The Game of Fibble

The Game of FibbleThe Game of Fibble

by Ursula K. Le Guin

The first Game of Fibble of which actual record exists was played in Portland, Oregon, in December of 2015. A well-attested rumor has it that the Game of Fibble was played in Cannon Beach, Oregon, a few years earlier, and this may well have been the first Game of Fibble played anywhere.

We know, however, that great scientific breakthroughs and intellectual discoveries are often made almost simultaneously by different geniuses in different places. And it is possible that many geniuses in the past have invented Fibble without publicizing their discovery — possibly without even knowing it.

It is a game of unique potential, with all but unlimited opportunities for silliness.

I present the rules of Fibble, as invented and developed by E. and C. Le Guin and L. Howell, and named by U. Le Guin.

Input from readers has led to certain clarifications to the Rules of Fibble.

The Rules of Fibble

(Revised 26 February 2016)

The Game of Fibble is played on a Scrabble board with Scrabble letters.  The general rules of Scrabble obtain. (A suggestion of building words diagonally was rejected.)

  • Two to four players, the more the merrier.
  • The only words allowed are words that (so far as anybody there knows) do not exist.
  • If another player recognizes that a word you made is a real English word, you have to take it apart and make one that isn’t.
  • After you have placed this word on the board, you must pronounce and define it to the other players.
  • English is the default language. Non-existent English words must be pronounceable in English.
  • You may also make a word in dialect or another language — Wessex, Cajun, Old Norse, Inuit, Klingon, Finnish, etc — so long as the word doesn’t really exist in that dialect or language. You must say what language it is in, and be able to pronounce it (more or less) and define it. If any of the other players knows the language and recognizes the word as existing in that language, you have to take it apart and make another word.
  • Words can be proper names, book titles, characters in books, slang, dirty, etc., so long as they are not real  names, titles, characters, slang, dirty words, etc.
  • If you use all seven letters in one word you may be applauded.  The pink and red squares don’t count extra, because no score is kept.
  • If the players want to, they may play collaboratively. Collaboration is often fruitful in regard to word definitions: other players discuss and refine the meaning and application of an invented word.

The Object of the Game

The Object of the Game is to use up all the letters. Since you can always make up a word or suffix that fits in somewhere, it is probably impossible not to achieve this goal.


Definitions of a few of these words:

ESWOX: a kind of footgear worn by the ZOMOI, a warlike people of the Albanian hinterland.

TORG: a piece of leg armor worn with eswox.

PURPODED: past tense of the verb purpode, to intend to do something which blows up in your face.

FLOTT: a wet fart.

LORPINE, adj.: lying around on your face not doing anything

The KOUDHIAD: the great epic of the grasslands, recounting the deeds of the hero Koudh.

NAGNEET, beloved of the hero Koudh, a beautiful maiden but ill-natured.

ANAGNEET, sister of Nagneet, less beautiful but much nicer.

I am sorry that the meanings of VINGULB and GNOOT have been forgotten, but perhaps our readers can supply them.



The Game of Fibble — 22 Comments

  1. VINGULB–wine that has just been drunk, as in ‘I’m going to the restroom to get rid of an excess of vingulb.’
    GNOOT–a man of more than middle age who spends most of his free time at meetings of some arcane Lodge or Club so that he never has to do chores for his wife.
    And I proffer the word BLOMP–a very useful term originally coined by my father to describe the eight-week-old, plump and ungainly German Shepherd puppy fast asleep on the kitchen floor. (You can see that I have been playing for quite some time, although I never had a name for it. Thanks!)

