‘Spellink’ can be difficult

TV Hagenah

Now that we are into 2004, I have to admit that the concept of a New Year is confusing for me. I think it comes down to my inability to throw old things away. You should see my collection of earth shoes and bell-bottom pants. I’m the same way about old years. What was so wrong with the “old” year that we had to go and throw it out and get a new one, anyway? Couldn’t we just go with “January II, the Sequel”? After all, they do it in the movies.

When I was overseas, all of the people on the island on which I was stationed came over to my hut one Jan. 1 and asked me how old I was that day. When I told them I was the same age I had been the day before, they started arguing with me. See what I mean by it being confusing. It turns out the people of that island chain all celebrate their birthdays on the same day, Jan. 1.

Obviously, this custom was invented by the men of the island. It makes it so much easier to remember relatives’ (read wives’) birthdays. Even I could remember people’s birthdays if they were all on the same day (well, maybe I could). Of course, buying birthday presents would get expensive, but it would be one heck of a birthday party.

Speaking of parties, This New Year’s Eve a friend invited my wife and me over for a nice quiet New Year’s celebration.
“Why don’t you and your wife come over?” she asked. “We’ll have a bite to eat and usher in the new year with some board games, like Scrabble.”

Well, I’m a newspaper editor, so words are my stock and trade (well, words and cliches, anyway). I figured, what better way to start 2004 than by crushing everyone in a small room somewhere with my brilliant command of the language. Little did I know that by sneaky manipulation of the rules, I would be cheated out of my goal.

Let me recap just a few minutes of the contest around the scrabble board that night. “Ahh…TV, I don’t think ‘xown’ is a word,” ventured my hostess.

“Of course it is,” I responded. “I used it just last week in a story.”

“Yes, I know, TV,” said my wife, “but that was because you misspelled “town” in your story. Don’t you remember you wrote “Xown Council buys new metres.”?

“And your point is?” I snapped. “Anyway, how do you expect me to match up with the last word I put in there ‘xcape’, if you keep disallowing my words?”

And so it went for hours. I think there should be a rule that no dictionaries are permitted within 50 yards of a Scrabble board. That would alleviate a lot of the problems I had that night. I also think my extension of the rules, which states if you have a really hard letter, you can turn the letter over and use it like a blank, is a good idea, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t clear this with my fellow players before instigating the rule; so they were a bit put out with me about the fifth time I tried it.

But it turned out OK. I used what in chess I like to call the “Hagenah Defense” to stave off defeat. When things look really bad, I drop a potato chip and kick over the table seemingly by accident while reaching for the chip.
I just wish I hadn’t used the “Hagenah Defense” so many times while playing chess with my wife in 2003.

She caught me at it playing Scrabble on New Years Eve.