Scrabble Bans 236 Racist Words and Slurs From Official List

Good riddance

Scrabble
Racism is no longer Scrabble sanctioned.
Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / July 10, 2020 11:25 am

If you’ve ever watched a peaceful game of Scrabble deteriorate into a heated debate over whether or not you can play that obscure piece of slang or seemingly illegible mashup of leftover letter tiles, you know Scrabble has an official holy book of words the great Scrabble overlords have deemed acceptable. As of Wednesday, however, that official list is now short 236 words and slurs that have been stripped of their Scrabble approval status due to racist or bigoted meanings and associations.

“Removing slurs is the very least that we can do to make our association more inclusive,” John Chew, CEO of The North American Scrabble Players Association said in a statement Wednesday. “How can we in this day tell prospective members that they can only play with us if they accept that offensive slurs have no meaning when played on a board?”

While the association, for obvious reasons, did not share the full list of banned words, Chew told NPR “the N word,” was naturally the first to get cut.

“If a word is so offensive that it can only be referred to by its initial, does that not indicate that it retains its meaning in all contexts?” Chew said in the statement.

Unfortunately, while scrapping hateful language from the game should have been a no-brainer, the decision was met with some inevitable controversy from the members of the official association, with opposition on both sides of the debate.

“Some members threatened to leave the association if a single word were removed; others threatened to leave the association if any offensive words remained,” said Chew. “There were a lot of good and bad arguments on both sides.”

Ultimately, the association voted to scrap 236 offensive words, though Chew told NPR that “words that are potentially offensive but are not considered slurs — such as those for parts of the body — remain.”

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