Geology and Scrabble

I don’t play many on-line games, but ever since my mom and I joined Facebook, we’ve been going back and forth in a regular Lexulous game. Lexulous is a tile based word game, basically the same as Words with Friends or their originator, Scrabble. The specifics are a little different, but the main idea is that you get tiles, each with a different letter, and you use them you form words earning a yourself a score based on the letters you use and some special score spaces on the game board.

Being a geologist has actually worked in my favor during these games. Geology is one of those fields that comes with a whole new vocabulary. Not just normal words with different meanings (like young), but whole new words you have to get used to using, like aa, lahar, and pahoehoe. Sure you could find these by just browsing through a scrabble dictionary, but having them ready in your brain is a huge help.

To be a good scrabble word it has to be playable with typical scrabble tiles (7 in your hand plus a few you can link up to in standard scrabble) and acceptable in the scrabble dictionary. Here are some of my favorites, all acceptable in the official scrabble dictionary.

aa : a term for a blocky lava flow, aa is a low point word but one of those vowel-iferous two-letter words that can come in handy as a hitching post.

pahoehoe : a term for ropy lava, another good use of vowels and the two h-tiles. Not a bad scorer either, with 2 h’s and a p.

cwm : amaze and annoy your opponents by playing cwm. In addition to being an unfamiliar term, it is also a weird looking word made of three high point letters.

apatite : no I didn’t spell appetite incorrectly, but like many mineral names, apatite (a hexagonal calcium phosphate and common accessory mineral) is acceptable.

sphene : Good to see that the Scrabble people don’t consider sphene to be discredited.

zircon : Z-words are always dicey. I use za too often, and rarely have the blank tile needed to make jazz. I also hate holding on to c’s, since there are no 2-letter c words. I’ll stop with the mineral names here, many of them are accepted, but I am only listing the best minerals.

aeolian : goofy spelling, but a wonderful vowel dump, the more common eolian is also accepted.

aeon : Another olde timey spelling, with eon also accepted.

oolith : oolite and ooliths also great, ooid isn’t though, which is just weird.

alluvial : alluvia also accepted.

karst : I am guessing sinkhole is also OK.

amygdule : I’ve never been able to play this one, but I’ve been close, and every time I see get a g and an m I am hopeful.

arete : Scrabble takes this even when you can’t use the circumflexe accent. I just googled what the little hat over the e was, by the way.

arenite : Not all sedimentary rock modifiers are accepted. Foraminiferous, for example, although unlikely, doesn’t work.

breccia : A word with 2 c’s! Sign me up.

boudin : The scrabble dictionary thinks this is a spicy cajun sausage but we all know it is a sausage-like structure formed from necking in a bed.

esker : One of my favorite glacial features, I like to say this word with a New England accent. Same with iron oxide, much more enjoyable that way.

rheology : Lots of letters, but if you can borrow one from another word it a solid bingo.

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