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By Tom Sloper
December 26, 2010

Column #477

American Mah Jongg (2010 NMJL card). I hope everyone is having a happy Boxing Day today.

Put your boxing gloves on, and let's spar over words for the fourth time. Consider this "What's In a Word, Part 4" (parts 1, 2, and 3 were in columns 353, 460, and 463). Recently I heard yet another confusing double-entendre: "deal." Some writers now apparently use the word "deal" to be synonymous with "discard." I don't know about you, but I think things can get mighty confusing with all these multiple meanings for mah jongg words. Of course, I was called a Word Nazi as soon as I objected to this new meaning of "deal" on the ReachMahjong forum. But you be the judge if I'm a Word Nazi or not. Let me tell you a story. In this story, I'll use words the way I've seen them used (as opposed to the way I usually use them). You tell me, is this confusing?

A Story With Words
The ladies' game began normally enough, with East beginning the deal. The passing was cut short when the dealer stole on the first left pass, then announced she'd take a pass on further passing, and had nothing to pass in the courtesy. The dealer dealt East, then was surprised when it was immediately stolen by Player 2. The run went up on the wall with a joker, which was in turn stolen by the next player, West, who dealt West, calling it West. Player 2 called West, and exposed it with another joker, then dealt South. West picked West and stole the joker, then called North. Player 2 called North for mah jongg. She exulted, "Everybody was passing directions!" Player 4 kvetched, "I never even got a turn!"

Then the next hand went even stranger. East miscalled East, whereupon West miscalled it, exposing West with Easts and dealing before realizing it had been a double miscall. East called West dead for the bad exposure, whereupon West called East dead for the miscall. West said, "I wouldn't have miscalled it if you hadn't miscalled it. You said it was East, but it was West." East said, "You should have looked before exposing your Easts." East pointed to the run atop West's wall: "That's a miscall if I ever saw one."

The Charleston was cut short when Player 1 blind passed and stopped the Charleston, then declined the courtesy. Player 1 discarded E, which was taken by Player 2, who exposed it with a joker. Player 3 picked, then redeemed the joker and discarded W. Player 2 took it, exposing it with another joker. Player 3 picked, got another W, and redeemed the joker, discarding N. Player 2 won on it.

In the next hand, Player 1 discarded W but misnamed it "East." Player 3 claimed it, and exposed E's from her hand, then discarded, sealing her fate. Player 1 rightly called Player 3 dead, and Player 3 wrongly retaliated by calling Player 1 dead as well.

This is part of an occasional series on "Words."

  • Part 1: Column 353
  • Part 2: Column 460
  • Part 3: Column 463
  • Part 4: Column 477
  • Part 5: Column 502

    Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

    Question or comment about this column? I often miss something; maybe you'll be the first one to spot it! Please be gentle. Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

    October 2010 article on American mah jongg's rise in popularity, from the WALL STREET JOURNAL: ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2.
    There's a movie of the WSJ story too -- just click the Video tab on the above page, or go to ?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel_2#articleTabs%3Dvideo.

    Where to order the yearly NMJL card: Read FAQ 7i.

    Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, is the most comprehensive book in existence about the American game. AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the official rulebook from the NMJL (see FAQ 3). Linda Fisher's website is the only website that describes American rules:

    © 2010 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.