It is evening in the Dunster dining hall, and three Harvard men have convened to test their wits. Coffee is sipped. Brows are furrowed. Insults are spouted. And Scrabble tiles are flipped and slid across the table with speed and agility. A study group it is not; anagrams it is!
Welcome to Dunster House—“shout ensured.” Here you can find “nuts, rehoused.” A lexical resident may describe his home as “Us? Honest, rude.” And on wild weekends: “Hot nudes? Sure!”
Anagrams have developed into a pastime and tradition in Dunster, where a handful of word-lovers frequently gather together to make friends, make enemies and enhance their vocabularies. Legend has it that the game of anagrams was invented by those who yearned for a challenge greater than Scrabble, but it failed to garner the same popularity. It survives today wherever true enthusiasts feel compelled to pass the torch on to neo-nerds. Self-described “aging permutator” Daniel Bosch, an Expos preceptor and a former resident tutor of Dunster House, introduced the game to the House and soon found himself nurturing young anagram apprentices. One such apprentice, Adam M. Grant ’03, explains the game’s allure: “Anagrams is more fun than Scrabble because it requires quick thinking and it’s always your turn,” he says. “It’s better than Boggle because it imposes fewer constraints upon creativity and discovering words.”
Grant, Jon A. Daniels ’03 and Noah C. Eisenkraft ’04 demonstrate how the game is played, arranging two sets of Scrabble tiles face-down on the table. A player flips up one tile at a time, until someone calls out a word—at least four letters—that he has formed from the visible letters. Most of the time they don’t keep score; it’s just for fun. You can keep score by either a) counting up the points on the Scrabble tiles (which hardly ever happens), or b) counting up who has the most words (which is often readily apparent when the game is over, just by looking at the table). The player to his left then begins flipping, and more words are formed and claimed. Tensions heighten and competitive natures surface as pre-existing words are “stolen” and transformed into new words with different bases. Daniels discovers LEAN; an I is flipped, and Eisenkraft quickly steals it as ALIEN; a V is drawn, and Daniels reclaims it as VENIAL. Daniels gloats, taunts and frequently ends his sentences with a resounding “Sucka!” Sarcastic comments fly as quickly as the letters—mutterings such as “That’s the best you can get?”, “That’s pathetic!” or “How original!” are frequently accompanied by a roll of the eyes. Referring to the former anagram master Bosch, Daniels chides Eisenkraft, “Daniel wouldn’t allow that!” to which Eisenkraft sneers, “Well, Daniel’s not here!”
As the strategic game progresses, terms such as ANATHEMA, ETHANOL and the mysterious QUAI grace the table. TINTED becomes TRIDENT, BOOST becomes ROBOTS, and Eisenkraft becomes more upset by Daniels’ lead. After his opponent makes a clever move and then an insincere apology for it, Eisenkraft retorts, “That’s okay, I slept with your sister.” Daniels scores again, to which Eisenkraft adds, “And your brother.”
The game concludes with two lonely Z’s remaining and Daniels victorious. In a successful, cutthroat game of anagrams, no words go unformed—or unspoken.