Word of the week

Word of the week: xu

Here is the 100th “Word of the week” piece on this Blog. Looking back through the previous 99 I see that there is one for every letter of the alphabet, apart from “X”, so this one completes the set. It wasn’t planned this way, but at some point in the last 33 months, from adverb to zeugma, via Jenga, quiz and yad, the other 25 letters have all been represented.

Xu is defined in our copy of Official Scrabble Words (© 1999, Reprinted 2000), which is currently propped up beside the laptop, as “a Vietnamese coin”. Xi is also in there, “a letter in the Greek alphabet”. They are the only 2-letter words beginning with “X” which are acceptable in Scrabble.

This piece from 2016 offers coaching tips about playing “The World’s Leading Word Game”, including “learn your 2-letter words”. You might also want to learn their meanings, so that when someone challenges you for putting down, for example, “ch” (most likely while connecting up other words) you can say, “It’s an obsolete dialect pronoun meaning I”. Similarly you will know that jo is a “Scots word for a loved one”, ko is “a Maori digging stick”, ky is “Scottish for cattle, same as kye”, qi is “an individual’s life force” and zo is “Himalayan cattle; same as zho”. All of these definitions, and the ones that follow, come from the Official Scrabble Words 2000 edition.

Once you have established a level of authority or trust using these kinds of words you might be tempted to take advantage of it, putting down a non-existent word like “vy” and claiming that it’s a Javanese nose-flute, or a Hindi word for cattle. It isn’t. There are no 2-letter words allowable in Scrabble which contain the letter “V”, though there are 24 acceptable 3-letter words beginning with “V”, from vac (“vacation; a vacuum-cleaner”) through to vum (“US word meaning to vow”). There is only one 3-letter word beginning with “X”, which is “xis”, the plural of xi. There’s nothing listed to show the plural of “xu”. The single page of acceptable words beginning with “X” (114 in total) shows that either side of xu you have xoanon and xylem.

As you now know, the xu is a Vietnamese coin, and I know that some of my friends would be disappointed if I failed to mention the Vietnamese dong in anything that deals with that country’s currency. I am therefore happy to quote this Wikipedia page which informs me that the xu is 1/100th of a dong, although like the hao (1/10th of a dong) it has been “unused in Vietnam for several years”. If you decide to take my advice about learning the 2-letter words allowable in Scrabble, along with their meanings, you can use this extra bit of information too. You might create the word xu, ideally by placing the “X” on a triple word score and using it to form another word like ax, ex, ox or xi. The “X” alone will score you 48 points. If challenged you can inform your fellow player(s) that it’s a Vietnamese coin, “one hundredth of a dong”. You might even get a laugh as you collect your 50 points.



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