Things were getting serious.
Bob was eyeing up the last triple word score.
Jemima was about to place her blank letter to extend the word 'Quit' to 'Quite'.
That was that. She was going to win again.
Bob sighed, resigned to another pride-sapping defeat.
Jemima counted up the score.
"I think that makes 36 points, if I'm not wrong Bob?'
Jemima beamed proudly.
Bob humphed and added Jemima's score to the tally.
Was he ever going to beat that self-satisfied little Miss Annoying?
He placed four letters on the board.
"No that's no good Bob," said Jemima. "That word doesn't mean anything."
Bob was fed up.
Jemima always beat Bob.
Bob looked forlornly at the list of tallies in the Scrabble box.
It made for sorry reading.
He didn't bother turning over the paper.
Bob felt humiliated and stupid.
Jemima was clearly brilliantly clever.
Stop making sense.
Looked at together, the words placed on the board would have made no sense whatsoever.
There was not a single intelligible sentence to be found.
Nobody would bother reading it all anyway.
That was not the point.
These were just scores.
There was never any question of it making any sense; winning by the rules was everything.
They seemed to equate being good at Scrabble with understanding, with intelligence.
They were only partly wrong.
Being good at Scrabble was mainly about understanding a game, and having a very specific sort of intelligence.
To hell with making meaning, it was primarily about pattern recognition.
Any words would do as long as they fitted in on the board.
Bob was just about to add three letters (T,W,O) to the board when....
When Sally came to play.
Sally was bored.
"Can I play?", she asked.
"No, Sally, you are too young, and you are ruining my concentration," replied Bob grumpily.
Sally, aged four, took no notice of her brother and sister and grabbed a handful of letters off the Scrabble board.
"Hey, Sally stop you are messing up our game!"
"I want to play, I am going to make a house."
Sally was already piling up the seized letters into a leaning tower of meaning.
"Sally, put the letters back right now or I'll call Mum."
"No, I'm playing too."
"I'm making a house."
With all the petulance she could muster, Sally flung the board on the floor.
"You're stupid. It's not fair, I wanted to play TOO!"
I sometimes have the impression that Academia is a very sophisticated form of Scrabble.
The expert players take it very, very seriously indeed.
They have developed their skills considerably over the years.
They practice daily, looking up ever more obscure words in Scrabble dictionaries.
They develop strategy.
They look to measure themselves up against the best.
They play in clubs and go to conventions with their peers.
Looked at together their words don't always make much sense.
They are very unhappy if little kids grab the tiles laid on the board to build towers of their own.