In our media-enriched world, past and present, SCRABBLE has made a name for itself, whether deliberately, subconsciously, or influentially. You may have a read a book that had the popular word game within a chapter, watched a movie that showed your favorite characters bringing out the SCRABBLE board, or even listened to a rap about this word or that word. SCRABBLE is everywhere, even if you don't realize it.
Here are some of the places you'll find SCRABBLE mentioned, played or epitomized. It's divided up into three parts: Movies, Books, and Music/Radio.
** This list is just the beginning though, and will be continually updated, so if you know of any that should be added, let me know!
Step 1 KNOW YOUR SCRABBLE MOVIES
This list starts with the newest movie and works its way down to the oldest known film that features the highly addictive word game. Comment if I should add one to the list.
Directed by Noam Murro and starring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker, Smart People isn't about SCRABBLE, but at one point does feature the two main characters playing it.
And it also, obviously, uses a SCRABBLE rack and tiles for its title in the poster.
Wild Hogs, a comedy by Walt Becker, stars Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy as suburbanite wannabe bikers who hit the road looking for adventure, but ultimately find danger instead, in the form of a New Mexico gang.
Woody Stevens: Come on, guys, were exhausted. I think we should take the bikes back to the hotel, put them in a shed with the doors closed, and then play Scrabble in the room with the shades down.
Doug Madsen: Look Aunt Bea, maybe you want to do something else here in Mayberry!
This indie movie from Marc Evans shows the relationship between Linda (Sigourney Weaver), a high-functioning autistic woman, and Alex (Alan Rickman), a recent traumatized victim of a fatal car accident. During one scene in Snow Cake, Linda and Alex play SCRABBLE— but not your ordinary kind— it's Comic Book SCRABBLE! Words spelled are BAANG, YAAMOOL, and DAZLIOUS.
Linda Freeman: B-A-A-N-G.
Alex Hughes: You can't have two A's in bang.
Linda Freeman: In Comic Book Word Scrabble, you can. You can have three A's if you want.
Written by, directed by, and starring Shane Carruth, this mind-bending feature shows four entrepreneurial, like-minded friends who ultimately invent a time travel machine. During a time travel scene in Primer, they check into a hotel to avoid affecting the world around them, and they play SCRABBLE. Aaron (Carruth) tries to spell EVACIPATE.
Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Circuit — the title says it all. It's a documentary film that profiles four SCRABBLE enthusiasts (some would say fanatics) as they make their way to the 2002 National SCRABBLE Championship in San Diego, California. The four players are Joe Edley, Matt Graham, Marlon Hill, and Joel Sherman, and it was directed by Julian Petrillo and Eric Chaikin (an expert tournament player himself, and so-called "recreational linguistician").
Scrabylon is a documentary by Scott M. Peterson on the cutthroat world of tournament SCRABBLE.
"Featuring the most fierce anagrammers, rack balancers, and bingo experts in competitive SCRABBLE, Scrabylon delves deep into this sometimes wacky, sometimes odd, always compelling subculture. Shot primarily during the World SCRABBLE® Championships in Las Vegas, Scrabylon features players from around the globe and gives an up-close look at why people get so obsessed with that seemingly benign game played at countless kitchen tables...
The glue between all these players is John D. Williams, Jr., the Executive Director of the National SCRABBLE Association, who describes in great detail the quirks, strategies and personalities of this fascinating group of individuals."
*Players Joel Sherman, Matt Graham and Joe Edley are also featured in the film Word Wars (see above)
Directed by Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down depicts the events that took place at the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia (1993). United States Army Rangers, Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment attempt to capture two key lieutenants of renegade warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but find themselves in an intense urban battle with loyal and heavily-armed Somalis when two Black Hawks are shot down. The next morning, the 10th Mountain Division and United Nations forces participate in rescuing the trapped soldiers. It was reported that roughly 1000 Somalis died that day, and 19 American soldiers.
In the scene where CWO Clifton "Elvis" Wolcott (Jeremy Piven) and CWO Michael Durant (Ron Eldard) begin flying soldiers into Mogadishu, they debate whether or not LIMO is an actual SCRABBLE word. Durant claims it's an abbreviation and Wolcott claims a common usage word. It is in fact a legitimate SCRABBLE word.
[Durant and Wolcott talk over the intercom as they fly past each other in their helicopters]
Durant: Six-One, this is Six-Four, go to UHF secure. I've got some bad news.
Cliff Wolcott: Limo is a word, Durant. I don't want to hear about it.
Durant: It is not a word. It's an abbreviation of a word.
