Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

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Saudi twins Mohammed and Murad Salem have accumulated more than 500,000 followers on Instagram through their pranks and comedic skits. Social media
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Saudi YouTube and Instagram Pranksters Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz have combined to amass over 1.3 million subscribers and followers between them. Social media
Updated 17 April 2018
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Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

  • Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing
  • A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter

JEDDAH: Although people have been pranking each other for thousands of years, the age of the internet paved the way for mainstream video-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, ushering in a global platform of viewers for pranksters. Famous YouTube and Instagram pranksters are quickly establishing themselves as the new generation of self-made celebrities.
They have built a fan base by creating entertaining user-friendly content, even if at others’ expense.
Pranking is entertaining on multiple levels because it serves to manipulate social power, cultural norms and status hierarchies while initiating strong human emotional responses.
“Not only is a good prank harmless, but like a good story, it reveals an essential truth that would otherwise be hidden,” said American author Mac Barnett. “It is a great way to indicate the underlying absurdities of the world.”
There can be a lot to learn about human responses through this sometimes-cruel engagement. Since pranking is heavily influenced by societal and cultural norms, they function as a release of pent-up societal tensions.
Confusion, embarrassment, flattery, fear and ultimately laughter are sought when individuals are being pranked.
That feeling of losing control or being rendered powerless in a situation can illicit powerful human responses.
A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter.
Saudi Arabia, too, has a culture of pranksters to contribute to this trending industry, in Mohammed and Murad Salem, and Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz.
The two sets of twins have garnered nearly 2 million subscribers and followers combined on YouTube and Instagram by uploading entertaining skits and pranks in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Pranks have been our hobby long before social media. Now with social media, the idea has become more of a prank war between us as twins,” the Salems told Arab News.
“In Saudi Arabia, pranks are far from dangerous or intimidating. They rely on public embarrassment. We find they’re usually popular among most society groups, especially youngsters, and although not everyone will like our pranks, most encourage us to keep doing them.”
But it is imperative to not just look at pranking through rose-colored glasses, as it can deeply affect and emotionally scar some victims.
Since pranking can often involve social humiliation, a three-way relationship between the one who humiliates, the victim and the witness can create a helpless power dynamic for emotionally sensitive individuals.
“The reaction we often get from friends and family is positive,” the Salems said. “Although we don’t always agree on how bad the pranks should be, we make sure not to cross any red lines, as certain pranks have led to serious confrontations.”
Saudi prank culture has always existed, but it is only now starting to garner exposure and attention via social-media platforms. An added incentive is the potential income these content creators can accumulate via advertising revenue.
But the Salems aim to use their fame from pranking as a stepping stone to much bigger ventures. “We want to expand and enter the fields of media and acting,” they said.
“Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing. We’re currently studying some ideas to create sketches that portray everyday situations in a comedic way.”


Score! Scrabble dictionary adds ‘OK,’ ‘ew’ to official play

Updated 24 September 2018
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Score! Scrabble dictionary adds ‘OK,’ ‘ew’ to official play

  • Among more than 300 additions are yowza, OK and ew
  • There’s another special new entry because it involves use of a q without a u: qapik

NEW YORK: Scrabble players, time to rethink your game because 300 new words are coming your way, including some long-awaited gems: OK and ew, to name a few.
Merriam-Webster released the sixth edition of “The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary” on Monday, four years after the last freshening up. The company, at the behest of Scrabble owner Hasbro Inc., left out one possibility under consideration for a hot minute — RBI — after consulting competitive players who thought it potentially too contentious. There was a remote case to be made since RBI has morphed into an actual word, pronounced rib-ee.
But that’s OK because, “OK.”
“OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time,” said lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster. “Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game.”
There’s more good news in qapik, adding to an arsenal of 20 playable words beginning with q that don’t need a u. Not that Scrabblers care all that much about definitions, qapik is a unit of currency in Azerbaijan.
“Every time there’s a word with q and no u, it’s a big deal,” Sokolowski said. “Most of these are obscure.”
There are some sweet scorers now eligible for play, including bizjet, and some magical vowel dumps, such as arancini, those Italian balls of cooked rice. Bizjet, meaning — yes — a small plane used for business, would be worth a whopping 120 points on an opening play, but only if it’s made into a plural with an s. That’s due to the 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles and the double word bonus space usually played at the start.
The Springfield, Massachusetts-based dictionary company sought counsel from the North American Scrabble Players Association when updating the book, Sokolowski said, “to make sure that they agree these words are desirable.”
Sokolowski has a favorite among the new words but not, primarily, because of Scrabble scores. “It’s macaron,” he said, referring to the delicate French sandwich cookie featuring different flavors and fillings.
“I just like what it means,” he said.
Merriam-Webster put out the first official Scrabble dictionary in 1976. Before that, the game’s rules called for any desk dictionary to be consulted. Since an official dictionary was created, it has been updated every four to eight years, Sokolowski said.
There are other new entries Sokolowski likes, from a wordsmith’s view.
“I think ew is interesting because it expresses something new about what we’re seeing in language, which is to say that we are now incorporating more of what you might call transcribed speech. Sounds like ew or mm-hmm, or other things like coulda or kinda. Traditionally, they were not in the dictionary but because so much of our communication is texting and social media that is written language, we are finding more transcribed speech and getting a new group of spellings for the dictionary,” he said.
Like ew, there’s another interjection now in play, yowza, along with a word some might have thought was already allowed: zen.
There’s often chatter around Scrabble boards over which foreign words have been accepted into English to the degree they’re playable. Say hello to schneid, another of the new kids, this one with German roots. It’s a sports term for a losing streak. Other foreigners added because they predominantly no longer require linguistic white gloves, such as italics or quotation marks: bibimbap, cotija and sriracha.
Scrabble was first trademarked as such in 1948, after it was thought up under a different name in 1933 by Alfred Mosher Butts, an out-of-work architect in Poughkeepsie, New York. Interest in the game picked up in the early 1950s, according to legend, when the president of Macy’s happened upon it while on vacation.
Now, the official dictionary holds more than 100,000 words. Other newcomers Sokolowski shared are aquafaba, beatdown, zomboid, twerk, sheeple, wayback, bokeh, botnet, emoji, facepalm, frowny, hivemind, puggle and nubber.