Huer Missus

For as long as we can remember (though do bear in mind that often I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast the same day 🙂  ) Shana and I have been playing each other at Scrabble and, more recently, Lexicon.

The trouble with playing too intensively though, is that sometimes you can sort of go blank, albeit temporarily.

I blame all those notorious two-letter words that Scrabblers find essential. Poor Shana was left scratching her head a few weeks ago, agonising over whether one particular word was permitted. She even spelled it out to see if that might help.

“S-O. No I’m not sure. I’ll have to look it up.”

“Of course it’s allowed,” I said.  “It’s ‘So’, the well known conjunction, as in the sentence ‘I didn’t score enough points, so I lost the game’.”

“Oh, that ‘so’,” said Shana. “Sorry. Forgot.”

“Easily done,” I said, pencilling a quick note on the back of the scoresheet for future reference.

The other major problem with word games is that sometimes you want to look something up, either for an exact definition, or for its interesting etymology. And it’s so easy to get sidetracked and end up reading the dictionary instead.

Sometimes though, that’s when you discover fascinating words. Like tonight’s Word of the Evening: ‘Huer’.

Here’s what the dictionary tells us. A huer is, and I quote: ‘A pilchard fisherman’s lookout man’. Apparently, a huer would stand on a clifftop and would signal to his fisherman friends on their boat at sea, where shoals of herring or pilchards could be found. For some reason it’s easier to spot them at a distance rather than when you’re sailing right next to them.

Anyway, huer was never on the list of options during careers advice day at school back in the Dark Ages. Shame that, because if it had been I might have found my lifelong vocation.


The Wonder Game

We are currently taking a break from our regular evening games of Scrabble because something mysterious emerged from the cupboard on our upstairs landing.

Yes, I know it all sounds like some far-tetched Hallowe’en frightfest (could it be a hidden zombie had secreted itself up there and then crept out and devoured our Scrabble board?) but the truth is more mundane. I was busy pootling in the upstairs cupboard a while ago, rearranging the dust (as you do 🙂 ) when I found Lexicon, an old word game that Shana had kept from donkey’s years ago and half-forgotten. Apparently it was games manufacturer Waddingtons’ first ever offering, after which they managed to snap up Monopoly (and the rest is history, as they say).

Shana’s edition of Lexicon dates back to the late 1950s, although she would not have acquired it till the ’60s or ’70s.

Lexicon has proved to be easy to grasp, highly addictive, faster paced than Scrabble, and with an emphasis not on scoring highly but on getting rid of your cards by making longer words rather than lots of little two-letter ones. Whoever is left holding unused cards must add their values together and take that as their score. First to score a hundred is the loser.

We are fine with the words, but we do forget who is supposed to be dealing. Shana came up with an ingenious solution: whoever is the dealer takes a pair of artificial holly berries joined by a short length of wire. (These are a leftover from a festive project we were working on a year or two ago.) We have dubbed these the ‘dealer bobbles’. And, as if you have not had enough excitement already today, feast your mince pies on these 🙂


Lexicon letter distribution info follows for anyone who wants to compare and contrast Lexicon with Scrabble.

Lexicon uses a pack of 52 cards

Letter x   Quantity =  Value
A x 4 = 10
B x 1 =  2
C x 1 =  8
D x 1 =  6
E x 4 = 10
F x 1 =  2
G x 1 =  4
H x 3 = 8
I x 4 =  10
J x 1 =  6
K x 1 = 8
L x 3 = 8
M x 1 = 8
N x 1 = 8
O x 3 = 8
P x 1 = 8
Q x 1 = 4
R x 3 = 8
S x 3 = 8
T x 3 = 8
U x 3 = 8
V x 1 = 6
W x 3 = 8
X x 1 = 2
Y x 1 = 4
Z  x 1 = 2
MASTER x 1 = 15 (This card is like the blank in Scrabble and can represent any letter the player chooses. But if you get stuck with it, it will cost you a hefty fifteen points!)


Oxford comma saves Beatles from tribble hell

Until tonight, I was always in two minds about the Oxford comma. Sometimes, I realised, it could be useful to clarify matters. But that didn’t mean you had to be fanatical about using it all the time. Then I picked up ‘Turn Off Your Mind’, Gary Valentine Lachman’s excellent, absorbing history of occultism in the 1960s. And found this in the preface:

As a kid in the States in that turbulent decade, ‘the sixties’ for me meant Marvel Comics, Conan the Barbarian, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., James Bond films, the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and Star Trek – in a word, great pop culture.

“I never knew the Beatles had appeared on Star Trek,” I said. Shana agreed that the lack of an Oxford comma in the appropriate place did indeed make the passage ambiguous. Maybe, though, the Fab Four’s moptop haircuts were used as extras in episodes featuring the dreaded tribbles. How come we missed that one!

By the way, bonus points to anyone who spotted that ‘great pop culture’ is in fact three words, not one. But I have to say, you are being a bit harsh, because the book is a first class read. Anyone who has yet to read it, go get a copy pronto.