Rappers, poets and writers celebrate 70 years of Scrabble

Published on: 26th October 2018

A new film has been created, saluting the evolution of language.

Scrabble turns 70, and to celebrate, Babyface has corralled Liv Little, founding editor-in-chief of award-winning online platform gal-dem, spoken word artist James Massiah, rapper and musician Jimothy Lacoste, multimedia artist Lotte Andersen, host of YouTube show The Chicken Shop Date, Amelia Dimoldenberg, and Instagram streetwear star Gully Guy Leo to explore the evolution of language and words, in a new film short by Joe Ridout.

The film demonstrates how Scrabble permeates popular culture, resonates with new generation talent, and how language evolves, morphs and surprises, with a humble board game that continues to capture the nuances of today. The world’s most famous playing Scrabble include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Nokia, Harry Styles, Kylie, Tom Cruise, Barack Obama, and Madonna. Skepta has said “Scrabble, it’s my favourite game,” while Drake raps “Triple word triple letter nobody do it better.” An episode of The Simpsons saw Bart Simpson play the bogus word KWYJIBO for a huge score, defining it as a ‘balding North American ape with a small chin,’ while in the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Joseph Fiennes as The Commander regularly invites Elizabeth Moss as Offred to secret nighttime Scrabble sparring in his study.

The cross-generational, timeless and playful appeal of Scrabble gives everyone a chance to flex their linguistic muscles. Wordsmiths and wordplay harness the power of language to speak out, create, entertain, collaborate, disrupt and challenge – from spoken word artists, poets, writers and singers, to grime artists, activists, artists and designers, the state of the English language is in constant flux.

Originally conceived by US architect Alfred Mosher Butts during the Great Depression, Scrabble fever began when Jack Strauss, chairman of Macy’s, was introduced to it by friends. Upon finding it wasn’t stocked by Macy’s he backed a large scale promotional campaign, which set sales skyrocketing.

To date, around 150m sets have been produced in 33 different languages in over 120 countries, while each hour at least 30,000 Scrabble games commence, with over 276,663 words allowed under British Scrabble rules. Somewhere in the world there are over a million missing Scrabble tiles.


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