Scrabble Bans Hundreds Of Offensive Words From Competitive Play

Scrabble Bans Hundreds Of Offensive Words From Competitive Play
Image: John Gichigi/Allsport

Hundreds of offensive words are being removed from official Scrabble competitions, with the players’ association coming to an agreement with Hasbro to remove 225 offensive terms.

The discussion among the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA), the representative and advisory board for competitive Scrabble, was started by Scrabble master Cesar del Solar. Solar asked the association in a private Facebook group what NASPA, which is solely responsible for the rules and governance of competitive Scrabble, was doing following the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and around the world.

“It is not hard to unlearn 238 words (including inflections), none of which are high-probability, and all of which have offensive meanings that are easy to remember. Top-level players are occasionally called upon to do this already, to prevent offensive words from being broadcast or streamed,” the NASPA official newsletter said to members, citing reasons for removing the offensive words.

Hasbro hasn’t published slurs or offensive words in their official Scrabble dictionaries since 1994, according to the New York Times. But the competitive word list, which numbers more than 192,000, has allowed words like “blowjob”, the n-word, f-word and more. The full list of words reviewed is here, although the page has “rearranged” the words “to obfuscate it from the casual reader”.

Even though NASPA are the ones responsible for running tournaments, a statement from Hasbro to the New York Times indicates that the changes will become coda. The company will “make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game,” according to Hasbro spokesperson Julie Duffy.

Hasbro’s support isn’t insignificant. While NASPA controls the permissible wordlist for tournaments, Hasbro are the ones who provide the lexicon that forms the basis for all versions of Scrabble. That means the banned words could also be removed from digital versions of the game, or licensed games that leverage the official Scrabble dictionary.

It’s not the first time Hasbro has removed words from the game. The Anti-Defamation League successfully lobbied Hasbro to remove anti-Semitic terms from the official dictionary in the ’90s.

Following the NASPA’s decision and Hasbro’s support, the words will no longer be playable in sanctioned Scrabble games from September 1, 2020.


    • Probably a relief to players … I expect that if you were in a high-level competitive match and realised the optimal play was a racial slur, it would be a pretty awkward decision what to do next.

  • Well, the gibberish on the page is quite interesting, but hopefully the word ‘cracker’ has been banned on Slur (Racial) grounds, as well as ‘honky’.

    • I think I understand your angle, but nevertheless cracker is also a valid word outside of its racial usage, while most slurs aren’t. Honky of course, is the state of being likely to honk, so that should be fine too.
      That last sentence is a joke.

      • Interestingly, “pissant” is banned for being vulgar, even though it is a type of ant, yet “faggot” and “bitch”, for example, isn’t. It’s kind of all over the shop.

        Can’t see “gypsy” either, but “jew” is there.

        • The slur “bitch” has a non-vulgar meaning, one still commonly used in dog breeding circles. “Faggot” also derives from a non-vulgar word, although one not used much in common parlance. But you will find variations of that word that are only used as slurs in the list, such as “afggorty”, “afggoty” and “afggy”.

          • You missed the point of my comment.. which is present in opening statement.

            “Interestingly, “pissant” is banned for being vulgar, even though it is a type of ant”

    • If you check the link the list includes “ehknoy” (the site rearranged letters into alphabetical order to obfuscate). As @john_stalvern mentioned, cracker is a legitimate and commonly used word outside its negative context.

      • Ah! Thanks for explaining the cracking of the code. I was skimming through the page and couldn’t for the life of me determine how it was being jumbled up.

        Theres a reason that, while I love spy stuff and games, I’m absolutely terrible at them!

    • It really is pretty simple, despite the usual hysterical overreaction using the example of a few edge cases while ignoring the bulk of completely straight forward ones, implying that somehow the next step is a ban on the entire English language. #slipperyslopefallacy

      • “the example of a few edge cases while ignoring the bulk of completely straight forward ones”

        It’s nothing to do with ignoring anything, it’s literally a “well if this word is banned because it is used offensively against a certain group of people, why isn’t this other word being banned for being used offensively against a certain group of people.”

        That’s it. It’s not that hard to wrap your head around.. Well…

        • So, what you’re saying is that it’s not the slippery slope fallacy, it’s the #Whataboutism fallacy?

          • Considering I’ve directly refuted your argument,which is apparently a key component of a “whataboutism”, then no it’s not that either.

            Once again flinging around terms that you don’t seem to actually fully comprehend.

            I’d call it “pointing out hypocrisy”, which I know is a foreign concept to you, strangely enough, since you are the walking embodiment of it.

            Gee.. now that you have to actually voice your stupidity because there are no more downvotes, you’re really shining there

          • @nuffman You use that term “directly refuting”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • they must have banned the words “thick” and “skin” a long time ago because it seems like an alien concept to these people that cant get through the day without having their feelings hurt over some random words.

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