...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Thank You for Existing; Well Done!

If there is one thing I can't stand, it's a kneejerk compliment.

I play Scrabble in clubs and in tournaments, but I can rarely get a fix these days because I don't live in a particularly Scrabble-mad area. Just 80 miles south lies Manhattan, home to over a dozen of America's best players. In this necka, on the other hand, I'd be lucky to find that many people who know that QI and ZA are now acceptable words (life force and pizza, which, considering that there are a dozen pizzerias in town, are apparently the same thing).

Online, however, there is a whole nother world of Scrabble. At the International Scrabble Community, or ISC, you can find a game any hour of the day, ranging in length from 4 minutes per person to the regulation 25-minute games that would put me in a virtual coma. I always go for quick games (as evidenced by my 10,000+ games in the past three years). But no matter the speed, I'm assured of one thing: brainless compliments.

At the top level of the game, players tend to average about 375 points per game (or over 30 points per turn), and 'bingos' (using all 7 of your letters at once) are fairly common, occuring about 3 times per game over all. But nowadays, there are study tools available that can make average players seem good and good players seem great. It's no longer special when someone puts down a word like ANESTRI because everyone else at this level knows how common those letters are even if they don't know what the hell they are spelling (periods of sexual inactivity, in this case). Nevertheless, people at ISC have gotten into the annoying habit of typing 'wd' or 'vn' after every bingo. This has got to stop. And Voice of Society Man is there.

It's not just that the little abbreviations are distracting. Worse by far is the fact that most people only acknowledge 'nice play's when I've bingoed. Hey, it's not like I didn't notice that I'd used all of my letters. If you're going to give me a vapid compliment, why not "Great shoes" or "ur special"?

In a game this evening, I played TOADIES (an extremely common word which happens to be the anagram of IODATES) and got the obligatory 'vn.' Two turns later, I scored 40 points for the less common VENTAIL thru the E and the I that were already on the board. This type of play is extremely rare, but sure enough, my opponent was silent in her abbreviated compliments.

Voice of Society Man had to say something, and fast (it was a speed game):

VoS Man: TOADIES = 'vn' but no compliment for VENTAIL?
Opponent: Sorry. I usu only comp the bingos.
VoS Man: TOADIES = common, whereas VENTAIL was an unusual play thru 2 unconnected letters for a solid score
Opponent: Wow u type fast
VoS Man: It's from correcting the misperceptions of so many people who r so quick to compliment the average but seem blind to any great play that isn't a bingo
Opponent: ur right.

On the face of it, this sounds like a victory, but I know it's short-lived. I had played this opponent many times before this summer, and for awhile she'd avoided the mindless compliments, but tonight I could see that Voice of Society Man hadn't changed her ways. What's a superhero 2 do?

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About Me

My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along