERO into CICERONE if no one has played an M yet. There are five Ms in the Latin scrabble mix so if you don’t have one ready to use, chances are high that someone else does. Whoever plays it will get as much as you did plus a point — more if there is double or triple word score anywhere in the word, or a double or triple letter score under the M.

It is interesting to ask what would be the longest sequence of add-on words. A variation of this puzzle: what would be the longest sequence in which each word is exactly one letter longer than the previous word? Here’s my nomination (I assume a one-letter word could be used on the first turn, though I doubt anyone would ever do that):

A (double score, preposition and exclamation)
AB (preposition)
ABI (imperative)
ABIT (3rd person singular)
ABITU (4th declension ablative)
ABITUR (3rd person singular, present indicative passive)
ABITURO or ABITURA or ABITURI (various forms of the future active participle)
ABITUROS or ABITURAS or ABITURIS (ditto)

I’m not sure that ABITUR actually occurs in Classical Latin, so it might be challenged. However, ITUR certainly occurs in Vergil (Aeneid VI), and ABITUR is used in modern German scholastic Latin. Similar sequences beginning with O and OB or E and EX could also be constructed, though OBITUR and EXITUR would be even more dubious than ABITUR. There could also be some dispute whether ABIT should count double, as present (short I) and perfect (long I, shortened form of abiit, often printed abît).

Note: That’s all I have to say for now about Latin Scrabble. I may turn this into a Word or PDF pamphlet, adding a chart of letter frequencies and values. Before doing that, I would appreciate comments from readers.

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2 Responses to Latin Scrabble V: Why Latin Scrabble is Even Better than English Scrabble

  1. Mary says:

    Sounds like fun! Every so often, I try to get my brother and a friend to play with me in French and Latin (I know both, they know one each… okay, maybe not fair) and it works so-so–usually the words are five letters or less. This sounds interesting though and as I’m going into college as a Classics major I would enjoy seeing the PDF rules and suggestions.

  2. Peter Gainsford says:

    This looks like a very interesting project and I’m going to recommend it to my students! For reference: I’ve checked the PHI archive, and abitur is attested once in silver Latin, in a fragment of a work by Q. Terentius Scaurus (cod. Par. 7520) on prepositions. Just so you know.

    The context is: “praepositiones locorum quattuor vulgo servantur, ex in ad ab. duae primae quo itur et unde exitur significant, ut in arcem ex arce, duae sequentes quo aditur et unde abitur, ut ad simulacrum et ab simulacro.”

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