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SOWPODS     TWL

Know your SOWPODS from your TWL if you want to be a top Scrabble Player

In most of the English speaking world, the go to Scrabble dictionary is the Collins English Dictionary. For tournaments though, the full word list is known as Sowpods. You may be scratching your head trying to work out the meaning of this strange words (which looks like it would score pretty well if you played it in the game), fret not - SOWPODS is not a real word but instead an anagram of two acronyms! You can tell that serious Scrabble people like word games can't you?

OK so for the less wordy of us, what on Earth are we talking about? The story so far: UK Scrabble rules (from 1980) stated that words in the Chambers English Dictionary were the only ones that could be played in the game. This might seem clear cut but there were still possible queries: what about plurals, conjugations and other tricky extensions to the given words? In 1988, a definitive list of valid words was published as a book called Official Scrabble Words (OSW) from Chambers. This made its way onto many keen Scrabble players' Christmas lists and hopefully settled Scrabble based family arguments over the following years.

The Americans though have their own unique spelling quirks, meaning that they could not use the same dictionary. The US games manufacturers commissioned their own special dictionary called the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD), which was first published in 1978 and revised a number of times since.
For international Scrabble tournaments, there needed to be a meeting of minds, as despite their differences, English speaking players from different countries wanted to be able to compete against each other on a level playing board. A combined word list was thus created and the word nerds gave it a catchy name mixing up OSW and OSPD to come up with SOWPODS - a combination of both 'official' Scrabble dictionaries.

(To answer the inevitable question - Sowpods is not a valid word in Scrabble in any version, sorry about that, so erase it from your tile rack. The longest valid word that you can make from SOWPODS is Swoops, which sadly does not score anywhere near as well, lacking as it does the 50 bonus points from playing a 7-letter word.)

You might think that the story ends there but hang on my Scrabble loving friends, our tale is not yet complete. In the good old US of A, they could not leave their OSPD alone. A few tweaks were made to improve the original specifically for Scrabble tournament play. This tweaked list became known as the Tournament Word List (TWL), so SOWPODS should now really be called SOWTWL but as this is not such a catchy name, Scrabblistas have stuck with the earlier name for the most part. Well there you are, Scrabble players are indeed a rum lot.