Friday 9 March 2012

What it means to be a Comper

About 20 years ago, I was a keen Scrabble player and was absolutely delighted when the word "comper" officially entered the dictionary. I was already a comper, but until then I couldn't play the word in Scrabble, which was annoying as it would have got rid of those frustrating letters C, M  and P which aren't all that useful for making quick high scoring words, yet can block your rack making it hard to use all the letters in one turn for a 50 point bonus.

Once the word was  accepted into the dictionary I made a point of playing it as often as possible, and it was almost always challenged by my opponent. And I could sit back smugly while they checked it and saw the definition:

comper [ˈkɒmpə] n
Informal a person who regularly enters competitions in newspapers, magazines, etc., esp competitions offering consumer goods as prizes

But that isn't the only meaning of the word.  If you visit Japan, don't tell somebody that you are a comper, they might think you said "compa". A compa party in Japan is a sort of speed-dating party - you might end up at one of those when all you really want is access to the internet to check for winning emails!
On the other hand, in Italy, Comper is  the name of a brand of rather lovely jewellery. I wonder whether it's ever given away as prizes?
In Brazil, Comper is the name of a chain of supermarkets  - and yes, when I found the website, I DID look to see if there were any competitions  although my very limited knowledge of Portuguese left me none the wiser.
Comper can also be a surname.  Sir Ninian Comper was an ecclesiastical architect who even has a chapel named after him in the All Saints Pastoral Centre, St Albans  while Nicholas Comper was an aircraft designer who gave his name to several aircraft.
There are places called Comper too. In Crawley, there is a road called Comper Close  while in Oxford there is the Comper Foundation Stage School
But my very favourite "other Comper" is one I would really love to visit; Comper Castle in Brittany.  I am fascinated by Arthurian legend (those of you who  have known  me for many years may have  occasionally seen me pop up on comping groups and forums in my alter ego of Morgaine) and this is where Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, is said to have been brought up. The whole area sounds magical and historic,  with the castle's name giving it an extra meaning for me. You can read more about Comper Castle here
Many thanks to Martin Cross for his help and permission to link to his articles about Comper Castle.

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