Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, O-Z

The image above illustrates how the second player’s, or team’s, knowledge of playable two-letter words could enable a Scrabble on the second play of the game. The first player, or team, spelled mosque. By using all seven letters, the second player earned a total of sixty-two points for pointed alone, a word that couldn’t have been played without the knowledge of the five two-letter words that the player formed vertically: op, so, qi, un, and et. The first player scored forty points with a double-word score square. Without a double-word score square, the second team scored eighty-five.

Two of the previous Wordplay Day posts include the first sixty-four of the 101 playable two-letter words, A-E (October 3) and F-N (October 8). Today’s post features the remaining thirty-seven, O-Z.

  • od: a hypothetical force.
  • oe: a whirlwind of the Faeroe Islands
  • of: originating from
  • oh: an exclamation of surprise
  • oi: an expression of dismay (also oy)
  • om: a sound used as a mantra
  • on: physically in contact with
  • op: a style of abstract art dealing with optics
  • or: used to link conjunctions
  • os: a bone
  • oy: an expression of dismay (also oi)
  • pa: a father
  • pe:a Hebrew letter
  • qi:the central life force in traditional Chinese culture (also ki)
  • re:a tone of the diatonic scale
  • sh:used to encourage silence
  • si: a tone of the diatonic scale (also ti)
  • so: to such a great extent; a tone on the diatonic scale
  • ta: an expression of thanks
  • ti:a tone of the diatonic scale
  • to: in the direction of
  • uh: used to express  hesitation
  • un:one
  • up: to raise
  • us: a plural pronoun
  • ut: the musical tone C in the French solemnization system, now replaced by do
  • we: a first-person plural pronoun
  • wo: woe
  • xi: a Greek letter
  • xu: a former monetary unit of Vietnam equal to one-hundredth of a dong
  • ya: you
  • ye: you
  • yo: an expression used to attract attention
  • za: a pizza

Up Next

In next Monday’s class, you will begin work on your creative project. Details TBA.

Coming Soon

At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will submit your fifth and final Check, Please! worksheet. If you misplace the copy you received in class, you can download one from the link below.

Posted in English 1103, Reading, Scrabble, Teaching, Writing

Tiles, Pens, and Laptops: Reflections on Word Building

Although I have read Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” many times, this semester marked the first time I had studied it as an exercise in analysis. Ordinarily, I include Richtel’s article on the syllabus as a prologue to my students’ own blogging. The article served that purpose in August as well. But as I found myself teaching a different composition curriculum that features an analysis as the first major paper assignment, Richtel’s article served a dual purpose: It not only oriented my students to the role that blogs would play in the class, it also provided them with the opportunity to study the way a writer—in this case, Matt Richtel—presents the ideas of the experts he interviews. By reading Richtel’s article, the students learned about changes in writing practices in college classrooms; by rereading Richtel, they began to see how his writing takes shape. The same was true for me.

The process of crafting a study of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” prompted me to meditate on the similarities between analysis and Scrabble, another feature of the course. The more I examined Richtel’s words, the more details I noticed. Similarly, the more closely I study the words on a Scrabble board and the tiles on a rack, the more opportunities for word building become apparent to me. This semester, the processes of writing an analysis of “Blogs vs. Term Papers” and playing Scrabble have deepened my understanding of how those two activities cultivate the focus that leads to the discoveries intrinsic to learning.

One of those moments of discovery occurred for me as I was rereading the paragraph in Richtel’s article where he addresses an argument put forth by experts who frown on replacing the term paper with the blog. Richtel reports their claim that if teachers want to reduce term papers to blog posts, why not bypass blogs altogether and ask nothing more of their students than tweets? In my previous readings of the paragraph, I was drawn primarily to the clever mimicry at the end. There Richtel omits letters from the words “Sherman’s March,” spelling it as “Shermn’s Mrch” to imitate the word-shortening technique characteristic of the Twitter platform.

