It’s no good, I am sick of them: the letters C and V. They offend me. They upset me. I wish them to be struck from the alphabet, to be cashiered, to be decommissioned, to be replaced (we don’t need C anyway, and as for V, well, we could always go back to that ‘w’ pronunciation which some Latin teachers insisted upon, as in Weni, Widi, Wici). I would like to see them drummed out of dictionaries, and thrown out of thesauruses (thesauri, if you must, and you mustn’t). If you are asked to produce a CV, well, to hell with it, it can be an SW from now on, and if you attack a machine-gun nest without thought for life or limb, in a display of gallantry, you can damn well win the WS, posthumously or otherwise.
I’m sorry about this. It’s the on-line Scrabble (and Lexulous, formerly Scrabulous, but not after the court case brought by Hambro). They keep me sane, they pass away those minutes when I would otherwise be in uffish or indeed oafish thought, and I can’t pretend I haven’t learned a whole lot of new words – platinas, syen and taconite, for instance, and that’s just in the last 48 hours, and I can tell you, it wasn’t me who lighted upon them. The frustration of these word-games is that they depend upon your use of a very limited number of two-letter words – which of us does not use za, qi and jo in everyday conversation, eh? – and the thing about V and C is that there are NO two-letter words beginning with either. Stick a V or a C down on a Scrabble board or its variant, and you both scupper and are scuppered, at the same time. They sit there, looking smarmy and smug and also downright obstructive. You may have been hoarding up your blanks, your every s or i, n and g for a real crack at a seven-letter word (eight in Lexulous) and you are blown out of the water.
I have a friend who is a bit of a purist, to whom I explained my current addiction to word games. Unfortunately, I let slip that, in online Scrabble, you can look words up before you put them down (you can even give them a punt, on the off chance that they exist, especially when they are going to give you a colossal score), and he was completely horrified. I tried to steer the conversation on to safer topics, like the profusion of nuclear weapons, or animal testing, but it was too late. He was at me. ‘The whole point,’ he said, perturbed and distressed beyond any normal measure, ‘is to put down words that you know.‘ He was quite assertive about it. He knows a lot of words, too, many more than me, or should I say, he knows the meanings of many words more than me.
But I am afraid that I play for the pleasure of winning (and indeed, losing, which is just as well, as my three opponents are giving me a right going-over at present), not for any educational reason. I like the tactical business of games, and, if I were consigned to a rest-home (as surely some day, I shall be) I will be quite happy if there is a deck of cards and the occasional plate of mince and mash. I have no major plans for retirement.
I knew I’d lost the moral high ground with my friend who objected to online Scrabble’s quirks (‘cheating’, as he put it). I could have flashed him a V-sign, but that letter is right off my Christmas list.