Is that really a word? The QatQi word list.
Chris Garrett, QatQi game designer
Hey, that’s not a word!
I’ve been getting a few questions about the word list used in QatQi, how I chose it, and why some seemingly proper nouns are included in the list. This post will give an overview of the word list used in QatQi. It will also set the stage to start posting useful word lists.
A Personal History of Word Lists
I grew up in a Scrabble-addicted household. My mom is an expert Scrabble player, and taught us to play not long after we could read. She never went easy on us, so for the first few years the family game tally was probably something like 1373-2 mom vs. kids.
The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary was first published in 1978. My family discovered it a few years later when I was in high school, and it immediately changed our playing. We started realizing there was a whole world of crazy, super useful words like QAID and FAQIR. We would take turns browsing through the dictionary between games, finding great words and then playing them against each other, secretly hoping that our opponent would challenge us on an apparent non-word.
Fast forward through college, when I introduced my future wife Teresa to competitive Scrabble. In 1994 we discovered the book “Everything Scrabble” by Joe Edley and John D. Williams. I stumbled across it in a bookstore, brought it home and read it about five times, cover to cover. The book had phenomenal tips and tricks, but best of all it had word lists. It had a list of all the two-letter words, a two-to-make-three list, list of all the q-without-u words, and so forth. Almost immediately, Teresa and I became very, very good at Scrabble. At the next family visit, Scrabble games with my sister and mom were so one-sided that I felt guilty and told them about the book. They of course read the book and on our next visit the score evened out again.
My personal history with word lists and dictionaries sets the stage for my word list choice in QatQi. I take the word list choice very seriously.
The Current State of Scrabble Word Lists
As an avid Scrabble player myself, I don’t really want to learn which words work in different games. So at first glance it seems like it would make sense to just use one of the official Scrabble lists. However, there are a few fundamental flaws with the official Scrabble lists.
First, in the United States, the official Scrabble dictionary removes “offensive” words. If I’m playing Scrabble and get the letters FCUKNIG, you can bet I’m going to find a good use for them, even if the resulting word is not in the “Official” dictionary. So there’s no way I would limit a word game to The Official Scrabble Player’s dictionary.
Second, the official dictionary in the United States is different than the one used everywhere else. In the United States, the word “HONOUR” is not allowed! I have a lot of respect for my UK and Australian friends, so I would not dishonor them by not allowing COLOUR in a word game that can be downloaded anywhere in the world.
It turns out there is a useful word list called SOWPODS which combines the United States list, the worldwide Scrabble list, and adds back in all the potentially offensive words. Here is the the SOWPODS Wikipedia entry if you’d like to know a bit more about the list and where it comes from. QatQi uses its own curated version of SOWPODS. In a word list of 230,000+ words, you’re bound to have some errors and additions. So we’re not going to follow SOWPODS religiously – if you think a word is missing from the QatQi word list, or should be removed please let us know. We’ll update our own list before the official SOWPODS list gets changed.
What’s in SOWPODS?
SOWPODS includes all non-hyphenated, non-proper words in the English language. It includes both North American and British spellings for words that differ.
There are some interesting words that look like they should be capitalized, but aren’t. For example, JONES is a word. There are words that look like acronyms but are valid, such as HMM or MHO. A good resource for looking up definitions for these words is the international Collins Scrabble dictionary, or Wordnik. We plan to add definitions to QatQi in the near future.
Can we have a list of all the __ words in QatQi?
Yes! I’ll be posting useful word lists that you can use and study to get better at QatQi. I have put the QatQi word list into an easily searchable database, so I will be posting lists here. I’ll start with some obvious lists, like all of the two and three-letter words. But I will be taking requests as well. There will be a whole new set of great word lists that apply specifically to the strategic challenges presented by QatQi puzzles. I look forward to diving into the QatQi database and flushing out those words with you.
Send us an email at email@example.com with your word list requests!