As I studied the paragraph more closely, I saw beyond the intentional misspellings at the conclusion. Subsequently, what preceded the imitation of Twitterese became far more revealing. I noticed that the paragraph consisted of only one sentence—one of only two one-sentence paragraphs in the article—and that Richtel’s presentation of the claim demonstrates a flaw in the experts’ logic: “Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?” Realizing that Richtel presented one of their assertions as a logical fallacy, led me to this point: “To assert that defenders of traditional academic writing carry their opponents’ argument   to an absurd conclusion presents those advocates of old-school writing as purveyors of the same flawed logic that their own traditional rhetoric supposedly teaches students to avoid.”

Additionally, I considered the effect of choosing to present the fallacy as a one-sentence paragraph, noting that “[b]y introducing an apparent contradiction in the argument of the advocates of old-school writing, Richtel subverts their claim; and by presenting that incongruity as a one-sentence paragraph, he highlights the issue.”

Reflecting on the effect of the one-sentence paragraph, with its emphasis on a single idea, led me to reexamine the other one-sentence paragraph in the article. That paragraph, a sentence spoken by Professor Cathy Davidson of the City University of New York, underscores the prominence of her words and ideas in Richtel’s article, an observation of mine that led me to the thesis, that “[a]lthough Richtel’s article appears to present an objective account of the disagreements among experts, a close examination of the diction and structure of ‘Blogs vs. Term Papers’ reveals a preference for the innovations advocated by Davidson and Lundsford.”

Rereading Richtel’s article through a writer’s lens showed me details I had scarcely noticed before, ones that now in plain view lead me to ask repeatedly, How could I have missed that? It’s a question I have also found myself asking when a word emerges from a seemingly hopeless combination of Scrabble tiles. Sometimes my students chide themselves for what they didn’t see on the board or the rack, but those realizations are almost always part of the composing process, whether we’re building words with tiles, or pens, or laptops. The closer we look, the more we discover, which is learning in its purest form.

Works Cited

Lucas, Jane. “ENG 1103: On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.” Jane Lucas, 20 Sept. 2021,

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,   

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, F-N

Playing “famine” here earns the first player, or team, twenty-two points.

Last week’s Wordplay Day post included a list of the first thirty-three of the 101 playable two-letter words. Today’s post features the next thirty-one, fn.

  • fa: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • fe: a Hebrew letter
  • go: leave
  • ha: used to express surprise
  • he: a pronoun signifying a male
  • hi: an expression of greeting
  • hm: used to express consideration
  • ho: used to express surprise
  • id: the least censored part of the three-part psyche
  • if: a possibility
  • in: enclosed or surrounded
  • is: the third-person singular form of “to be”
  • it: a neuter pronoun
  • jo: a sweetheart
  • ka: the spiritual self in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • ki: the vital life in Chinese spirituality (also qi)
  • la: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • li: a Chinese unit of distance
  • lo: an expression of surprise
  • ma: mother
  • me: a singular objective pronoun
  • mi: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • mm: an expression of approval
  • mo: a moment
  • mu: a Greek letter
  • my: a first-person possessive adjective
  • na: no; not
  • ne: born with the name of
  • no: a negative answer
  • nu: a Greek letter
Playing “famine” here earns the first player, or team, thirty points, but possibly sets up the opposing player, or team, to earn double, double-letter scores with high-value consonants.

Two-Letter “M” Words

M is the consonant that offers the most options for two-letter words. In the first position, it pairs with every vowel, plus y.

  • ma: mother
  • me: a singular objective pronoun
  • mi: a tone in the diatonic scale
  • mo: a moment
  • mu: a Greek letter
  • my: a first-person possessive adjective
With parallel play, the second player, or team, scores a total of forty-one points with the four words “oxo,” “om,” “xi,” and “on.”

In the second position, m pairs with every vowel, except i.

  • am: the first-person singular present form of “to be”
  • em: the letter m
  • om: a sound used as a mantra
  • um: used to express hesitation
Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Two-Letter Words, A-E

Learning the two-letter words you can play in Scrabble increases your opportunities to form multiple words in parallel play. The list that follows includes the first thirty-three of the 101 playable two-letter words.

