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SOWPODS Interim Report

This referendum update takes into account all NSA member votes received through Wednesday, July 18, 2000. As per the directives of the SOWPODS voting procedures, all votes must be postmarked by Friday, July 21, 2000.

The NSA projects that the results below should be reasonably close to the final tally. As of Friday, July 28th, final results are also available online.

Option Chosen Percentage
of Votes
(approx.)
Number
of Votes
NO 64.8 1351
YES 33.4 696
YES, with coexistence 0.6 12
NO, with coexistence 0.6 12
Returned with no answer 0.7 15
Total received by 7/18/00 100.0 2086

The final official tally will be available on the NSA website on Monday, July 31st.

SOWPODS. A FINAL WORD. (FOR NOW)

by John D, Williams Jr., Executive Director, National SCRABBLE® Association

(The following will appear in the upcoming issue of SCRABBLE® NEWS which should arrive just as players are leaving for the NSC.)

As I write this column, it's mid-July. There is approximately one week left before all votes on the SOWPODS referendum (the proposal to combine the British and American word-lists) are due in the mail. To date, there is a pile of nearly 2000 ballots that have arrived at NSA headquarters. While no tally is official, it appears that the NO pile is close to twice the height of the YES. We'll have the official tally minus last minute votes delayed by mail on the NSA website (www.scrabble-assoc.com) by the end of the day Monday, July 24th.

Wherever you stand on this issue, you'd have to agree that this has been for better or worse a historic event for the NSA. The NSA and NSA Advisory Board have tried to handle this issue in the most responsive, democratic way possible. It is, in fact, the first-ever referendum held for our organization.

Getting to the referendum was not easy. Anti-SOWPODS forces felt this vote was very premature, not to mention representative of a minority, elitist point of view. Pro-SOWPODS forces felt that the combined word list was long overdue as it represents the wave of the future. They also felt that, given the chance, everyone would find playing the game even more exciting with SOWPODS.

The Advisory Board dedicated a lot of time, emotion and expertise to this project. Over the course of several months, there were at least two major conference calls (costing the NSA a couple of thousands dollars), myriad of group emails and scores of conversations. We agreed, disagreed, agreed to disagree. We became wordsmiths who would have rivaled even the most ardent corporate attorney. In the end, the NSA and Advisory Board must have done our job well. That's because the NSA received numerous calls and emails. The pro-SOWPODS members felt our materials and wording were patently anti-SOWPODS and the anti-SOWPDS people claimed the referendum wording was too pro-SOWPODS!

There was plenty of behind-the-scenes action as well. Several well-know experts came up with compromise ideas. After all, that was how we solved the last great NSA debate with the deletion of offensive words back in 1994.

One plan was to have NSA members play with just the two- and three-letter words for a while, then gradually introduce others. After unofficial discussions, we decided that would be confusing and too arbitrary. You're either going to be SOWPODS or you're not.

Another well-known expert offered an idea for a "co-existence" plan, where the NSA has two types of tournaments (or divisions within them) and two ratings systems one SOWPODS, one not. At one point, I agreed to put this on the Advisory Board agenda. However, a couple of things changed my mind after I polled some individual Advisory Board members, Hasbro execs and others. Their comments convinced me that the "co-existence" plan was impractical in terms of budgets and workload for NSA and local directors. More importantly, it fostered an in-your-face "us-versus-them" environment within our organization. I was urged to keep it simple and democratic. The NSA is either SOWPODS or it is not. Having gray areas would only make things more confusing and more divisive than ever.

So while the votes are not officially counted, it appears that SOWPODS will not be adopted as the official NSA word source at this time. If you recall, we will revisit this issue again in five years.

In the mean time, I'd like to ask for all NSA members for a few considerations. First, remember that there is no right or wrong in the SOWPODS debate, only differences of opinion. Both points of view are legitimate; more people just happen to share one point of view more than the other.

Second, it's time to put aside the acrimonious discussions, finger-pointing and name-calling. Anti-SOWPODS people may want to try some games using the expanded word list and see how they feel about it. Pro-SOWPODS people may want to remember that most NSA members don't want another 40,000 words they don't know, even though it would undoubtedly expand their firepower.

The reality is that for now most NSA members don't have the time, patience, interest or incentive to learn the international words. If SOWPODS is meant to be, it will happen over time as most expansive and permanent change does.

Perhaps when the School SCRABBLE® Program is feeding hundreds of players into the NSA, attitudes will be different. After all, these will be kids who've studied word lists since the fifth grade, who will have grown up in a global culture. Who knows?

Personally, I know the NSA is prepared to act however things turn out. Mostly, we remain committed to the wishes of the majority our members.


HASBRO is the owner of the registered SCRABBLE® trademark in the United States and Canada. © 2011 HASBRO. All rights reserved. "SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game" is the proper way to refer to this unique group of word games and related properties marketed by HASBRO. "SCRABBLE®" is not a generic term. To use it as such is not only misleading but also does injustice to the company responsible for the trademark's longtime popularity. All we ask is that when you mean SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game, you say so. 

The SCRABBLE® trademark is owned by J.W. Spear and Sons, PLC, a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. outside of the United States and Canada. 

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