Wednesday, 8 May 2013



Noun. Late 18th century.
[Gaelic, Irish, beann = Old Irish benn, Welsh ban prominence, peak, height.]

A Scottish or Irish mountain peak. Chiefly in names, as Ben Nevis, Ben Bulben.

Ben is an exceptionally useful word in the arsenal of any Scrabble player, not only in a practical sense, but also as a potent weapon in the inevitable psychological warfare that is fought across that lettered board. Invariably upon its placement, your opponent will smugly point out that Ben is a name and proper nouns are not allowed in Scrabble (usually expressed with an undertone of what-a-moron).

The trap set, you can now retaliate with supreme superciliousness: "Actually, ben isn't a proper noun but is defined in the OED as a Scottish or Irish mountain peak. Therefore, it need not be capitalised and is perfectly valid according to the rules of Scrabble."

Then, with your opponent cornered and seething incredulity, you can move in for the coup de grâce by sarcasm: "What? Didn't you know that? Did you think Ben Nevis was someone's name? Like the person that discovered it or something?"

At this point, you need only tut softly and roll your eyes at their naivety. Ben might not have won the game on points, but a great psychological blow has been struck, one from which your beleaguered foe is unlikely to recover.


  1. I don't play much scrabble but if you find any words which might give me an advantage with my cage-fighting please do post them.


    1. I will - I might even make it a category of words I write about. The word AITCH might also interest you in this regard.

  2. Playing Scrabble with you must be an amazing and truly educating experience! I've never had the luck to play the English version... :(

    1. Thank you Evi - although in truth (and this isn't false modesty) I'm not especially good at Scrabble as I'm not particularly good at anagramming. A key to Scrabble in English is knowing all of the allowable two letter words - if you have this and your opponent doesn't, you're at a significant advantage.