Don't Say 'Fatso' in Scrabble: How Board Games Adapt to Different Cultures

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These games have come a long way from their original incarnations.

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AP

Plenty of board games have debuted special editions, integrated electronics (who wants to roll dice anymore?), and upgraded to fancy carved pieces.

But here are four classic games that had to change their rules just to stay relevant in the culture around them.


The Game of Life

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Milton Bradley

Unsurprisingly, the quintessential American culture game has gone through quite a few changes to keep up with American culture. From the first printing of the modern version in 1960, the dollar amounts have gone up in each new edition to keep track with inflation (it just wouldn't make sense to keep paying $40,000 for a mansion). In keeping with the rising cost of education, the game's college debt has increased from $40,000 in the 1992 edition to $100,000 today. The game has also added do-gooder spaces and replaced the original "poor farm" ending with a retirement option. Even the game piece has changed -- in 1980, the vehicle was switched from a convertible to a mini-van to reflect the cars families were really driving.

Scrabble

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AP

Scrabble's official dictionaries have seen several changes to adapt to evolving language. New editions have integrated slang words, like a 2011 update to Collins Official Scrabble Words (the official list for British players) that added worlds like "grrl," "thang" and "blingy." In another high-profile incident, complaints from interest groups led to authors of the American counterpart, The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary to remove nearly 200 offensive words from its 1996 edition, including Jew (defined: "to bargain with"), fatso, fart, gringo and some four-letter curses. Eventually the words were allowed back in for official tournament lists, but were removed in the dictionaries for school and club use.

But nothing will compare to the purist outrage felt in 2010 when Mattel announced that it was updating Scrabble to allow for (gasp!) proper nouns in a bid to expand the game's popularity. The rules were actually for a spinoff game called Scrabble Trickster and Mattel said the original would remain capitalization-free.

Monopoly

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AP

When the British company Waddingtons took up the American Monopoly, they had to make some obvious changes. The locations were all replaced with London streets and properties and the dollars were swapped out for British pounds. But one of the more interesting changes was also one of the more subtle -- the normal income tax square was replaced with flat tax (in the U.S. version, you can pay either 10 percent of your holdings or a $200 fee) and the luxury tax was replaced with a higher "super tax" to align with actual British tax codes.

Clue

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Hasbro

In its original patented form, Clue, or Cluedo, actually had ten characters, nine weapons and 11 rooms, far more than made the final cut. But international editions have made some unusual changes to the game, including some unusual choices of weapons. The Japanese version, for example, replaces the wrench, candlestick and lead pipe with an iron, a trunk and, most suspiciously, a shoe (check out some of the game cards here). A Spanish version of the game not only changes the host's name from Mr. Boddy to Dr. Lemon, but also switches the rooms in his manor around to include a bedroom, solving the age-old question of where anybody slept. And the character of Miss Scarlet has been renamed in several international editions, largely owing to "scarlet woman" being slang for prostitute. In Greece, she's known as "Ms. Flame" and in a Spanish version she's identified as "Senorita Amapola," or "Ms. Poppy."



A version of this post originally appeared on Mental Floss, an Atlantic partner site.

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Jason Plautz is a reporter for Greenwire and has also written for Mental Floss, National Journal, and Sports Illustrated.

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