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TWOS Left — Visual

2010 March 17
by admin

This post ref­er­ences the TWOS ALL (101) Cat file (see the Word Study page, Beginner 1.2).

Two-letter words are as crit­i­cal as a good short game in golf.  It doesn’t mat­ter if you can drive the ball 300+ yards, if you can’t putt, you won’t be com­pet­i­tive.  It’s the same with Scrabble – you may be good as spot­ting bin­gos in your rack, but if you don’t know your two-letter words, you’re not going to get very far.

You need to know, with­out think­ing about it or second-guessing your­self, which two-letter words are accept­able, which two-letter com­bi­na­tions are not (so you can chal­lenge), which two-letter words take an S (impor­tant when you’re look­ing for a hook for a longer word), and which two-letter open­ings you need to be care­ful about open­ing up for your oppo­nent (impor­tant for defen­sive play).

First the basics.  There are 101 two-letter words.  67 of these words take an S.  In most cases adding an S cre­ates the plural of the word in ques­tion, but not in all cases.  In some cases adding an S cre­ates a new word, like AS(S), or it is the plural of a more obscure mean­ing of the two-letter word, like GO(S) or ON(S).  Instead of ref­er­enc­ing the TWOS Left (93) file that includes all remain­ing two-letter words not in the TWOS JQXZ (8) file, this post ref­er­ences the TWOS ALL (101) Cat (it lists all the two-letter words by category). 

The cat­e­gories in this file are drawn from what I call a “visual” mnemonic or an imag­i­nary scene in which dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the scenes (objects, actions, etc.) are asso­ci­ated with dif­fer­ent words.  This mnemonic is called the SIMPLE diner.  This diner is SIMPLE diner is owned and oper­ated by the SIMPLE fam­ily (hence the name).  It’s one of those small town din­ers where these is always an odd col­lec­tion of peo­ple sit­ting around drink­ing cof­fee and chat­ting up the wait­ress that’s worked there for twenty years and knows everyone.

SIMPLE stands for:

  • Slang or slangy (11 words)
  • Interjections (19)
  • Miscellaneous (18)
  • Philosophy & Music (14)
  • Letters (13)
  • Easy or Common (26)


Here are the “slangy” two-letter words:

AB an abdom­i­nal mus­cle [n –S]
AD an adver­tise­ment [n –S]
AE one [adj]
AG agri­cul­ture [n –S]
BI a bisex­ual (one who is attracted to both sexes) [n –S]
ED edu­ca­tion [n –S]
ET EAT, to con­sume food [v]
MO a moment (a brief period of time) [n MOS]
NA no; not [adv]
TA an expres­sion of grat­i­tude [n –S]
ZA a pizza (an Italian open pie) [n –S]

Here’s how you can remem­ber these words.  Imagine your are sit­ting at the counter.  You can notice that there is AE ETNA back in the kitchen area (i.e. you can see one – or AE – bun­sen burner con­trap­tion – or ETNA).  It occurs to you that AE, ET and NA are the only “slangy” two-letter Scrabble words that do not take an S.  There is an AB AD on the tv on the counter (i.e. an infomer­cial for an exer­cise device to get your abdom­i­nals mus­cles in shape).  You glance at the ED pro­fes­sor that teaches AG at the local col­lege that you sus­pect is a BI (who’s in great shape and isn’t pay­ing atten­tion to the AB AD).  You sig­nal to the wait­ress by say­ing “I’ll be ready for my ZA in a MO, TA (i.e. I’ll be ready for my pizza in a moment, thanks).

ETNA a con­tainer for heat­ing liq­uids [n –S]


Now for the inter­jec­tions – all 19 of them (a few aren’t tech­ni­cally inter­jec­tions, but it seemed like they belonged in this cateogry any­way).   You’re prob­a­bly famil­iar with most of these words, but you may not be aware they are accept­able Scrabble words.

Here are the words:

AH aah (to exclaim in amaze­ment, joy, or sur­prise) [v –ED, –ING, –S]
AW used to express protest, dis­gust, or dis­be­lief [interj]
AY aye (an affir­ma­tive vote) [n AYS]
EH used to express doubt or sur­prise [interj]
ER used to express hes­i­ta­tion [interj]
HA a sound of sur­prise [n –S]
HI used as a greet­ing [interj]
HM hmm (used to express thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion) [interj]
HO a pros­ti­tute — usu­ally taken to be offen­sive [n HOS]
LO used to attract atten­tion or to express sur­prise [interj]
MM used to express assent or sat­is­fac­tion [interj]
OH to exclaim in sur­prise, pain, or desire [v –ED, –ING, –S]
OI oy (used to express dis­may or pain) [interj]
OW used to express sud­den pain [interj]
OY used to express dis­may or pain [interj]
SH used to urge silence [interj]
UH used to express hes­i­ta­tion [interj]
UM used to indi­cate hes­i­ta­tion [interj]
YO used to call atten­tion or to express affir­ma­tion [interj] 

Here is the visual mnemonic.  Imagine that while you’re wait­ing for your ZA, you look over and see an ine­bri­ated Santa (its close to Christmas time, so you’re not sur­prised), a Scrabble game with one player try­ing earnestly to remem­ber the three accept­able two-letter words with­out vow­els (because he doesn’t have any vow­els on his rack), and the other player, tired of wait­ing for his part­ner to play a word, is stand­ing on his chair giv­ing a speech using only two-letter words that start with o or u.

