Thursday, September 3, 2009

Boggles the mind

It's been two days now. Two days. And I still can't figure out how Louise humiliated me so badly in a supposedly friendly game of Boggle. I work with words for a living. Each week I'll read four or five magazines and be in the middle of two or three books. I write. I participated in numerous spelling bees and always fared pretty well, my tragic misspelling of archery one year notwithstanding. 

So how'd she beat me by nearly 60 points, a rout of Mondale-like proportions? She says it's because of her superiority with "Tetris skills." She deciphers puzzles much more efficiently than I do, meaning she sees word combinations on the Boggle board that I'll never picture. It also didn't help that we lost the rules and didn't realize it's legal to go diagonally to make combinations. If I'd had that knowledge, my loss would have been by less than 30 points. At one point she took pity on me. She hinted that she was willing to throw one of the rounds to make the score closer. The ultimate low. My dad never let me win in one-on-one basketball, but now I needed mercy in Boggle? A few disagreements flared up, but nothing like when we play Scattergories, a game seemingly designed to start arguments. Our biggest one occurred when the category was Things at a Football Game that start with the letter P.

Louise's answer: People.

Well...I suppose there are, yes. But people? I argued that the answer violated the spirit of Scattergories, that the answer made a mockery of the game. I eventually gave in, but only when Louise promised that my next inane answer would also get a pass.

She's not the only member of her family to humiliate me in word games, my supposed strength. When Louise's mother, Patricia, came from Cape Town and stayed with us for six weeks before our wedding in 2004, we played Scrabble one June night. We thought we'd take it easy on good ol' mom, who made vague statements about occasionally dabbling in online Scrabble but rarely the real thing. A few hours later we sat shocked at the table, staring in awe at the board before us, which was littered with a multitude of two-and three-letter words that are unknown to all but one percent of the English-speaking population. Patricia thrashed us, winning by more than 100 points. She sat silently during the game, only cackling afterward. 

She didn't beat us by nailing Xylophones on a triple-word slot. No, it was death by a thousand tiny words, each more ludicrous than the last. 

AA, LI, UT, TT, NU, ER, BI, IFF, NOG. And, finally, QUA. Qua? Our reaction to qua: huh? Those are the words that beat us. Those aren't words, they're nonsensical sounds infants make before they learn how to actually speak. We challenged each one. Patricia said little, simply invited us to "go ahead, look." Merriam's confirmed each offering, stunning us, boring Patricia. When the carnage ended, she finally revealed that her little online games were actually against similarly deranged wordsmiths. Scrabble's a way of life for these frightening folks, not just a game. And to be a serious player, you have to memorize every two-letter word and every three-letter word. Shakespeare had command of the English language. These people conquered it. 

It was the last time we played Scrabble with her. Quitting was easier than competing. 

Just hope I don't have to quit Boggle now too.


brock said...

how about the good discussions during catch phrase? I seem to remember some of those as well... oh the spirit of competition!

Shawn Fury said...

We're actually playing Catch Phrase tomorrow night against two other people. Feelings will be hurt.

mom said...

Play Nice!

wife said...

Singing...I am the champion, Iiiiiii - Am - the champion.....of the WORD.

Anonymous said...

Oh I remember that game!! LOL and loved every minute...can`t wait for a rematch in January?...ur African