What’s a better way to spend a cozy evening with friends, family, or that special someone than to pull out the Scrabble board and pick a fight over whose vocabulary is better?
Maybe, instead, getting to play against a famous author! Okay, it’s unlikely I’ll ever actually get to play Herman Melville, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King anytime soon (it’d be nice, though!), but we can get an idea what playing them might be like by taking a look at their famous books, and tallying up which words would rack up the most points.
And as a bonus, maybe you’ll find a new word to use and confound the table at your next game night!
Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Moby-Dick is Herman Melville’s epic of an American whaling boat hunting after the great white whale, Moby-Dick. It’s a book known for poetic, theatrical, and descriptive language, so it’s no surprise Melville racks up some serious points (he also really liked different forms of ‘soliloquy’).
Top 20 Words: extravaganzas (33), soliloquizing (32), jeopardized (31), hypothesize (31), characterizing (31), soliloquized (31), comprehensively (30), soliloquizer (30), soliloquizes (30), characterized (30), exquisitely (30), hypothetically (30), philosophically (30), individualizing (30), tranquillize (30), sympathetically (30), phosphorescence (29), quicksilver (29), hypochondriac (29), metaphysically (29)
J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
J. K. Rowling’s magical first installment to the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, features some obvious point earners, like wizardry (24) and witchcraft (23). The top earner, though, is handkerchief for 28 points. Which makes sense, since you’ll need one by the end of the book.
Top 20 Words: handkerchief (28), squeezed (27), halfheartedly (26), disapprovingly (26), championship (26), thoughtfully (25), squawked (25), criticizing (25), squeeze (25), quickly (25), wheezing (24), extraordinary (24), wizardry (24), snuffbox (23), overshadowed (23), wristwatches (23), firecrackers (23), patchwork (23), whichever (23), recognized (23)
Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson: Violets and Other Tales
Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson was a remarkable figure in the Harlem Renaissance: a poet, journalist, columnist, and an activist for African Americans and women in the 19th-20th century. Her first short story collection, Violets and Other Tales, features both poetry and prose, so it’s no surprise she pulls out some fascinating winners like phosphorescence (29), hieroglyphics (27), and crucifixion (25).
Top 20 Words: juxtaposition (29), phosphorescence (29), rhythmically (28), hieroglyphics (27), familiarized (27), inextricably (26), civilization (26), perfectibility (26), thoughtfully (25), quickly (25), philanthropic (25), crucifixion (25), inexplicable (25), crystallize (25), photographing (25), headquarters (25), architecturally (25), metaphysical (24), bibliographers (24), zephyrs (24)
Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children
Salman Rushdie’s magical realist retelling of Indian Independence, Midnight’s Children, features probably the biggest winner of the authors on this page: hysterectomized, for a whopping 35 points unmodified. If you can somehow get Lady Luck to coordinate and manage to play that word, you kinda deserve to win at that point.
Top 20 Words: hysterectomized (35), schizophrenic (34), philosophizing (34), schizophrenia (32), mythologized (31), extemporize (31), hypothesize (31), philosophically (30), sympathetically (30), unequivocally (30), exchequer (30), sympathize (29), subjectively (29), handkerchiefs (29), coquettishly (29), approximately (29), inexhaustibly (28), unquenchable (28), qualifications (28), unquestioningly (28)
Stephen King: It
Stephen King’s It is a massive book about a killer clown entity terrorizing a town’s children (and now a pretty darn successful film). But what made me laugh out loud is that Stephen King not only used ‘whatchamacallit,’ but it’s actually a totally valid word in the official Scrabble tournament list. Out of curiosity, I decided to look up how it was defined in Merriam-Webster. And the answer?
Definition of whatchamacallit: Thingamajig.
Thanks for making my day, Merriam-Webster.
Top 20 Words: schizophrenic (34), extravaganza (32), psychologically (31), sympathized (31), whatchamacallit (30), exquisitely (30), phosphorescence (29), excruciatingly (29), bushwhacked (29), sympathize (29), quicksilver (29), hypnotizing (29), kibbitzing (28), straitjacketed (28), rhythmically (28), heartbreakingly (28), paradoxically (28), experimentally (28), lumberjacks (28), familiarizing (28)
James Joyce: Ulysses
Last, but not least…James Joyce’s Ulysses, a novel famous for being polarizing and bizarre. I almost left it off this list, but I absolutely couldn’t when it offered such interesting words like demisemiquaver (31), cheapjacks (30), and hydrocephalic (29). And yeah, I had to look up all of those because I had absolutely no clue what they meant.
Top 20 Words: demisemiquaver (31), cheapjacks (30), exquisitely (30), exchequer (30), juxtaposition (29), overwhelmingly (29), coquettishly (29), hydrocephalic (29), phosphorescence (29), handkerchiefs (29), inexplicably (28), frequentative (28), conversaziones (28), squeezing(28), accommodatingly (28), unquestionably (28), ambidexterity (28), asphyxiating (28), chimpanzee (28), inquisitively (28)
Last Little Bits
- The scores don’t count any bonuses (including the 50 point bingo bonus). If a word requires a blank to be played, that letter counts for zero (so pizza would be 3+1+10+0+1=15 points, since there is only one Z tile).
- Maybe surprising or maybe not, but the score of a single word averaged around 10-12 points for all authors.
- Most Scrabble players can tell you that the mundane 2 letter words are super useful so you can build combos. The biggest 2 letter unmodified word that showed up in these examples was za (11) in Stephen King’s It.
- Some of the words here require a lot of luck to play, but some can be built off easy smaller words, like cheapjacks (30), juxtaposition (29), and anything ending with able or ly.
Have you ever played any words that could trump the big winners from these authors? Or is there an author you think should be on this list? Feel free to share! I’d love to hear them!