  • aa: a type of stony, rough lava,
  • ab: an abdominal muscle
  • ad: an advertisement
  • ae: one
  • ag: agriculture
  • ah: an exclamation
  • ai: a three-toed sloth
  • al: a type of East Indian tree
  • am: the first-person singular present form of “to be”
  • an: an indefinite article
  • ar: the letter r
  • as: similar to
  • at: the position of
  • aw: an expression of protest or sadness
  • ax: a sharp-edged tool
  • ay: a vote in the affirmative
  • ba: the soul in ancient Egyptian spirituality
  • be: to exist
  • bi: a bisexual
  • bo: a pal
  • by: a side issue
  • de: of; from
  • do: a tone on a scale
  • ed: education
  • ef: the letter f
  • eh: used to express doubt
  • el: an elevated train
  • em: the letter m
  • en: the letter n
  • er: used to express hesitation
  • es: the letter s
  • et: a past tense of eat
  • ex: the letter x

Coming Soon

On Wednesday, October 4, you will receive your midterm reflection draft with my notes, and you will have the class period to begin your revision work. The works cited list that follows includes entries for some of the sources that you may cite. You are required to quote or paraphrase two relevant sources, one of which may be your analysis. If you choose to cite your analysis, follow the format of the work cited entries for my sample papers, “The Strange Fruit of Sosnowiec,” and “On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.”

Works Cited

Hagey, Keach, and Jeff Horwitz. “Facebook Tried to Make its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead. Internal Memos Show How a Big 2018 Change Rewarded Outrage and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg Resisted Proposed Fixes.” Wall Street Journal, Sep 15, 2021. ProQuest,

Horowitz, Jeff, Deepa Seetharaman, and Georgia Wells. “Facebook Knows Instagram is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.” Wall Street Journal, Sep 14, 2021. ProQuest,

Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, vol. 140, no. 3, Sept. 2003, pp. 176+. Gale Academic OneFile Select,        =hpu_main&sid=bookmark-EAIM&xid=ce48797f

Lucas, Jane. “ENG 111: The Strange Fruit of Sosnowiec.” Jane Lucas, 2 Apr. 2021,

—. “ENG 1103: On its Face, Who Could Disagree with the Transformation?: Revisiting Richtel’s Report on the Blog-Term Paper Question.”

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,

Rossenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. “Writing on Computers vs. Writing on Paper.”  Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 124-25.

Wolf, Maryanne. “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” The Guardian, 25 Aug. 2018,

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble

ENG 1103: A Close Study of the Board

Developing the ability to analyze involves becoming more observant. As you continue to play Scrabble on Wordplay Days this semester, consider how each game is an additional exercise in becoming more observant. 

Examine the image at the top of this post. There you will see what could be the opening play in a game of Scrabble. Any of the three letters in “lox” could be on the center square. Why might the player, or team, have placed the “l” rather than the “o” on the center square?

The image directly above this paragraph illustrates the potential benefit of not placing the “o” on the center square. If the opponent has two high-value consonants, the first player, or team risks the chance of the opponent playing those consonants and doubling their value on the bonus squares, whereas it’s unlikely that the opponent will be able play consonants–high value ones or not–on both sides of the “I” or the “x.”

Coming Soon

In class on Wednesday, September 29, you will submit your completed worksheet for the third lesson in the Check, Please! assignment series. The students in the 10:40 a.m. class received the worksheet today. The students in the 9:15 a.m. class will receive the worksheet on Monday. Also, you can download the worksheet at the link below. In class on Wednesday, you will begin drafting your midterm reflection. For that preliminary work, you will need to bring a paper copy of your revised analysis to class.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Scrabble/Bingo

If a player, or a team, uses all seven of its tiles in one play, the player, or team, earns fifty points in addition to the points for the words played. Congratulations to the team of Zack Chadwell and Tanner Rothenbereger in the 9:15 class for Scrabbling by building on “trap” with “minutes” (using a blank for the s), and also forming “am” (first-person singular form of the verb “be”) and “pi” (the numerical value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), which later in the game became “pig.”

