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Icelandic Scrabble Society Rocked by Compound Words

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Icelandic Scrabble Society Rocked by Compound Words

Scrabble 2013 National Competition

Everyting seems calm, but there is a storm brewing below. From the first Icelandic National Scrabble Competion 2013. Photo: Benedikt Jóhannesson.

Over the next weekend the second National Icelandic Scrabble Competition will be held. However, a shadow has been cast over the event because of a dispute on the board, a dispute that resulted in one of the board members resigning in protest.

Scrabble is very popular in Iceland as could be seen in the first National Competition in November 2013. Sixteen people braved the storm that hit Reykjavík that weekend and sat for two full days over the board, filled with Icelandic words, all in the 2002 dictionary, Íslensk orðabók.

The clash of word titans came after an intense work session in which the board members wanted to amend the rules, so that no dispute would go unresolved during the National Competition 2014. Whether they succeeded remains to be seen, but if so, it was at the expense of peace among the founding fathers of Skrafl in Iceland, skrafl of course being Icelandic for Scrabble.

“Compound words were the root of the problem,” board member Jóhannes Benediktsson explained to visir.is. “We wanted short and concise rules, whereas our colleague wanted very detailed guidelines.” Some compound words may not be in the Icelandic dictionary, such as unpopular, marble-floor, hairless. Examples of impermissible words not found in dictionaries: Song-easy, ox-maiden, cat-dress.

The story broke on a webpage, nutiminn.is, but soon all the major media reported on the latest developments. First visir.is and a few minutes later RÚV.

The majority of the board wanted to leave it to the judgment of the arbiter. “This proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Some very harsh compound words fell, and one of the board members resigned in anger over the principle.”

Jóhannes still expects the former board member to participate on Saturday. “He is one of the best players in Iceland.” He then adds philosophically: “We wish him success in his new career outside the Scrabble Society Board.”

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