Paralalia spells victory in Scrabble By Bob Karolevitz If you haven't played Scrabble with your spouse, you don't know what real competition is.
We've survived checkers, Yahtzee and gin rummy, but Scrabble has become for us a no-holds-barred contest which may require a marriage counselor as a referee.
Words are my business, so I figure I've got a little advantage, but Phyllis is an avid reader of Newsweek, Reader's Digest and the Smithsonian magazine so she's no slouch when it comes to lexicology. (That's a good Scrabble word, incidentally.)
Each game starts out pleasant enough, but it soon degenerates into a word-feud which threatens our wedded bliss.
"Xyst is not a word," she argues vehemently, as I lay a couple of bid counters on the board.
"Oh yes it is," I respond confidently. "It's a long covered portico or open court in which Greek athletes performed their exercises."
Then out comes our Webster's Unabridged to support my claim.
Next I challenge her jubate, and she informs me that it means long hair like a lion's mane. And, sure enough, the dictionary proves her right.
Thanks to that insidious game, we have learned lots of words we can't use in casual conversation.
There's berceuse, for instance, which is a musical composition which has a soothing or lulling effect.
Paralalia, which is great when you have a lot of extra a's, is a speech disorder.
I like urus, an extinct wild ox; virago, a shrewish woman; flageolet, a flute; a keeve, a brewer's tub.
Phyllis has a few goodies of her own, such as octroi, a tax collector; rhapontic, a rhubarb root; coryphee, a ballet dancer; and hydria, a water pot.
We sound like a couple of foreigners when we use words � which we don't always remember the meaning of � like nugacity, ptinid, widdy, wey and orgulous.
We've both memorized X and Z words so we don't get stuck with high scoring tiles. We're quick on the draw with xebec, a ship; xeres, a sherry; xeme, a gull; and xylic, an acid. Zebras, zebus and zircons are commonplace, but we can use up our bid counters with zythum, zubr, zarf and zax.
The worst letter is the q because you have to have a u to go with it. We both know the easy words like quail, quart, quiz and quill, but we've almost worn out the dictionary fortifying ourselves with quiddle, queme, queach and quaglle.
Thank goodness for the Greeks. They're responsible for lots of words which contain the difficult letters. I once quipped that "this game is all Greek to me," but Phyllis didn't think it was the least bit funny because she was stuck with an x and a y, and the Greeks weren't helping her at all.
One of our most notable confrontations came when I used scrabble as an eight-letter game winner.
"Scrabble isn't a legitimate word," Phyllis fairly shouted. "It's a proper noun, meaning the name of the game we're playing, if you can call this playing."
I had her there. "The dictionary says it means to scrape, paw with the hands or scratch as though looking for something," I smugly explained. But that's when we called off the game because I didn't want to be scratched or pawed.
Let's face it. Scrabble is like golf. It's not a matter of life or death; it's more serious than that!