Word from the Scrabble makers at Mattel is that proper nouns will be fair game for Scrabble players as of this summer.
The BBC reported the change of rules for the 72-year-old game with the following explanation from a spokesperson for Scrabble co-rights-holder Mattel:A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would "add a new dimension" to Scrabble and "introduce an element of popular culture into the game". She said: "This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved." However, Mattel said it would not be doing away with the old rules altogether. It will continue to sell a board with the original rules.
[UPDATE: There's a chance these rules may not apply to North American Scrabble players. We've also contacted Hasbro in order to clarify whether these rules will apply only to regions where Mattel holds the Scrabble license or to the United States and Canada as well, where Hasbro handles the game.]
According to John Williams, the executive director of the American Scrabble Association, the news is just not true. Williams said in a phone interview that what's happened is that Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble in England, is going to release a completely new version of the game there called Scrabble Trickster, in which anything goes, including the use of proper nouns, spelling words backwards, stealing letters, and so on.
It's nothing more than a PR ploy by Mattel, Williams suggested.
Mattel has since confirmed that the new version will in fact be called Scrabble Trickster.
Hasbro, which owns the rights to Scrabble in the United States and Canada, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But, Williams assured me—and through me, 50 million American and Canadian Scrabble players—"the rules to Scrabble that we all know and love are not changing, certainly not in the U.S. and Canada."