Cliff Wolcott: Limo is a word in common usage. That is the key phrase in Scrabble, my good friend. Common usage.
Durant: No! If it's not in the dictionary, it doesn't count.
Cliff Wolcott: It doesn't have to be in the dictionary!
Durant: It does have to be in the dictionary! Listen, when we get back to base, it's coming off the board.
Cliff Wolcott: You touch my limo and I'll spank you, Night Stalker. You hear me?
Durant: Yeah. Promises.
The world's greatest (and most private) detective, Daryl Zero, and his aide, Steve Arlo, investigate a complex and mysterious case for shady tycoon Gregory Stark, who is unforthcoming of the truth behind what's really happening. Bill Pullman stars as Zero and Ben Stiller as Arlo. Zero Effect was directed by Jake Kasdan.
Arlo and his girlfriend sip wine and play SCRABBLE in one scene. While playing, she demands that Arlo retire from his employment with Zero.
Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures is a film about the real life murderous, teenage, and inferred lesbian lovers Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) and Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) features a scene where Pauline spells out the word PUTRID in SCRABBLE.
The caper film Sneakers, directed by Phil Alden Robinson, starring Robert Redford, has a pivotal scene involving SCRABBLE. Redford tries to uncover the meaning behind the words SEATEC ASTRONOMY by solving the anagram via SCRABBLE tiles, which uncovers NO MORE SECRETS.
The Handmaid's Tale is based on the book of the same name, and there's a scene where the Commander (Robert Duvall) plays SCRABBLE with Offred (Natasha Richardson). Women were forbidden from reading in the totalitarian, theocratic United States, so therefore, playing SCRABBLE was an illicit activity, but nonetheless, the Commander engages Offred in this and other forbidden intellectual pursuits.
*See The Handmaid's Tale in the Books section below.
The comedy/mystery Foul Play, written and directed by Colin Higgins, stars Goldie Hawn as Gloria Mundy, a librarian, and Chevy Chase as Tony Carlson, a bumbling cop, who fall in love as they solve the plot to assassinate the Pope.
In one scene, Mundy is stuck outside on the ledge of an apartment building in the rain, while two old ladies play a rough game of SCRABBLE inside. Little Old Lady 1 plays FUCK. Old Lady 2 plays FUCKER. Then Little Old Lady 1 plays MUTHERFUCKER, but has to take back MUTHER, only because Old Lady 2 tells her there's a hyphen in it.
Rosemary's Baby is Roman Polanski's eerie and terrifying film based on Ira Levin's novel of the same name. It stars Mia Farrow as Rosemary, a young naïve housewife in New York whose actor husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), made a deal with the devil. The pact: Unbeknownst to Rosemary, she is to be impregnated by Satan himself in return for Guy's Broadway success.
While trying to uncover the mysteries among her, Rosemary, in a pivotal scene, grabs the SCRABBLE board to try and figure out the anagram ALL OF THEM WITCHES with the SCRABBLE tiles. She comes up with COMES WITH THE FALL, ELF SHOT LAME WITCH, and HOW IS HELL FACT ME (with the letter T unused). Then she spells out STEVEN MARCATO and the anagram of ROMAN CASTEVET - the son of Adrian Marcato!
* See Rosemary's Baby in the Books section below for more information.
In the world famous comedy/drama Sabrina by Billy Wilder, a playboy (David) becomes interested in the daughter (Sabrina) of his family's chauffeur. But it's his more serious brother (Linus) who would be the better man for her. The film stars Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden.
In one part of the film, Elizabeth, played by Martha Hyer, tried to convince the convalescent David to play a game of SCRABBLE.
Elizabeth: I brought you six books and Scrabble.
David: I'm in no condition to play Scrabble!
Elizabeth: That's all you are in a condition to do.
Step 2 KNOW YOUR SCRABBLE BOOKS
Again, like the movie section above, this list is in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest.
Never before has SCRABBLE been integrated so well into a storyline than in Word Nerd. A friendless preteen and a twenty-five-year-old ex-con share one thing in common: A love of SCRABBLE! Read the full description below.
"Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a glass-half-full kind of guy. A self-described "friendless nerd," he moves from place to place every couple of years with his overprotective mother, Irene. When some bullies at his new school almost kill him by slipping a peanut into his sandwich — even though they know he has a deathly allergy — Ambrose is philosophical. Irene, however, is not and decides that Ambrose will be home-schooled.
