Merry Wheaton, a professional Spanish language translator in Austin, is the treasurer of the Spanish Scrabble Club of Texas, or the Club de Scrabble en Español de Texas. The club meets in Austin and Houston.
Wheaton first learned about the club at the dentist when her Venezuelan dental assistant mentioned that her husband had just returned from a Spanish World Scrabble Championship. Wheaton joined the club and six months later was playing in a tournament in Spain.
As the first non-native Spanish speaker to compete in the event, Wheaton says her goal was to not come in last. She was paired against a well-known Venezuelan player, and although he beat her, Wheaton remembers feeling vindicated when she overheard him telling someone about one of her plays.
“[I] put down tuétano, which means bone marrow… No one would expect me to do that, especially with a word like that,” she says. “The fact that he didn’t just say it to me but said it to someone else made it really powerfully encouraging.”
Wheaton has gone on to play in six more world championships and four regional tournaments. In addition to Spain, Scrabble has taken her to Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Mexico, and Guatemala.
The rules of the game are the same, but the Spanish version comes with more vowels and additional letters. One of them, the ñ is her favorite letter.
“It’s valuable, it’s not hard to play and it’s so Spanish,” she says.
Wheaton encourages Scrabble players of all levels to join the club.
“It’s just a great opportunity to meet a nice group of people and have a lot of fun,” Wheaton says. “Sometimes we drink wine.”