Official Scrabble Players Dictionary
Background and creation
The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was first published in 1978 through the efforts of the National Scrabble Association (NSA) Dictionary Committee and Merriam-Webster, primarily in response to a need for a word authority for NSA-sanctioned clubs and tournaments. Prior to its publication, Scrabble clubs and tournaments used Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary as an official word source, but as tournament play grew, this source proved unsatisfactory. The inclusion of foreign words such as "Ja" and "Oui", the exclusion of common words such as "coven" and "surreal", and a lack of clear guidance on the creation of comparative terms, were all problematic for Scrabble players.
Games manufacturers Selchow and Righter, the owners of Scrabble at the time, approached Merriam-Webster Inc. to assist with the compilation of an official Scrabble dictionary. They proposed that words should be included in the new dictionary if they appeared in the five in-print collegiate dictionaries, namely The Random House College Dictionary (1968), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969), Webster's New World Dictionary (1970), Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1973) and Funk & Wagnalls (1973).
The compilation was produced by hand and many errata and omissions were later discovered. For example, the word granola was present in all five nominated dictionaries but not in the OSPD. A second edition, OSPD 2, was released in 1991. The current edition is OSPD 4.
Although OSPD bears the name Official Scrabble Players Dictionary no countries list their "official" dictionary as the OSPD, whereas the Official Tournament and Club Word List is the official word source of tournament Scrabble in the United States, Canada, Thailand and Israel. The NSA markets the OSPD as ideal for school and family use.
While reading OSPD 2, Judith Grad found several words she considered to be offensive, including "jew", listed as a verb with the definition "To bargain with – an offensive term". (The more conventional sense of "member of a certain ethnoreligious group; Jewish person" was not listed because the dictionary did not include proper nouns.) Her initial letters to Merriam-Webster and Milton Bradley requesting removal of the words resulted in politely negative responses. Merriam-Webster responded "[the] slurs are part of the language and reputable dictionaries record them as such." Milton Bradley responded "As a dictionary, it is a reflection of words currently used in our language."
Grad wrote to the National Council of Jewish Women, who began a letter-writing campaign in support of her cause. Publicity in Jewish media led to the Anti-Defamation League writing to Hasbro chairman Alan Hassenfeld, who announced that a third edition would be published with "offensive" words like "JEW", "FARTED", "FATSO", and "BOOBIE" removed.
The news was generally not well received by members of the National Scrabble Association, which was not consulted in the decision. After receiving mostly negative feedback from players, including threats to boycott events, NSA president John D. Williams announced a compromise, the result of which was the publication, without definitions, of the unexpurgated Official Tournament and Club Word List.
A fourth edition of the dictionary was published by Hasbro in 2005, which contained around 4000 additional words, including strategically useful two-letter words "QI" and "ZA".
A fifth edition is planned for release in August 2014. New words include the two-letter words "DA", "GI", "PO", and "TE". A contest to nominate and choose a new word is being held online.
- Fatsis, Word Freak, p. 143.
- The Israeli Scrabble Association
- Selchow Righter Company; Merriam-Webster, Inc. Staff (1990). The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. Merriam Webster. ISBN 978-0-87779-120-1.
- Fatsis, Stefan. (2001). Word Freak Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.