Alone in the evenings when Irene goes to work, Ambrose pesters Cosmo, the twenty-five-year-old son of the Greek landlords who live upstairs. Cosmo has just been released from jail for breaking and entering to support a drug habit. Quite by accident, Ambrose discovers that they share a love of SCRABBLE and coerces Cosmo into taking him to the West Side SCRABBLE Club, where Cosmo falls for Amanda, the club director. Posing as Ambrose's Big Brother to impress her, Cosmo is motivated to take Ambrose to the weekly meetings and to give him lessons in self-defense. Cosmo, Amanda, and Ambrose soon form an unlikely alliance and, for the first time in his life, Ambrose blossoms. The characters at the SCRABBLE Club come to embrace Ambrose for who he is and for their shared love of words. There's only one problem: Irene has no idea what Ambrose is up to.
In this brilliantly observed novel, author Susin Nielsen transports the reader to the world of competitive SCRABBLE as seen from the honest yet funny viewpoint of a boy who's searching for acceptance and for a place to call home."
The title for this book is an odd one: Sea Otters Gambolling in the Wild, Wild Surf, and should not be confused with the other John Bennett children's author, this John Bennett's animated book is no ordinary kid's book. It's about a sixteen-year-old Felix, who's stressed out in life and and embarks on an adventure to plan for his future— but oddly enough, the pink otter seen on the cover of this book is promiscuously up to no good— sex— in a children's book— a man and otter?!? Whoa.
Description from Amazon:
Sixteen-year-old Felix is bored and stressed. He's stressed about his 'A' Level results, stressed about working for that mad old bag Mrs Pretzel, stressed about what the future holds. He's also feeling mighty guilty about the possibly fatal combination of laxatives and SCRABBLE tile (Z, ten points) he fed to Mrs P's spaniel, Vespasian. But it's not the stress or the guilt that initiates the bizarre quest that takes him half way around the world on a stolen debit card – it's curiosity. Felix is very curious about a statue he finds in the permanent clearance sale at 'The House of Crap' – a statue depicting a fat man and a sea otter in sexual congress.
Sea Otters Gambolling in the Wild, Wild Surf is the story of where Felix's curiosity takes him, to Hong Kong, Tokyo, San Francisco; on a journey that challenges his preconceptions about the world, his plans for the future and his relationships with his family. Will he get home before his little sister discovers what he's up to? What'll happen to Vespasian? Will he get the passes he needs to get into University?
This isn't the first place you'd think to find SCRABBLE, but in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, among all the midwifery and postpartum bleeding, there it is... SCRABBLE.
Gaskin informs women on the positive experience of natural childbirth and the negative effects of technological intervention. And the first half of the book provides real stories from real women who had positive birth experiences. In one of these "birth stories," Angelika and Viktor share their experience of pregnancy, from fish with double penises, to traveling in seven states, to playing a game of SCRABBLE.
Angelika: The midwives left us alone all that day, as my cervix hadn't yet begun to dilate. I didn't waste my time by looking at the clock. My rushes continued anyway, and I enjoyed being alone with Viktor. The pleasant atmosphere, a short visit from Ina May, and even the SCRABBLE game were enjoyable. Viktor was distracting me during the game, which he says is why I won.
Ina May: At one point she told me that while they rarely quarreled with each other, they usually did argue after a SCRABBLE game. "Now, what is there about SCRABBLE that gets you into an argument?" I asked, surprised at what I was hearing.
"Well, for one thing," Angelika said, "playing a game of SCRABBLE in German sometimes takes a couple of days, because some of out words are so long."
"Oh," I said, still not understanding.
"The other thing is that the winner gets all the chocolate."
For that I did have a solution. "Why don't you just let the winner have the satisfaction of winning and then share the chocolate?" I said.
"Oh, you Americans," Angelika said. "You have so many ideas about how to change things!"
Nobody would ever think that SCRABBLE would lead to a sexual revolution, but here we are, The Alphabetical Hookup List A-J. This is the first part of a trilogy.
Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:
"Cheerleader Jodi Stein's life plan features her high school sweetheart, Buster. Celeste Alexander is a tormented intellectual virgin. Ali Sheppard is a lost soul with a long distance boyfriend. The three roomates have little in common. Until the night a game of SCRABBLE with a bottle of tequila evolves into a three-woman sexual revolution!"
The full title for this book is: Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players. Phew!
"Scrabble may be truly called America's game. But for every group of "living-room players" there is someone who is "at one with the board." In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few, exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life-playing competitively in tournaments across the country. It is also the story of how the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful, challenging, and beloved game it is today. Along the way, Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert. More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players, Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance, memory, language, competition, and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us all."