As you watch, the santa attempts to bel­low the tra­di­tional “ho, ho, ho” but he gets con­fused and just ends up say­ing hello to every­one.  He says: “AHHA, OHHO, AY…  ER… HI.”  You imme­di­ately rec­og­nize that this slurred string of a greet­ing rep­re­sents seven dif­fer­ent two-letter Scrabble words: AH, HA, OH, HO, AY, ER and HI.  You also real­ize that these seven tw0-letter words all take an S – while the other 12 remain­ing inter­jec­tions in this cat­e­gory do not (Note: The first words learned in each cat­e­gory do not take an S – e.g. AE ETNA – except for this cat­e­gory.  Most inter­jec­tions do not take an S, so the seven “excep­tions” are learned first).

You glance from the Santa to the Scrabble player with­out any vow­els in his rack.  His head is in his hands and he is desparately try­ing to remem­ber the three tw0-letter words with no vow­els.  Suddenly he remem­bers.  He looks up and says, “AW… SH, MM, HM.”

The other Scrabble player, tired of wait­ing, is stand­ing on his chair try­ing to give a speech using only inter­jec­tions that start with either O or U: “EH… LO… YO… (he’s try­ing to get everyone’s atten­tion) – OI OY OW… UH UM.


There are 18 mis­cel­la­neous words:

AA rough, cin­dery lava [n –S]
AI a three-toed sloth [n –S]
AL an East Indian tree [n –S]
BO a pal [n BOS]
DE of; from — used in names [prep]
JO a sweet­heart [n JOES]
LI a Chinese unit of dis­tance [n –S]
MA mother [n –S]
NE born with the name of [adj]
OE a whirl­wind off the Faeroe islands [n –S]
OP a style of abstract art [n –S]
OS an ori­fice (a mouth or mouth­like open­ing) [n ORA]; an esker (a nar­row ridge of gravel and sand) [n OSAR]; a bone [n OSSA]
PA a father [n –S]
UN one [pron –S]
WO woe (tremen­dous grief) [n WOS]
XU a mon­e­tary unit of Vietnam [n XU]
YA you [pron]
YE you [pron]

There are five words here that do not take an S.  Here is the visual mnemonic.  Just as your ZA arrives, you remem­ber that your fiancee, DEYANE, is com­ing to meet you at the diner.  It occurs to you that her name will help you remem­ber three two-letter Scrabble words (none of which take an S): DE, YA, NE.  She is an eX-Unitarian (XU) and an Observant Shopper (OS) – details that give you the other two works that do not take an S.

The rest of the words in this cat­e­gory just have to be learned.  There are some groups of words that make it eas­ier:  MA, PA, BO, and JO (think fam­ily din­ner) or AI, AL, AA, OE (think of an AI, climb­ing up an AL to escape from the heat of nearby AA, pray­ing for an OE to cool things down).  The remain­ing words just have to be mem­o­rized (LI, OP, UN, WO, YE) – or you can come up with a mnemonic of your own.

Philosophy & Music

Here are the 14 words in this category:

BA the eter­nal soul, in Egyptian mythol­ogy [n –S]
FA the fourth tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n –S]
ID a part of the psy­che [n –S]
KA the spir­i­tual self of a human being in Egyptian reli­gion [n –S]
KI the vital force in Chinese thought [n KIS]
LA the sixth tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n –S]
MI the third tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n –S]
OD a hypo­thet­i­cal force of nat­ural power [n –S]
OM a mantra used in con­tem­pla­tion of ulti­mate real­ity [n –S]
QI the vital force that in Chinese thought is inher­ent in all things [n –S]
RE the sec­ond tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n –S]
SI ti (the sev­enth tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale) [n –S]
TI the sev­enth tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n –S]
UT the musi­cal tone C in the French solmiza­tion sys­tem now replaced by do [n –S]

You glance out the win­dow of the diner and notice that your friend, Bob Allen, is sit­ting in his car out in the park­ing lot.  You cre­ate a scene to help you remem­ber the 14 Scrabble words in the Philosophy and Music category:

Bob Allen (BA) sits in his KIA (KI, KA) lis­ten­ing to OMD (OM, OD) try­ing to get in touch with his ID and his QI, while recit­ing the dia­tonic musi­cal scale — DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI. He is wear­ing a SUIT (SI, UT), which helps you remem­ber that DO and SO belong in another cat­e­gory (the Easy or Common cat­e­gory) and need to be replaced by SI and UT.  All the words in this cat­e­gory take an S.


