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The North American Scrabble Players Association will soon decide whether insulting and discriminatory words are still allowed in the famous game.

The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) has recently been in the midst of a debate over the use of homophobic, transphobic and racist terms in its games.

Under the impetus of the Black Lives Matter movement, the organization is considering banning several abusive terms such as “shemale”, “dyke” or “fagot”.


“When we go to a Scrabble club or tournament for the first time, we are told that words do not make sense on a Scrabble board,” explained John Chew, the president of the association, in an interview for Reuters.

“Some people find they cannot accept … the ‘N-word’ being treated as though it has no meaning,” he said.

“Those people end up not being part of our community, which is the fundamental problem we’re trying to address.”

In order to make the most informed decision possible, NASPA circulated a survey of its 2,000 members and a second for the general public.

The result showed the public was in favour of banning these words (238 in total), while the players of the association are themselves much more divided.

In the process, the North American association asked its members to weigh the pros and cons, sharing their arguments in an open letter.

Among the pro-ban opinions of these discriminatory words, some point out that by using such terms during photographed or filmed competitions, this can send back a bad image of their community of players.

Others recognize the symbolic value of such an act, all the more in light of the current societal context with anti-racist demonstrations in the United States.

The World English Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA), which runs international tournaments, is discussing whether to remove slurs with its dictionary’s publisher Collins.

“These are terrible words and you don’t want people coming in to be exposed to them if necessary,” said WESPA chairman Chris Lipe.

But some felt simply changing the dictionary would not address the real issues, he said.

“There are real issues about diversity and representation within the Scrabble community and they mainly have to do with issues in society,” said Lipe, who is American.

“Removing words from the word list doesn’t actually address any of those issues.”

A decision on removing the “N-word” as well as homophobic and transphobic terms including “bumboy” from the North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) list of accepted words is due this week.

Last Updated on Jul 8, 2020

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