*The players, or characters, in this book are also featured in the film Word Wars (see Movies section above).
The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist dystopian novel that takes place in the Untied States, in the near future, during a totalitarian theocracy, and it explores subjugation of women and how they gain agency.
"As the story progresses, Offred learns that the Commander is dissatisfied with his marriage and his role in society, but is unwilling to bear the risks of abdicating either. He engages in forbidden intellectual pursuits with her, such as playing SCRABBLE and introduces her to a secret club that serves as a brothel for high-ranking officers."
"Atwood emphasises how changes in context affect behaviours and attitudes by repeating the phrase "Context is all" throughout the novel, establishing this precept as a motif (e.g., 144, 192). Playing the game of SCRABBLE with her Commander illustrates the key significance of changes in "context"; once "the game of old men and women," the game became forbidden for women to play and therefore "desirable" (178–79)."
So that's what's in the forbidden room! SCRABBLE! I want to laugh, shriek with laughter, fall off my chair. This was once the game of old women, old men, in the summers or in retirement villas, to be played when there was nothing good on television. Or of adolescents, once, long long ago…. Now of course it's something different. Now it's forbidden, for us. Now it's dangerous. Now it's indecent.
*Also, see The Handmaid's Tale in the Movies section above.
Levin's book, Rosemary's Baby, is a masterful mystery into the world of witchcraft. Rosemary's always wanted children, but her husband, Guy, wanted to wait for career and financial success. But it's no coincidence that Rosemary gets pregnant as soon as her husband lands a key role in a play, and Satan has a hand in it.
She remembered then the other part of Hutch's message, that the name of the book was an anagram. All Of Them Witches. She tried to juggle the letters in her head, to transpose them into something meaningful, revealing. She couldn't; there were too many of them to keep track of. She needed a pencil and paper. Or better yet, the SCRABBLE set.
She got it from the bedroom and, sitting in the bay again, put the unopened board on her knees and picked out from the box beside her the letters to spell All Of Them Witches. The baby, which had been still all morning, began moving inside her. You're going to be a born SCRABBLE-player, she thought, smiling. It kicked. "Hey, easy," she said.
With All Of Them Witches laid out on the board, she jumbled the letters and mixed them around, then looked to see what else could be made of them. She found comes with the fall and, after a few minutes of rearranging the flat wood tiles, how is hell fact met. Neither of which seemed to mean anything. Nor was there revelation in who shall meet it, we that chose ill, and if he shall come, all of which weren't real anagrams anyway, since they used less than the full complement of letters. It was foolishness. How could the title of a book have a hidden anagram message for her and her alone? Hutch had been delirious; hadn't Grace Cardiff said so? Time-wasting. Elf shot lame witch. Tell me which fatso.
But maybe it was the name of the author, not the book, that was the anagram. Maybe J. R. Hanslet was a pen name; it didn't sound like a real one, when you stopped to think about it.
She took new letters.
The baby kicked.
J. R. Hanslet was Jan Shrelt. Or J. H. Snartle.
Now that really made sense.
She took up the board and tilted it, spilling the letters back into the box.
The book, which lay open on the window seat beyond the box, had turned its pages to the picture of Adrian Marcato and his wife and son. Perhaps Hutch had pressed hard there, holding it open while he underlined "Steven."
The baby lay quiet in her, not moving.
She put the board on her knees again and took from the box the letters of Steven Marcato. When the name lay spelled before her, she looked at it for a moment and then began transposing the letters. With no false moves and no wasted motion she made them into Roman Castevet.
And then again into Steven Marcato.
And then again into Roman Castevet.
The baby stirred ever so slightly.
*See Rosemary's Baby in the Movies section above.
Anne Tyler has written many books and has had plenty of her short stories published in multiple magazines, including The New Yorker. And her story in the October 29th, 1966 edition of The New Yorker, "As the Earth Get Old", SCRABBLE just happens to be the main motif.
Mrs. Brauw is the Hopes' landlady and lives next door. She has reduced the rent for 15 year old Joanna and her mother while Mr. Hope is in the sanatorium; out of duty, the Hopes go over to play SCRABBLE with Mrs. B. and her daughter, Miss Beatrice, several times a week. Mrs. B. cheats but Miss Beatrice wins -- the game is a deadly one between them, at which the Hopes are bystanders. They cease to go when Mrs. B. insults Joanna. One night Joanna wakes to see the Brauw's house on fire. Her mother calls the Fire Dept. Mrs. B. is saved but her daughter dies in the blaze. Mrs. B., staying with the Hopes, seems unconcerned about her daughter, except in saying to Joanna, "There's no way I can try to change things anymore, is there?"
