Last Night’s TV – Imagine: Scrabble, A Night on the Tiles

by Lynn Connolly

I love Scrabble and it’s been a game that’s become something of a tradition in our family, with the skills being tenderly passed from generation to generation.

My mother and I used to play on a battered old board with clunky yellowing tiles that clicked comfortingly together as we shook them in their little green bag before each battle of wits. Now, my daughter and I play, usually via Facebook using the app Scrabulous which is an adaptation of the game thought up by the Agarwalla brothers.

So I was interested to see what Alan Yentob would come up with about the history of the game, and as it turned out, it was pretty interesting. I had no idea there are seriously competitive contests, but he visited with the Nigerian team – where Scrabble is classed as a sport – and they are some very determined players.

They read the original handbook of permissible words, but Yentob bemoaned the fact that while they may have an all encompassing knowledge of some of the lesser known words in the English language, they most likely don’t know what those words mean. In fact, he called it a “sort of tragedy” which I think was overstating it somewhat, but nonetheless, I see what he means.

Scrabble, we heard, was originally invented by Alfred Butts who, prior to convincing a games company to take on his game, was unemployed and desperately searching for that elusive invention that would earn him a living.

And what an awesome living it became once his stream of rejections stopped and some bright spark took on his idea. When it was further sold to Macy’s, it became an international hit. There’s even a plaque on a building in New York which acts as a memorial to Butts.

Overall, this was a pointless – though interesting – documentary, but it could come in very handy during a pub quiz some time if the question is, “Who invented Scrabble?”, now, we’ll know. Thanks Alan!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.