April 2013 has not been a great holiday month. Both Easter and vast majority of Passover fell in March, which leaves us with the decidedly less rousing “holidays” of Tax Day, Earth Day, and Arbor Day. (I’ll pause as you stifle a yawn.)
Fortunately, two lesser-known holidays are presently at our doorstep, weird looking and awkward like they’re not sure if they’re invited to the party. Can you see them? One’s dressed as a Russian astronaut, the other as a crossword-based board game.
That’s because April 12 is Russian Cosmonaut Day, which commemorates the day in 1961 that Yuri Gagarian became the first man in space. And April 13 isNational Scrabble Day, observed each year on the birthday of Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor of Scrabble.
To celebrate, let’s toss these two holidays in a blender and explore some of the most useful Russian-based seven-letter words (“bingos”) in Scrabble.
Note that while these words don’t look like English, they all have been absorbed into the English language and are completely legal Scrabble words. So let’sRUSSIFY your game and vocabulary a little:
• The best seven letters you can start with in Scrabble are IJKMSUZ. They unscramble to form MUZJIKS, the plural of MUZJIK, which was a Russian serf. Today, Russians use muzjik to refer to one another, akin to Americans’ use of the word “dude.” (also MUZHIKS or MOUJIK.)
• KOLKOZY is another high-scoring bingo, though it would necessitate at least one blank tile to make (there’s only on K tile). KOLKOZY (also KOLKHOSY KOLHOSES) is a plural of KOLKOZ (also KOLKHOS and KOLKHOZ), a collective farm in Russia, like the Israeli KIBBUTZ.
• Another outstanding bingo, SOVKHOZ, is a state-owned farm in Russia. It can be pluralized as SOVKOZY or SOVKHOZES.
• SOVIET is playable too, referring to an elected legislative body in a Communist country. SOVIETS works as a bingo.
• A KREMLIN is a Russian citadel, and is another possible bingo. In fact, you can even play KREMLINOLGISTS, who study KREMLINOLOGY.
• A smart muzjik could also land an extra 50 points with SPUTNIK, a Soviet artificial orbiting satellite. Sputnik comes from the Russian for “fellow-traveler.”
• Care to travel through Russia by horse? Consider taking a TROIKA, a Russian carriage pulled by three horses. Troika literally means “threesome,” and later came to refer the 1953 triumvirate of NKVD leaders who briefly ruled the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death.
• Finally, there are words connected to CZARISM, the autocratic (or CZARIST) government, under which a czar—and perhaps his wife, a CZARINA—controls a territory, known as a CZARDOM. (As czar can also be spelt tsar or tzar, we also have TSARISM/TZARISM, TSARIST/TZARIST, TSARINA/TZARINA, andTSARDOM/TZARDOM.)
So happy National Scrabble Day and happy Russian Cosmonaut Day. Here’s to your pursuit of Scrabble tsardom!