The Bell Jar was Plath's only novel, a semi-autobiographical tale about a gifted young woman's descent into mental illness during a summer internship as a junior editor at a New York City magazine in the early 1950s. Plath committed suicide one month after the first publication of this book.
My mother was only one in a long stream of visitors -- my former employer, the lady Christian Scientist, who walked on the lawn with me and talked about the mist going up from the earth in the Bible, and the mist being error, and my whole trouble being that I believed in the mist, and the minute I stopped believing in it, it would disappear and I would see I had always been well, and the English teacher I had in high school who came and tried to teach me how to play SCRABBLE, because he thought it might revive my old interest in words, and Philomena Guinea herself, who wasn't at all satisfied with what the doctors were doing and kept telling them so. I hated these visits.
Step 3 KNOW YOUR SCRABBLE MUSIC/RADIO
Again... yeah, yeah, yeah... you get the picture... reverse chronology.
Listing this may be going to far, but whatever... I found this comedic radio commercial on Coloribus, and was made by COLENSO BBDO for the New England Book Council to promote reading. You have to sign up to actually play the ad, so I'll list the entire transcript below, so you don't have to listen to it. There's only one mention of SCRABBLE, so nothing big.
Here are some credits: Creative Director: Richard Maddocks, Scriptwriter: Jaime Hitchock and Josh Lancaster, Agency Producer: Jonathan Gerard, Account Supervisor: Michael Redwood/Joanna Wealleans, Sound Engineer: David Liversidge.
Script in English
1: And as Montgomery looked far into the distance he knew that he could
never return… Thank you.
1: Thank you.
2: Umm, a couple of questions? Err, do you have a middle name?
2: In the sentence 'The Doctor sold his practice' should I use a practice with an 's'?
2: I'm thinking of having a pen name. Have you got any ideas?
2: Do you get sore fingers from typing so much?
2: Can you read that bit you just read out again?
2: Do you get free copies of your book or do you have to buy them from Whitcoulls, too?
2: Were you any good at math at school ?
2: How about geography?
2: Do you hate people who fold down pages for bookmarks?
2: Does it help you to write if you're an alcoholic?
2: Did you copy that story from somewhere else?
2: Have you ever met Ernest Hemmingway?
2: What about Charles Dickens?
2: Wilbur Smith?
2: Will Smith?
2: Do you agree with the statement; 'Poems are much cooler when they rhyme.'?
2: Do you know any words that rhyme with orange?
2: When I ask you to sign my book later on, can you write your name really neatly so I can read it?
2: Have you ever spent two years working on a book but only had one copy, and then lost it and had to start the whole thing over again?
2: Do you know anything about cars?
2: Is your book going to come out in paperback?
2: Would it be cheaper if it had no cover on it all?
2: Do you know my friend Samantha Terry? Cause she reckons she knows you?
2: Did Kathy Bates in the film 'Misery' remind you of your girlfriend?
2: Can you make a cat noise? hiss... hiss...
2: Can you do Chewbacca like this? RUAHHHHHHH...
2: Do you have heaps and heaps of books at home?
2: Do you keep your books on a book shelf?
2: Did you build your own book shelf?
2: Do you smoke a pipe and sit at a typewriter?
2: When you get writer's block do you just go and watch TV?
2: If you went to a garage sale and you saw someone was trying to flog your book for 10 cents, would you get embarrassed?
2: My mum thinks your photo on the dust jacket makes you look gay. Are you gay?
2: Are you a genius SCRABBLE player?
2: I love you. Do you love me?
ANN: All the answers you ever wanted to know from your favourite authors. The New Zealand Book Council presents 'Booked Out' phone 0 800 BTTALK or visit bookcouncil.org.nz.
On his second studio album, Word of Mouf, Ludacris arrogantly raps on the song Cry Babies (Oh No) about his ambidexterity (because he can "slap ass with both hands"), his life as a Don Juan ("sticking" broads in Rome and being "Doctor Love"), his wealth (his cars have "big TVs and satellites"), and how he has a better diet than everyone else:
"I got people scared as FUCK, like when condoms break
Or how your heart deals with eatin' eighty pounds of steak
So put your belly on a plate and watch your weight
You frostin' like a flake and Ludacris feels grrreat!"
But he also throws a little SCRABBLE into the mix:
"You punks pucker and pout, bicker and babble
Now they all lost for words like I beat 'em in Scrabble"
You can see the full lyrics here.