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Boggles the Mind

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Ashley: You have to stop thinking about Lisa.
Will: I am not thinking about Lisa. [places tiles] 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 or other spelling-based games 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, anagrams, Countdown, or any other word game.

Name is, of course, a pun on the board game Boggle. A form of Spelling Bonus.

Sub-Trope of Character-Driven Strategy. Related tropes include Freudian Slip and Anxiety Dreams. See also Hollywood Board Games, when playing Tabletop Games serves as characterization.


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    Films — Animation 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): When Frollo is running Quasimodo through the alphabet, Quasimodo—whose mind is on the Festival of Fools—says "festival" is response to 'F' instead of "Forgiveness".
  • In The Lorax (2012), when Ted, who is preoccupied with trying to find a tree, plays Scrabble with his mother and grandmother, and spells, "tree".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Foul Play, the old ladies are playing Scrabble when we see that all their words are "dirty".
  • Inverted in Hot Fuzz. Angel and Joyce shout "fascist" and "hag" at each other, with their mutual loathing seemingly coming from nowhere - before it's revealed they're just solving a crossword.
  • 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 Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion, the characters are playing "anagrams" when Lina notices that Johnny's tiles spell out "murder."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gangsta Granny: When Ben and Granny play Scrabble, all of his words relate to either his boredom and desire to escape ("boring", "help", "escape", "pointless", "tedium"), his grandmother's wind problem ("pongy", "quack"note ), or the grandmother herself ("ancient"). He tries to write, "Ihatethisstupidgame", but Granny says no because it's not one word. Granny also spells, "Murraymint", which is her Trademark Favourite Food.
  • Turned sideways in the technothriller Interface where a woman blatantly creates sentences from her hand and the bag to send messages to half of her father's brain. (The other half just thinks she's cheating.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 to spell out the location of her remains.
  • Justified in NOS4R2: Maggie's talent is to use Scrabble tiles to spell out information important to her. She happens to have a magic tile bag that will never run out. There are limitations - most prominently, she can't use the tiles to spell out a proper name, because that's against the rules of Scrabble. Also, the tales have a mind of themselves, and don't always tell her what she's looking for.
  • In the Stevie Diamond book How Can I Be a Detective if I Have to Babysit?, Stevie is playing Scrabble with a suspect; she plays words like "sneak" and "crime".

    Live Action TV 
  • One episode of 30 Rock has Jack putting together a team to come up with a marketable name for a miniature microwave oven. Somehow, every single idea they have turns out to be offensive in some language or another. Jack eventually resorts to using Scrabble tiles to make a random name, but they quickly begin spelling something inappropriate each time. He finally tries just throwing a handful down at once, only to see that they somehow perfectly spelled out "HITLER."
  • 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."
  • 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!'"
  • 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."
  • Lampshaded on Father Ted; He rages that his arch-nemesis Dick Byrne must have cheated when he spelt out "useless, priest, cant, say, mass".''...
  • Invoked by Ted in How I Met Your Mother, trying to broach the subject of whether Robin has ever been married.
    Ted: "Husband"
    Robin: There's no "P" in "husband"
    Ted: Hmm... you seem to know a lot about husbands...
  • Malcolm in the Middle: In the "Houseboat" episode, Kitty and Abe are having marital problems so the scrabble board that they are playing on is filled with words like "suffocate", "moron", "dislike" and "therapy".
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Dial B for Virgin", Bud plays Scrabble with a hot girl he's trying to help resist the temptation to have sex and sees that his tiles read "TAKE HER."
  • The episode "The Boy from 6B" of Only Murders in the Building features Charles and Jan playing Scrabble while on a date, playing words such as "SEXY", "HARD", "WET", and "YUM".
  • 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.
  • Six Feet Under: Ruth drags Claire to a "girls' night" with Ruth's cousin Hannah and Hannah's daughter Ginnie. During a game of Scrabble, Claire plays the word "hell".
  • 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.
    [alarm sounds]
    Mike: Run!
  • 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 subconscious to gain access to the knowledge — including where the MacGuffin they need is — Dr. Jackson notices he's been unconsciously 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".
  • 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.
  • In You, when Beck and Joe play Scrabble, the board is covered by romance/love-themed words.

  • 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


    Western Animation 
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • From the 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".
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • The episode "Your Shoe's Untied" had greedy Mr. Krabs literally filling in every answer of a crossword with "money."
      Mr. Krabs: A five-letter word for happiness... "money".
    • In the episode "Fungus Among Us", SpongeBob has a skin rash after being infected by a fungus called "ick". In one scene, he's solving a crossword puzzle and has already written down words such as "RASH", "ITCHY", "HEADITCH" and several instances of "ITCH". As he looks for a four-letter word meaning an uncomfortable sensation on the dermis, his rash starting itching and he screams "ITCH!!" before frantically scratching himself.
  • Steven Universe: In "Storm in the Room", Connie is nervously waiting for her mom to pick her up from Steven's house. She's hours late, and not answering her cell phone. Steven tries to take Connie's mind off things with a game of Mad Libs, but Connie's growing anxiety causes her to start picking words like "accidental" and "explosion", and Steven decides to stop.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
    18 Down: Sign of growth (6)