Homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs could finally be banned from the official Scrabble dictionary

scrabble slurs

The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) is reviewing its official word list, and is set to decide this week whether to remove homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs.

The discussion over offensive words and slurs in the Scrabble association’s official word list began in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests.

In a letter to the association’s advisory board, NASPA CEO John Chew wrote: “I have felt for a long time that there are some words in our lexicon that we hang onto in the mistaken belief that our spelling them with tiles on a board strips them of their power to cause harm.

“I am thinking specifically of those words which are used primarily as slurs: that is, words that are used to label someone as being of less value than the speaker based on some innate trait such as gender, race or sexual orientation – not words that are used to cause offence on scatological, prurient, profane or other grounds.

“When we play a slur, we are declaring that our desire to score points in a word game is of more value to us than the slur’s broader function as a way to oppress a group of people.”

NASPA has compiled a list of offensive words that it proposes are removed from the word list, including the n-word, “bumboy”, “shemale”, “dyke” and “faggot”.

It also produced a poll open to its 2,000 members as well as the general public on removing slurs, and Chew said that while the public was in favour of their removal, members were split on the issue.

Chew told Reuters: “We are told when we get for the first time to a Scrabble club or tournament that words have no meaning on a Scrabble board. Most people accept that without question.

“Some people find they cannot accept … the ‘n-word’ being treated as though it has no meaning.

“Those people end up not being part of our community, which is the fundamental problem we’re trying to address.”

The World English Language Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) is also considering whether to remove slurs from its official dictionary.

WESPA chairman Chris Lipe said: “These are terrible words and you don’t want people coming in to be exposed to them if necessary.”