If the players had not seen the opportunity to form the two-letter words “am” and “pi,” they would not have Scrabbled.

Look for opportunities that two-letter words can offer. There are sixteen two-letter words starting with a, so you have a 62% chance that any tile you put after an a will form a word.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Irritable Vowel Syndrome

What if you begin a game of Scrabble with only vowels? The image above shows what could be the first three words played in a game in which no player (or team) has a consonant. None of the three words yields many points, but the “e” in “oe” offers the opportunity for a player to score a double triple. Playing “be'” or “me” and another word vertically would earn the player eighteen points for the “b” or “m” alone; playing “h” or “w” would earn the player twenty-four points for the “h” or “w” alone.

Often playing a vowel-only word brings opportunities for high scores later. Here are some of the words you can play if you find yourself without consonants:

  • aa: a type of stony, rough lava
  • ae: one
  • ai: a three-toed sloth
  • eau: water (pl. eaux)
  • oe: a whirlwind off the Faero islands
  • oi: an expression of dismay (also oy)

In class someone asked about the pronunciation of aa. It is pronounced ah-ah.

Congratulations to the team of Braeden Thompson and Nate Alleman in the 10:40 class. Braeden and Nate scored a 126-point double-triple play with the word “evaporate,” which they formed by adding the letters “e,” “a,” “t,” and “e” to the word “vapor” played in a previous turn.

Next Up

In class on Monday, September 13, we will explore ways for you to proceed with the revision work that you will begin in class on Wednesday. For class, read the overview to Chapter 2 of Writing Analytically and bring your copy of the textbook to class.

Posted in English 1103, Scrabble, Teaching

ENG 1103: Let the Games Begin

Ordinarily Wordplay Days are days when we all turn away from our screens, but yesterday I took the opportunity to photograph you as a way of helping us continue to put names with faces. In between the photographs of you and your classmates, I’ve included lists of some first names that are playable in Scrabble (because they are common nouns as well as proper ones). Continue to review these pictures and their captions to learn the names of your classmates, and study the lists of names in between to build your vocabulary.

9:15-10:25 a.m. (L-R): Bella Scricco, Sam Peterson, Kylie Ciammaichella, Jolie Zavaglia
  • Al: a type of East Indian tree
  • Alan: a breed of hunting dog (also aland, alant)
  • Alec: a herring
  • Ana: a collection of miscellany about a specific topic
  • Anna: A former Indian coin
9:15-10:25 a.m. 1103.18 (L-R): Charlie Godin, Charlotte Sullivan, Audrey Duclos, Cameron Silver
  • Barbie: a barbecue
  • Belle: a pretty woman
  • Ben: an inner room
  • Benny: an amphetamine pill
  • Bertha: a type of wide collar
9:15-10:25 a.m. (L-R): Tanner Rothenberger, Meghan Reilley, Andrew Amato, Kenzie Hagens
  • Beth: a Hebrew Letter
  • Biff: to hit
  • Bill: a charge for goods or services
  • Billy: a short club
  • Bo: a friend
9:15-10:25 a.m. (L-R): Erin Infantino, Logan Kennedy
  • Bobby: a policeman
  • Bonnie: pretty (also bonny)
  • Brad: a small nail or tack
  • Carl: a peasant or manual laborer (also carle)
  • Carol: to sing merrily
9:15-10:25 a.m. (L-R): Jillian Pandiscia, James Hope, Arnav Gupta, Zack Chadwell
  • Celeste: a percussive instrument (also celesta)
  • Chad: a scrap of paper
  • Chevy: to chase (also chivy)
  • Christie: a type of turn in skiing (also christy)
  • Clarence: an enclosed carriage
10:40-11:50 a.m. (L-R): Nate Alleman, Gabbie Sewade, Gabby, Znutas, Ani Markin
  • Dagwood: a large stuffed sandwich (named after the comic strip character who was fond of them)
  • Daphne: a flowering shrub with poisonous berries
  • Davy: a safety lamp
  • Deb: a debutante
  • Devon: a breed of cattle
10:40-11:50 a.m. (L-R): Christian Coletta, Austin Donaldson, Aaron Jackson, Tyler Hudson
  • Dexter: located to the right
  • Dom: a title given to some Monks
  • Don: to put on a piece of clothing
  • Donna: an Italian woman of repute
  • Erica: a shrub of the heath family
10:40-11:50 a.m. (L-R): Christina Muniz, Madeleine Bee, Audrey Giles
  • Fay: to join together closely
  • Florence: a former European gold coin
  • Franklin: a nonnoble medieval English landowner
  • Fritz: a nonworking or semi-functioning state
  • Gilbert: a unit of magneto-motive force
10:40-11:50 a.m. (L-R): Braeden Thompson, Ryan Benjamin, Anderson Tracy, Kendall Krasinski
  • Gilly: to transport on a type of train car
  • Graham: whole wheat flour
  • Hank: to secure a sail
  • Hansel: to give a gift to, usually to commence a new year (also handsel)
  • Harry: to harrass
10:40-11:50 a.m. (L-R): Emma Steadman, Maddie Pierre, Julia Patti, Kiley McTamney
  • Henry: a unit of electric inductance
  • Herby: full of herbs
  • Jack: to hoist with a type of lever
  • Jacky: a sailor
  • Jake: okay, satisfactory

