Scrabble or Scarabeo?

How wonderful it is to wake up to a morning that promises clear skies: this is the view from our bedroom window the day after the day after (i.e. today, December 27th). It was really worth waiting for – a pity Christmas day wasn’t like this.

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Boxing Day, too, was truly weather for the ducks and, apart from them, everyone else stayed indoors, watched DVDs, did their best to avoid cabin fever and played what in Italy are called ”giochi sociali” – i.e. games where you don’t have to exercise prehensile thumbs and avoid conversation to play!

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Incidentally, at least in Italy this year, giochi sociali have outsold all those games consoles!

Our favourite is “Scrabble” and, of course, chess. When particularly mentally lazy we enjoy Chinese chequers too.

We prefer “Travel Scrabble” even if not travelling because the letters are well secured to the board and thus don’t tend to fly around. We are not brilliant Scrabble players and the days when a seven-letter word (the maximum length allowed in our version) appears on the board are truly red-letter ones.

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Incidentally, “Scrabble” was invented in 1938 by an architect named Alfred Mosher Butts. Butts worked out how many points should be given for each letter by counting how often particular letters are used in the English language. The original game was called “Criss-Crosswords”. But Butts was not a successful salesperson and in 1948 James Brunot, a lawyer, bought the game’s rights. Brunot simplified the rules and renamed the game “Scrabble”.

We also have another word game called “Scarabeo” which is an Italian variant of “Scrabble” and was created in the late fifties by Aldo Pasetti.

However, an exact Italian version of “Scrabble” has now come out and tournaments in this country are played using Scrabble (with Italian words of course!)

Parenthetically, Pasetti was accused by “Scrabble” of breach of copyright, but was acquitted by Milan’s Court of Appeal in 1961. So now it’s perfectly legal to play the “Scrabble” Italian –style. If there’s a travel version of this game (which surely must have different letter frequencies in Italy) then we’ll buy it for next Christmas!

It would be nice to have a “Scrabble” tournament among aspiring Italian language learners instituted in Bagni di Lucca (already famous for its historical games such as “Biribisso” and also for its summer open-air Burraco tournaments).

The only snag about “Scrabble” (apart from finding the last letters one picks from the bag are X and Z and that there’s no location free on the board in which to place them) is losing the blasted letters. EBay has helped in the past but yesterday we found we were four letters short. How frustrating!

However, if one is bored by the weather there’s nothing to beat a good board game!

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