  2. I think this is going to become our new family gathering passtime.

    Question: how often does it actually happen that players inadvertently make a real word? My inner (and outer) nerd is dying to know…

  3. We have an “extended” edition of scrabble (bigger board, more letters) to which we just added all the letters from our original common-or-garden Scrabble game which we originally owned – what this means is that we have more Qs and Zs than we really know what to do with. So this game might be a REAL option for some dark and stormy night when we need some amusement… 🙂

    • Of course I – as a bilingual and sometimes poly lingual person, would always end up second guessing myself and wondering if I’d just transcribed a word I dragged in from some other language’s barn. “All languages” seems a tad broad. So long as it isn’t a recognisable ENGLISH word – and even if it does match up to a foreign word if you can come up with a completely unrelated meaning and provenance to it – I’d go with the flow…

    • I don’t think that’s a problem. If you don’t say what language the words aren’t in, then they aren’t in English by default. Only if you say “This word isn’t in Swedish” is it a problem if it actually is a Swedish word.

      Of course, if the language being spoken by the players is Swedish, it’s natural to have a local rule to make Swedish the default.

  4. We have played what we call “Possible word scrabble” for years in my family. My son, Jay Lake, was a master. We require that the word follow ordinary English orthography and phonology. Otherwise as UKL stated. Our best ever was “jugwoe”. How you feel the morning after the night before

      • Reminds me: there used to be a segment on Canada’s CBC Radio called Wanted Words (hosted by Jane Farrow), where listeners were enlisted to come up with words for various things and situations in everyday life that had no expression. It was pretty hilarious. One of my favourite was “ponis,” which was the word to describe that little scraggly pony tail that aging men wear in defiance of their waning hairline.

        Farrow eventually compiled all the submissions into several every entertaining books.

  5. Isn’t Vingulb the hero who can get the circus set up while fighting off hordes of armed lemmings? And Gnoot his faithful sidekick?

  6. Pingback: Friday Links! | Gerry Canavan

  7. Responding to Lauren about Kesh: You can use any dictionary in any language to check that the word you made isn’t in the dictionary; but if it is, you have to change it.
    Replying to Anders and Alma about other languages: The Rules do not say that any word is to be seen as existing in any language. The Rule says that English is the default language. The Rules also say that you may also make a word in another language, so long as the word doesn’t exist in that language, so far as anybody there knows.
    Had Anders been playing with us on that fateful night, he might have objected, “But flott is a real word in Swedish!” and I would have replied, “But it’s not a real word in English, so that doesn’t matter.” But if when I defined it, I’d said it was a Swedish word, then Anders could have repudiated it, and I would have had to remake it into a different non-existent word — assumed to be in English unless I said otherwise.
    Is this matter now perfectly fottl? (“clear,” in Ruritanian.) –UKL

  8. PS (to Hekate): Are you certain that Gnoot is not a cleverly disguised lemming, who has earned the trust of the hero Vingulb while all along plotting his downfall?

  9. A vingulb is one of those new personal drones with a lamp attachment that hovers at a convenient distance and illuminates whatever you are looking at. A gnoot is a garment that combines a thong with suspenders also called a wedgie.

  10. We call it Scrabbledash, as in a combination of Scrabble and Balderdash. It’s about ten years old in family. The definition must be clever and creative enough for all players to accept the offered word (but the players should be of good humor). What fun!

  11. Reader input has resulted in a revision of the Rules of Fibble. See above.
    –News Editor

    • …unilingual version, most American just call that English. Nullilingual would mean “no language” version, so you place the tiles any way you want (stacked, edge, balanced on a corner) and then have to convey your meaning with grunts, motions, caresses.

      Negilingual would mean “less than zero” language … lies, deceit, cheating. Too much of that already…

  12. A Gnoot is a certain kind of English sprite that has its hair parted in the middle, wears horn rimmed glasses, smokes a pipe and talks like Bertie Wooster. “I say old chap! Any chance of a plate of the old eggs and b.?” They’re about a foot high, and behave rather like pretentious hobbits. We used to have lots of them here in the Cotswolds, UK, but they seemed to have died out . Sad in a way but they were a bit of a nuisance.

  13. Gnoot: the sound made by a wildebeest blowing its own horn.
    Vingulb: short for “vingullible”, meaning “easily convinced that if one glass of wine is good, more … much more … is better.”