A Meerkat Rants: Words with Friends, No.

 Warning: Strong Opinions and occasionally Strong Language ahead.

This is a Rant that may hit home with a lot of you.

I used to play a lot of on-line Scrabble.  Then the app went wonky on me, and I switched to Words with Friends, which, to be honest, I like better.  More word options, more flexibility, less stuffiness.  And if you have to disappear for a few days under the weight of deadlines or travel, it doesn’t get snitty with you.

(Sorry, friends who sometimes wait 2-3 days for my response.  But you knew who you were playing when you started!)

But I have to admit that, much as I enjoy the game, sometimes I wonder what the ever-loving fuck drugs the WwF back-office staff were on when they put together their “acceptable words” lists. 

(I can see some of you nodding emphatically at this.)

Because okay, yeah, I get it: there are some words that we use in common conversation that aren’t legitimized by the dictionary yet.  That’s fine, we accept that there are limits.  But when you allow “pht” and “poh,” I don’t think you have ground to stand on denying us “aigh” and “blech” and “ack.”


No swear words, all right, yeah, it’s a family-friendly game, and nothing that could be construed as a slur; I get it, I approve (although I still say ‘fucking’ should be allowed, it’s a perfectly friendly word when used right).

And then there are some words that we use that are actually not words, and therefore not legit, I don’t care how WwF spins it. Yes, I know that Fe is the symbol for iron.  That does not make it a word!  And yet… (TBH, I’ve gotten a lot of points using that on triple letter spaces.  But it’s the principle of the thing, damn it!)  Also, if they’re going to allow “el” (elevated subway) then they should also allow “tv.”

And for the love of god and game dice, Oh WwF staff, why the hell  are we allowed to use words like “gie” (Scottish slang) and “feh” (Yiddish)?  All right I’ll grant you Scottish slang, because it’s allegedly related to English. And Yiddish is… well, let’s call it an honorary nod to Mel Brooks and move on.  But “fado,” for example, is a Portuguese word, not English. And it’s not exactly in the everyday vocabulary for most English speakers.  And “pas?” That comes to us from the French, from “pas de deux” – but deux isn’t allowed.  

And if foreign origins-but-we-use-them are okay, shouldn’t “craig” be an acceptable word?  It’s a legit variant of the Scottish “crag,” which is an accepted WwF word!

And if some Latin is acceptable (stet, sic, ergo, ibidem, for dog’s sake!) then why not ”quo” or “flagrante” or “versa?”  And for fuck’s sake, what about ur?

WordNerdWorld Problems, I know.  But it pisses me off every time I play.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at https://www.patreon.com/LAGilman Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


A Meerkat Rants: Words with Friends, No. — 4 Comments

  1. I believe “fado” is also Irish for a party or dance. And if you’re going to allow Scottish….

  2. Pedantry is in my blood. Scots words like ‘gie’ aren’t slang. They’re dialect. There is a big difference.

  3. I play Wordfeud instead of Words with Friends, one series of Dutch games with a friend and one in international English with my aunt.
    I much prefer the English game and so does my aunt (who plays in Dutch with her friends), exactly because it allows so many more words, including the Scottish, Irish, Welsh, legal Latin etc., as well as quite a lot of common abbreviations.
    That means you can play something interesting much more often, and experiment to find new and obscure words.
    It’s much more rare to get stuck with lots of boring two- and three-letter words and no place to add on to.
    I agree that sometimes there are annoying inconsistencies, but overall it’s quite permissive.
    We sometimes think they’re not working from an official dictionary, but from a self-compiled one from all the texts on the Internet, scanned by Google, etc.

    The Dutch version is very annoyingly restrictive, clearly working from something like the official word list (Groene boekje), that was never meant to be the definitive list of all allowed words, Just of how to spell them. Any word with capital letters or containing punctuation is considered an abbreviation or a name and thus disallowed, even if it’s in common use as a word (like CD, or IQ, or the name of a country; some plant names are allowed, but not all).

    As Dutch is like German, there are endless combination-words allowed in normal Dutch (with prefixes and suffixes too), that aren’t all spelled out in the official “how to write this” list. Often quite common combination-words aren’t allowed, while others, sometimes more obscure ones, are. It’s very annoying, when at least half of one’s native vocabulary consists of such words, to have most of them disallowed, in a very random manner!

  4. Couldn’t agree more about WwF. Their idiosyncratic inconsistency drives me nuts. I with you on UR and have you noticed that while most abbreviations are nixed, you _can_ play OBE and DUI? It doesn’t know CORVID but accepts PAHLAVI, a proper name? Etc., etc.