Oops…I did it again / Never Getting Stuck With The Q


Moikka Ystävät!

The first item in the subject line does not refer to the latest offering of Britney Spears helium-inhaled Lolita-pop. It pertains to the fact that yet again, I have composed an entire travel post then suddenly lost it. Gone! This keyboard and my inexperience with it are to blame. “Think before you shift” is my newest mantra.

Here is my second attempt:

The Finnish language presents many obstacles when it comes to taking advantage of the possibilities that Scrabble offers English.

I know I could write an essay on this subject, and I will try to be brief. It never ends up that way when I say that, however.

Here is the tile distribution in a Finnish Scrabble set and the point value assigned:

A 10 1 point
B  1 8 points
C  1 10
D  1 7
E  8 1
F  1 8
G  1 8
H  2 4
I 10 1
J  2 4
K  5 2
L  5 2
M  3 3
N  9 1
O  5 2
P  2 4
R  2 4
S  7 1
T  9 1
U  4 3
V  2 4
Y  2 4
Ä  5 2
Ö  1 7
?  2 0

Note that there is no Q, W, X or Z.

The K is such a common letter in Finnish that in indexes K is usually the longest alphabetical.

After years of playing English Scrabble it still alarms me when I see a vowel worth more than one point.

IMO there should be more U’s and Y’s (Y is used exclusively as a vowel in Finnish). And ten I’s is quite all right, thank-you, in this game. You can never have too many I’s in Finnscrab.

Letters B, C and F are used only in borrowed words and the letters D and G are authentic Finnish letters but can only occur in the middle of a word.

In terms of how all this applies to our beloved word game:

1) The Finnish language does not have many short words. You can say that again. There are barely half as many twos as we have in English. If one uses the largest of the Finnish dictionaries as a single word source, then there are 45 two-letter words. Try hooking sevens when the number of two-letter options is so small [1].

2) The technique of hooking a letter to the front or the end of a word is rarely possible. Once a word is on the board, it cannot be inflected by adding just one letter. There is one exception to this, and that is the addition of the genitive -N to the end of words. Yet if one wants to inflect a word as we do in English, then either the whole internal structure of the word must change, or, more than one letter must be added. Think of a word like DIVORCE plus its rear hooks DERS. Not possible in Finnish. Front hooking is rare, and when it does happen it usually occurs among the shortest words.

3) Finnish words can never begin with two consonants. If a Finnish word begins with a consonant, then the second letter must be a vowel. (Of course, exceptions are contemporary loanwords. Borrowings from the past
were fennicized to drop front consonant clusters such as Ranska for “France”, koulu for “school” and Tukholma for “Stockholm”.) Therefore it is a liability to have a disproportionate number of consonants on one’s rack, since there are neither front nor rear consonant clusters in Finnish.

4) If a Finnish word ends in a consonant, it can only end in five letters: LNRST. Thus if you want to block a bingo lane then just make a word without an LNRST in row 15. It would be impossible to lay down a bingo starting in row 8 cuz there aren’t any words ending in BCDFGHJKMPV.

I have played Finnish Scrabble before and it is no different from playing in any of the other foreign languages I play in. It just takes a move or two to readjust from English mode. I have to catch myself from falling into English “traps” sometimes, such as hoarding S’s. S’s are of no special use in Finnish since plurals are not formed that way. And when you get the B or C in Finnscrab look out. I have memorized some C-words, words that I will never use in conversation the whole time I am over here. Just as we memorize U-less Q-words, I learn Finn-C’s. I once lost a Finnish game only because I got stuck with the B AND the C. Yikes.

[1] I thought the OSW-only ZIZ and ZUZ were the shortest words anywhere that had to have a blank in order to be played. In Finnish we go one letter shorter. The word ÖÖ requires at least one blank in order to be played at all.

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