To learn whether a name is playable in Scrabble, type it in the box on the Scrabble Dictionary page, and click “GO!”

Next Up

For class on Monday, August 30, read “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” Afterward, compose brief reading notes in your journal. Include (1) the title and author, (2) the main points, and (3) any questions or observations you would like to address in class. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms in the article, look up their meanings and jot those in your journal as well.

Posted in Scrabble, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: A Game for Hardscrabble Times

The Guardian article “Spell Bound” notes that the exact beginning of Scrabble is “debatable,” adding that “Scrabble experts are the kind of people who like to debate it at length.” In a piece of writing such as this–one that begins at the beginning of the game–the starting point could be Lexico, which is the game that Alfred Mosher Butts developed before he invented Scrabble–which, by the way, wasn’t named Scrabble until Butts sold the game to Jacob Brunot. That’s when the game that Butts had christened Criss-Cross Words became the game that would multiply to more than 150 million sets worldwide, a game that can now be found in a third of homes in America (Bukszpan 16).

If that description of Scrabble’s beginnings doesn’t capture your interest–perhaps because you don’t think of yourself as a word person–consider this: Scrabble’s inventor wasn’t a word person either. Butts was fascinated by games of all sorts and saw word games as the category that offered the most opportunities for innovation. For him, that innovation meant creating a game in which the frequency of letters corresponded with their frequency in the English language. As part of his research, he documented how often each letter appeared on the front page of the newspaper. E is most common, so there are twelve E’s in Scrabble but only one tile for each of the rarest of letters: J, K, Q, X, and Z. For many players, including me, part of Scrabble’s appeal is the combination of skill and luck. Word power alone won’t win the game. You don’t know which letters you will draw or which seven letter tiles are on your opponent’s rack. And for many players, another source of the game’s appeal is its synthesis of crosswords and anagrams.

Since creating words from anagrams is a process of letter scrambling, James Brunot may have chosen the name Scrabble in part for its similarity to scramble, but the word scrabble itself is apt for a game that often requires a player to struggle (or scrabble) to make a word from a seemingly impossible combination of tiles. It’s notable, too, that Scrabble’s beginnings date to the 1930s, when its inventor was an out-of-work architect. He wanted to create a diversion from the dark days of the Depression. Now it’s a game that many of us have returned to, pantomiming the ghosts of those first-generation players. Once again, it’s a game for hardscrabble times.

Works Cited

Bukszpan, David. Is That a Word?: From AA to ZZZ, the Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble. Chronicle, 2012.

“Spell Bound.” The Guardian, 27 June 2008,