13 of the 101 two-letter words are let­ters.  All the let­ters in the English lan­guage have spellings (except for the vow­els — for vow­els, the vow­els them­selves are the spelling).  For exam­ple, the let­ter H is spelled AITCH, the let­ter J is spelled JAY, K is spelled KAY, etc.  The let­ters of the Greek and Hebrew alpha­bets are also a source of use­ful Scrabble words.  Here are the words:

AR the let­ter R [n –S]
EF the let­ter F [n –S]
EL an ele­vated rail­road or train [n –S]
EM the let­ter M [n –S]
EN the let­ter N [n –S]
ES ess (the let­ter S) [n ESES]
EX to cross out [v –ED, –ING, –ES]
FE a Hebrew let­ter [n –S]
MU a Greek let­ter [n –S]
NU a Greek let­ter [n –S]
PE a Hebrew let­ter [n –S]
PI a Greek let­ter [n –S]; to jum­ble or dis­or­der [v PIED, PIEING or PIING, PIES]
XI a Greek let­ter [n –S]

As you look around the diner, in addi­tion to the ine­bri­ated santa, the Scrabble game in progress, and your friend – Bob Allen – out in the park­ing lot, you see a guy dressed up as one of the X-Men eat­ing some french fries at the counter.  With a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion, you con­jure up a scene to help you remem­ber the thir­teen two-letter spellings of let­ters in the English, Greek and Hebrew alphabet:

X-MeN SeLL FRench FRies to two guys named MUNU PIXI and FEPE

The first part of the sen­tence (X-men sell french fries) gives you the English two-letter let­ters (X, M, N, S, L, F and R – EX, EM, EN, ES, EL, EF and AR).  The sec­ond part of the sen­tence give you the Greek two-letter let­ters — MU, NU, PI, and XI — and the two Hebrew let­ters — FE and PE.  The only word in this cat­e­gory that doesn’t take an S is the let­ter X (the plural of EX is EXES).


Here are the “easy” two-letter words – you are prob­a­bly famil­iar with most of these:

AM BE, to have actu­al­ity [v]
AN used before words begin­ning with a vowel sound [indefinite_article]
AS to the same degree [adv]
AT in the posi­tion of [prep]
AX to work on with an ax (a type of cut­ting tool) [v –ED, –ING, –ES]
BE to have actu­al­ity [v present sing. 1st per­son AM, 2d ARE or ART, 3d IS, past sing. 1st and 3d per­sons WAS, 2d WERE or WAST or WERT, past par­tici­ple BEEN, present par­tici­ple BEING]
BY a pass in cer­tain card games [n BYS]
DO the first tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale [n DOS]; to begin and carry through to com­ple­tion [v DID or DIDST, DONE, DOING, present sing. 2d per­son DO, DOEST or DOST, 3d per­son DOES, DOETH or DOTH]
GO to move along [v WENT, GONE, GOING or GWINE, GOES]; a Japanese board game [n GOS]
HE a male per­son (a human being) [n –S]
IF a pos­si­bil­ity [n –S]
IN to har­vest (to gather a crop) [v INNED, INNING, INS]
IS BE, to have actu­al­ity [v]
IT the 3d per­son sing. neuter pro­noun [pron]
ME the objec­tive case of the pro­noun I [pron]
MY the pos­ses­sive form of the pro­noun I [pron]
NO a neg­a­tive reply [n NOS or NOES]
OF com­ing from [prep]
ON the side of the wicket where a bats­man stands in cricket [n –S]
OR the heraldic color gold [n –S]
OX a clumsy per­son [n –ES]; a hoofed mam­mal [n OXEN]
SO sol (the fifth tone of the dia­tonic musi­cal scale) [n SOS]
TO in the direc­tion of [prep]
UP to raise (to move to a higher posi­tion) [v UPPED, UPPING, UPS]
US the objec­tive case of the pro­noun we [pron]
WE 1st per­son pl. pro­noun in the nom­i­na­tive case [pron]

The dif­fi­cult part here is learn­ing which words take an S and which do not (12 do not, 14 do).  The twelve that don’t are AM, AN, AT, AX, IS, ME, MY, OF, OX, TO, US and WE.  All the remain­ing words take an S – ASS, BES (a hebrew let­ter), GOS (plural of GO, a Japanese board game), etc.  ONS, ORS and UPS are three more “sur­prise” plu­rals (see the TWOS All (101) Cat list for definitions).

This approach (using a “visual” mnemonic) may not work for every­one.  The TWOS can also be learned as hooks from the sin­gle let­ters of the the alpha­bet.  For exam­ple, what are the two-letter words that can be formed by adding a let­ter to the front of the let­ter A?  AA, BA, FA, etc.  What about the back? AA, AB, AD, etc.  This approach is use­ful because it forces recall of tw0-letter words in a con­text that is some­what sim­i­lar to game­play.  I will approach the twos as hooks from the alpha­bet in my next post.

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