Words like zyzzyva, euouae and uintaite aren’t in many people’s vocabulary, but 8-year-old Lewis Hawkins uses them regularly.
Lewis took up Scrabble just over a year ago and already has a national title under his belt.
He won the fifth division at the national competition held in Christchurch at the weekend, and is now off to the world Scrabble Champions Tournament in the Czech Republic.
Despite it being his first time at the national championship, he won 13 of his 15 games, beating people up to 10 times his age.
Lewis’s mother, Lynley Jenness, said he mastered the board game before he learned to read and believed he may be the youngest competitive player in Australasia.
The Hillview Christian School pupil took up the board game after seeing fellow Scrabble prodigy Alex Leckie-Zaharic talk about it on TV.
“He just got the Scrabble board out over the summer holidays. It was all day every day for six weeks,” Jenness said.
But for Lewis the motivation for mastering the game was simple: “I just like learning words,” he said.
Starting out in the fledgling Christchurch Scrabble circle was tough for Lewis as he was considered too young to play.
But after he proved his worth, competition was easier to find.
“We managed to find a couple of pensioners who we had playdates with,” Jenness said.
He now calls one of them his “Scrabble granddad”.
Jenness now has to carefully manage her time, and bank account in order to get Lewis to tournaments around the country.
His obsession also became a mild issue for his teachers, who Lewis admits he disagrees with from time to time.
“The teacher will say ‘that’s not a word’ and I’ll say ‘Yes it is’,” he said.
He spends at least two hours a day playing and will play alone before and after school as his prowess now means his siblings and parents refuse to play with him.
Sheets of paper with lists of obscure Scrabble words are stuck on the wall beside the toilet and his bed and his favourite shirt is emblazoned with one word: “Scrabble”.
Lewis’s winning words
Zyzzyva: A type of tropical, snouted American weevil often found in palms. It is also the last word in many English-language dictionaries.
Euouae: A mnemonic used in medieval music to denote the sequence of tones in Gloria Patri, a religious hymn. According to Guinness World Records it is also the longest word in the English language which is made up of nothing but vowels, and the English word with the most consecutive vowels.
Uintaite: A pure form of asphalt mined in the Uinta Mountains in America, used to soften petroleum products and in manufacturing paints and inks.
Qintars: A coin formerly used in Albania.
Xi: The 14th letter of the Greek alphabet.
Qi: The circulating life energy in Chinese philosophy.