Panic among Scrabble enthusiasts.
This Thursday, several news sites claim that at least 400 words will soon be banned from the new board game reference lexicon.
The reason ?
These are considered too offensive by Mattel, the American company manufacturing the game. What raise the hair of the hundreds of thousands of French-speaking players who hoped to make "triple word count" with a few swear words.
400 words, really?
We disentangle the true from the false.
What words are affected?
The American toy giant does not seem to want to expand on the difficult question: contacted by Le Parisien, the company did not want to provide the precise list of words it wants to erase.
But according to L'Express, 62 words will disappear in 2023 from the ninth edition of the Official Scrabble (ODS), published by Larousse.
This lexicon, renewed every four years and following the evolutions of the illustrated Petit Larousse, is designed on a voluntary basis by the International Federation of French-speaking Scrabble (FISF), independently of Mattel.
Initially, the American company had nevertheless suggested the withdrawal of a hundred controversial terms.
Among the words affected, L'Express cites "Asian", "Boche", "Chicano", "Enculeur", "Femmelette", "Gogole", "goudou", "gouine", "lopette", "nabot", " negro”, “queer”, “poufiasse”, “roman”, “schleu”, “sidaic”, “tafiole”, “tantouse”, “tarlouze” or “travelo”.
The editorial board of the ODS, on the other hand, obtained the maintenance of the words "asshole", "grognasse" and "bitch".
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Joined by Le Parisien, Larousse clears itself of all responsibility.
“Mattel has decided to update the list of approved words in the rules of the game, so we are updating the new edition of the Official Scrabble”, simply explains the publishing house.
This kind of arbitration is not new.
The volunteer lexicon committee already has a rule of removing “words unanimously qualified as racist insults and having only this meaning”.
Example: the word "chinetoque", also removed in 2014 from the Petit Larousse illustré.
Why does Mattel want to change the Scrabble wordlist?
During 2022, the examination of this list sparked heated debates at the federation of French-speaking players, which has 23,000 licensees.
Some approve of this choice.
Others insist on keeping these repudiated words, not because they cherish these insults, but because they want to remain consistent with the evolution of the French language.
Joined by Le Parisien, the FISF sent us directly to Mattel, which seems to have had the last word in the matter.
In 2021, according to the Express, the company had already changed the rules of its manual to suggest that players avoid the words "constituting incitement to hatred and discrimination".
And for the new version of the Scrabble dictionary, Mattel says it has used “an independent linguist to identify hateful words”.
Because even during a simple game, “words have the power to strengthen, encourage and honor, but they can also be used to weaken, discourage and disrespect”, justifies American society.
Stripped of these words considered to be at risk, this new list will appear in June 2023 in the 9th edition of the ODS.
From 2024, the book will become the reference for official French-language Scrabble tournaments.
Scrabble lovers with friends and family can be reassured: they are obviously free not to use this dictionary in private.
Abroad, what does it look like?
At the same time, a similar reflection has also divided English-speaking players, who face much heavier restrictions.
British journalist - and competitive player - Jonathan Maitland, assures, in The Spectator magazine, that 419 words were banned from Scrabble in January 2022, including "Jew" ("Jew"), "Jesuit" ("Jesuit") , “dyke” (an insult qualifying lesbian women with androgynous appearance) or even “bufty” (an insult aimed at homosexual men, derived from Scottish slang).
At the origin of the decision, a survey conducted among North American players, wanting a more “inclusive” game.
Across the Channel, the decision was not well digested.
“Words from our Scrabble list should not be removed for communication purposes disguised as promoting some semblance of social advancement,” slammed game writer Darryl Francis.
Member of the International Federation of English-speaking Scrabble Players, he also slammed the door.