WTF Fun Fact 12932 – Nigel Richards, French Scrabble Champion

Nigel Richards is from New Zealand. He’s a worldwide Scrabble champion, but his most impressive feat may just be winning the French-language Scrabble World Championship without actually knowing how to speak French.

Memorizing vs learning

If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you know that there are two parts to success – grammar and vocabulary. You can be great at grammar, but if you can’t memorize new words then it doesn’t do you much good. Equally, you can know lots of vocabulary words, but if you can’t put them together in a sentence (or even pronounce them), you can’t actually speak the language.

Nigel Richards memorizes the dictionary

Before trying his hand with French, New Zealander Nigel Richards won a couple of English-language Scrabble championships. But that clearly wasn’t enough of a challenge. That’s when he decided to tackle French.

But when you’re playing Scrabble, grammar doesn’t matter, only the words in the dictionary do. So Richards decided to try and memorize as many words as possible from the French dictionary.

Clearly, he did a great job, because he beat all of the actual French speakers in a 2015 tournament.

According to NPR (cited below): “It was only in late May [of 2014] that Richards began his quest to win the French world title, according to the French Scrabble Federation. That’s when he set about memorizing the French Scrabble dictionary.”

Richards obviously has an impeccable memory. After all, there are 386,000 words in French Scrabble and only 187,000 in North American Scrabble.

Scrabble expert Stefan Fatsis told NPR: “Basically, what he does is, he looks at word lists and looks at dictionary pages… he can conjure up the image of what he has seen. He told me that if he actually hears a word, it doesn’t stick in his brain. But if he sees it once, that’s enough for him to recall the image of it. I don’t know if that’s a photographic memory; I just think it’s something that his brain chemistry allows him to do.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Winner Of French Scrabble Title Does Not Speak French” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 12694 – Will You Rue The Day If You Marry In May?

When the ancient Roman poet Ovid’s daughter wanted to marry, Ovid was told by the high priestess to wait until mid-June. The Romans avoided May weddings in general for superstitious reasons. That’s in part because it overlapped with the Lemuria, a near-month-long festival for the dead.

According to Global News, the French weren’t all that fond of May weddings either:

“Another text that dates back to 1840s France supports this idea. It states: ‘The month of May is also in the Black Mountain a month altogether rejected by the young girls who are betrothed; and they frankly say upon the subject, that it is not suitable to marry at a period when the asses are amorous.’ In other words, it’s unsavory to marry when the animals are mating.”

Believe it or not, May superstitions extend all the way to animals – in fact, cats born in May were thought to be bad rodent killers but also bring snakes home with them.

These days, weddings are very common in May. The only day that’s largely off-limits is Mother’s Day. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Here’s why you shouldn’t get married in May” — Global News

WTF Fun Fact – Tabby Cat

WTF Fun Fact - Tabby Cat

A tabby is any domestic cat with a distinctive ‘M’ shaped marking on its forehead. “Tabby” is not a breed of cat but a coat type seen in almost all genetic lines of domestic cats. Tabby originally referred to “striped silk taffeta” from the French word tabis– WTF Fun Facts


WTF Fun Fact – Esperanto Language

WTF Fun Fact - MIxed Language Being International

Esperanto is a constructed international auxiliary language based on a mix of English, German, French, and Spanish. It has just 16 rules and each letter has only one pronunciation. It was created in 1887 by the Polish doctor L. L. Zamenhof. WTF Fun Facts