Ashley: "You have to stop thinking about Lisa."
Will: "I am not thinking about Lisa. D-U-M-P-E-D. Dumped."
Ashley: "Right. And before that you had Sad. Lonely. And Pathetic."
Carlton: "No Ashley, that's me. I'm Pathetic."
In Real Life
, people playing Scrabble
generally try to play the highest-scoring word they can, or failing that, any
word they can find. Even if it's not, strictly speaking, real.
In fiction, however, Scrabble tiles are magic Rorschach's Ink Blot
style windows to the soul. If we see characters playing a word game, then either the word being played, the only
word the character can make, or every
word on the board will somehow relate to things that are on their mind. Alternatively the words will foreshadow
events they are unaware of. The game in question will usually be Scrabble
, but not necessarily - other games that can be used include crosswords
, or any other word game.
Name is, of course
, a pun
on the board game Boggle.
Related tropes include Freudian Slip
and Anxiety Dreams
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- In Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion, the characters are playing "anagrams" when Lina notices that Johnny's tiles spell out "murder."
- Not exactly this but in Sneakers the characters give up on their game of Scrabble and start using the tiles to work out anagrams of Setec Astronomy. After a couple of funny misfires (including Cooty's Rat Semen) they arrive at 'Too Many Secrets'.
- In the movie Foul Play, the old ladies are playing Scrabble when we see that all their words are "dirty".
- Invoked by Arthur in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, when he uses random drawing from a Scrabble bag to try to reveal the Ultimate Question in his subconscious. It does result in a meaningful sentence, but it's the wrong question—"WHAT DO YOU GET IF YOU MULTIPLY SIX BY NINE". While Douglas Adams may be a sad case, he doesn't make jokes in base-13.
- Played with in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Conundrum, in which the Doctor and another character play a game of Scrabble in which every word is significant—and the Doctor immediately points to this as a sign that their actions are being controlled by an outside force. Especially when his opponent makes an impossible move and the Doctor points out the continuity error.
- Patrick Bateman fills in a crossword with some rather... sketchy answers in American Psycho. Of course, with the Unreliable Narrator and frequent hallucinations it's entirely possible they were the right answers, or at least that he thought they were.
- In the Thursday Next novel "Lost in a Good Book", a commuter on the same carriage reads the crossword answers "Meddlesome Thursday, Goodbye", before Thursday is almost killed in a shootout.
- There's a short story where the ghost of a murdered Scrabble player takes control of which letters two living players draw in order to spell out the location of her remains.
- In The Mask, by Dean Koontz, Paul is seriously unnerved when he's playing Scrabble with Carol and Jane, and all the words are violent ones. Except for Carol's name.
- Turned sideways in the technothriller Interface, where a woman blatantly creates sentences from her hand and the bag in order to send messages to half of her father's brain. (The other half just thinks she's cheating.)
Live Action TV
- Lampshaded on Father Ted; He rages that his arch-nemesis Dick Byrne must have cheated when he spelt out "useless, priest, cant, say, mass".''
- Also evidencing a clever bit of Loophole Abuse in substituting the real word "cant" for the illegal abbreviation "can't". But that might be overthinking the joke...
- Done in Skins, where the recovering anorexic Cassie and one of her loony bin mates are playing and the whole board is covered in foods.
- In the Spaced episode "Epiphanies", when Tim and Daisy get into a Scrabble-tile-throwing fight after an argument over whether "Shazam" or "Pro-V" counted as words, Daisy notices that the last 4 tiles they threw at each other spelt "Fuck". Tim asks her what she thinks that means, hinting at the couple's UST.
- A crossword semi-example from another episode;
Guard: Three letters; to walk quickly, manage or oversee.
- An episode of Benson had Death taking part in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Every question he got had some relation to death — the name of Jerry Garcia's band, for instance. Benson accused him of cheating, but he denied it, saying, "You've heard it said, 'He cheated Death," but no one has ever said, 'Death cheated him!'"
- One episode of Stargate SG-1 had O'Neill doing a crossword after downloading the Ancient database into his head. (Again.) As he waits for his subconcious to gain access to the knowledge — including where the MacGuffin they need is — Dr Jackson notices he's been unconciously filling in answers in Ancient, and theorises that these are clues to where they need to go. (He's right.) Carter remains skeptical because he also filled in 'celestial body' as 'Uma Thurman'.
- Invoked by Ted in How I Met Your Mother, trying to broach the subject of whether Robin has ever been married.
Robin: There's no 'P' in 'husband'
Ted: Hmm... you seem to know a lot about husbands...
- Dark Angel: Max, due to having cat DNA, has periods of heightened sex drive (she is effectively "in heat"). During one of these periods, she is playing Scrabble with Original Cindy, who points out that every word Max has used is a Double Entendre, except for one "... which I won't say, since I kiss my momma with this mouth."
- There's a variant in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley where Geraldine's assignation with David's brother is interrupted by David coming by with half the parish council to play Scrabble and refusing to leave. Geraldine somehow manages to spell out "Leave You Remorseless Bastards." They fail the Spot check.
- The That '70s Show episode "Burning Down the House" has Red, Kitty, Bob, and Midge playing Scrabble, all of them now knowing that Bob wears a toupée. Accordingly, Red's tiles spell "BALDING," Kitty's spell "A BAD RUG," and Bob's spell "SHOOT ME."note Later, Red also puts tiles on the board to spell "CUEBALL."
- In the Barenaked Ladies song "Conventioneers", a game of Scrabble between two co-workers staying at the same hotel gets a bit suggestive:
Followed your perfume out away from all the rabble
Right up to your room for a drink and travel Scrabble
You, stationed in the warm glow of the TV
Too patient as I'm playing L-O-V-E
And we laugh... and we laugh... and we laugh
And we have to or we'll end up in the bath
- This strip of Albion Fuzz
- According to this strip of XKCD, whenever the author plays Scrabble with his girlfriend's mother, he always gets the letters for words like "Clitoris."
- In King of the Hill, When Hank fails to show up to Peggy's Boggle match, she comes up with a list of fitting words ("Sad", "Bad", "Man", "Abandoned", "Abandons"...)
- The Simpsons episode "The Bart Wants What It Wants": Bart became friends with a girl; all her words on the grid were love-related. We then see Bart take the word "us" and put down the word "Oblivious".
- There was another one in the episode where Maude Flanders died: Ned plays a game against himself, with all the words being about loneliness. And "horny".
- Family Guy had Stewie subconsciously spelling "My darling Janet" with alphabet blocks. When he realizes what he's done, he knocks over the blocks, causing them to spell "I long for you." He knocks them over again, spelling "Ride that pony." He seems okay with that one, apparently not seeing the innuendo behind it.
- American Dad! had an episode where Stan tries to have a romantic date with Francine while also taking care of his boss's prostitute. At one point Stan and Francine are playing Scrabble, and Francine is the one who points out that Stan can play words like "man", "takes", "smokes", "to", "skank", "across", and "lake".
- One SpongeBob SquarePants episode had greedy Mr. Krabs literally filling in every answer of a crossword with "money."
- At the US Space and Rocket Center in Alabama, there's a restored trailer where lunar astronauts were quarantined, complete with a vintage Scrabble board. The restoration people had some fun and spelled out "Lander", "Rover" and "NASA" in the tiles on the board.
- Crossword setter Araucaria of the Grauniad used his cryptic crossword 25842 to announce that he had "18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15". The crossword also contained several other references to his treatment.
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