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1990s / Offensive Words Expunged From Scrabble Dictionary
In 1993, Judith Grad, a kitchen-table Scrabble enthusiast was horrified to discover that the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) contained racial, religious, and ethnic slurs along with common vulgarities and obscenities. She wrote letters of complaint to Hasbro (the company that owns Scrabble) and Merriam-Webster, the publisher of OSPD. The general response was that although some words were certainly offensive, they were still words that could be found in any collegiate-level dictionary. Moreover, their meanings were irrelevant to the game. Unsatisfied, Grad contacted the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai Brith, the NAACP, and the Zionist Organization of America. That, combined with a letter-writing campaign organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, brought the 'offensive word issue' some mainstream publicity. Without consulting Merriam-Webster or the National Scrabble Association (NSA), Hasbro chairman Alan Hassenfeld, in a knee-jerk reaction, announced that '50 to 100 words' would be expunged when the next edition of OSPD was published. Predictably, serious tournament Scrabble players went nuts, accusing Hasbro of caving into censorship, political correctness and the 'language police.' A petition bearing the signatures of more than 800 tournament players was presented to Hasbro demanding Hassenfeld's decision be reversed. At the 1994 U.S. National Scrabble Championship in Los Angeles, an angry mob of more than 200 players vociferously declared their opposition to any expurgation and vowed to quit the game or even sue the NSA if any words were removed from the lists because of political correctness. An acceptable compromise was reached: Starting in 1996 a separate Official Word List (OWL)--without definitions--would be made available to tournament players through the NSA, while a sanitized OSPD would be sold to the general public. OSPD would contain no offensive words and a not-too-prominent disclaimer that it was only 'official' for school and recreational play. Since offensiveness is highly subjective, determining the words that were eventually expunged from OSPD was itself controversial. Brace yourself: Among the 303 'naughty' words you'll no longer see in OSPD are FATSO, LIBBERS, REDSKIN, GRINGO, BAZOOMS, COMSYMP, POONTANG, WETBACK, PAPIST, BADASS, REDNECK, BULLDYKE and STIFFIE.