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German Scrabble Facts

Buchstabieren - German for spell
It's no surprise that Scrabble has a strong following in Germany. Board games in general are common in Germany (the Spiel des Jahres, boardgaming's most prestigious award, is awarded in Germany). And German is a formidable language, well supplied with both short monosyllables and sesquipedalian compounds. But what makes it special? Let's learn.

It Got Renamed "Letters-YOLO"

But not really.

In 2018, a group of German creatives were employed by Mattel. Intending a mild prank at their employer's expense, they announced they were changing the name of the game from "Scrabble" to "Buchstaben-YOLO" (or "Letters-YOLO"). They even created a bunch of, ostensible marketing material, all of it chock full of cringe inducing attempts to somehow connect the venerable Scrabble with Youth Culture.

The prank immediately went viral and, as with all things viral, was devoid of irony or context. Outraged gamers pledged to boycott. German social media blew up. Finally, the marketers owned up to the joke and Scrabble stayed Scrabble. All's well that ends well.

Players Considered Making the Tile Rack Bigger

As everyone who has encountered written German knows, the German language likes big words and it cannot lie. That can be a problem in Scrabble, especially at the competitive level. There was substantial debate among German Scrabble fans whether they should enlarge their tile racks from 7 to 8. Consensus seems to have settled around keeping it old-school.

They're "Missing" a Letter

German contains a letter not found in modern English. Eszett (ß) is a prolonged S sound, and one characteristic of conversational German. It's abandoned in Scrabble in favor of the simpler SS digraph.

German Scrabble Is Extremely Metal

Throw up the horns! German Scrabble includes that most headbanging of diacritics, the umlaut. The umlaut is the diacritical mark consisting of two dots placed over a vowel. Indeed, German Scrabble separates umlauted and non-umlauted vowels. They even score differently.

German Scrabble Has More Tiles

Early versions of Scrabble in Germany had, not the standard 100 tiles, but a whopping 119. It served to deal with the aforementioned big clumsy compounds. It's also a big part of why that "expand the tile rack" debate got going, as in addition to having more letters in the bag, they played with eight tiles in their rack.

Scrabble Gaming in Deutschland

There are a million little differences between any two language's Scrabble sets. We hope you enjoyed exploring some differences between English and German Scrabble with us. For more, try our answer to the question, "Do Germans play Scrabble?"


Matt Salter has been a professional writer for over 10 years. He is a gaming and technology expert, and world-class word nerd.

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