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Word games - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Word games
I play Word Whomp over on AOL. And I have a problem... I know enough about the language that I can't figure out why some things aren't words. I'm on a timer, and instead of just accepting that "fifed" isn't in the game's dictionary, I'm trying to explain to the screen that it works perfectly well as a word, particularly since it accepts "fifer." My reasoning is that unlike those who play other instruments, fife players get an -er suffix instead of in -ist suffix. We don't speak of a guitar-er, and one does not guitar as a verb (unless perhaps one is in Sunnydale, but even there I think they'd skip it; "I'm gonna go up there and guitar a little bit" doesn't have much of a ring to it). On the other hand, the other instrument that recieves an -er is the drum. One is a drummer. One drums. So doesn't it make sense that if one is a fifer, one is a person who fifes, or has, at some point, fifed?

I do this constantly with other words as well. Why shouldn't re-fin be a word? Isn't that what you'd do on the set of Jaws if you were a prop-master? I mean, I could hear someone saying, "Hey, go re-fin the damned mechanical shark before you take five, okay?" Lots of re- and -er words like that, and no matter how often I play the silly game, I always try some weird made-up (but sensible) word and get annoyed when I get that irritating beep.

And of course, it misses fandom words including the simple "het."

Anyone else run into this in word games?

(No, Fern. Just you.)

Today's geek moment brought to to you by Writer's Block.
26 comments or Leave a comment
ladyaeryn From: ladyaeryn Date: January 17th, 2005 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
And of course, it misses fandom words including the simple "het."

Heh. I occasionally slip and try to use fandom words in word search games too - one particular instance I remember trying to use "toob" and being baffled for an instant, until I remembered I wasn't in Potter fandom, why the game wasn't recognizing it.
awaywithpixie From: awaywithpixie Date: January 17th, 2005 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
And I thought I was being silly for playing Party Scrabble on Christmas day with my brother-in-law, and using up all the remaining letters on accounting acronyms. His ten year old daughter agreed that we could use them only if she could use netspeak. It added variety to the game, that was for sure.

I've given up on those online word games... they just don't understand.
liwy From: liwy Date: January 17th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I never play word games, and so I haven't run into it. But quite regularly I have to update the spellcheck on Word to recognize fandom/HP terms.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: January 17th, 2005 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do this all the time! I can't stand seeing the red lines ... they make me angry.

"What do you mean, 'Ravenclaw' is spelled wrong? That's exaclty how it's spelled!"

I do it for a lot of my original stuff, too, because it never recognizes the names I use.
rikibeth From: rikibeth Date: January 18th, 2005 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Me too. It gets worse when I'm writing Amber stuff, and mix in other universes as shadows, because they've got something useful. My spellchecker now knows Darkovan psychotropic drugs -- "kireseth" and "aphrosone."
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: January 17th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Scrabble, Boggle, Word Bounce.

I love word games.

The older edition of Scrabble let you add words to the dictionary. The new version, which should be playable on WinXP according to the packaging, will only play if you disable EVERY OTHER STINKING PROGRAM on the computer before starting it. Oh yeah. Ever heard of MULTI-TASKING, Atari?

It also doesn't allow words to be added to the dictionary.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: January 17th, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
The new version, which should be playable on WinXP according to the packaging, will only play if you disable EVERY OTHER STINKING PROGRAM on the computer before starting it. Oh yeah. Ever heard of MULTI-TASKING, Atari?

Oh, bother. I got Scrabble Complete for Christmas, and here I was hoping that I could play it in bits and snatches while doing data processing and stuff like that at work.
sue_parsons From: sue_parsons Date: January 17th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


Thank you for the early-morning laugh, Fern. I definitely needed that today.

As a linguist, I can completely sympathize with your frustration. We who understand morphology play with word parts daily, happily dissecting long technical terminology with abandon. However, simply because we create a semantic Frankenstein does not bring him to life. For language to truly communicate, there must be a level of general acceptance and actual usage. As you no doubt know, afficionados of other languages, such as French, carefully screen new terms annually with an eye to protecting their mother tongue from contamination and dilution. In the USA mostly anything goes, with items such as "alright" actually accepted into widely published dictionaries, probably of the type that rest on the shelves of your library. However, since there are precious few fife players in the world, I would be willing to almost guarantee that your merry addition of inflectional endings to same will never see the light of day, in lexicographical terms. ;)

See, what you need is a good hacker for that game you are playing to really go your way.....
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 17th, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)


This is why I love English (and I may be mistaken, but I'm reasonably sure that the Brits and Australians and Kiwis and Canadians do the same thing). You can do anything with it. :) Sponge language, picks up everything and cheerfully absorbs it. I think this may be why Anglophone cultures tend to not be as quick as others about learning new languages, actually. Instead of learning a new way to say something, we're psychologically prone instead to incorporate a new word into an old way of saying things if there's not an English word handy.

Watching Buffy, of course, doesn't help with word games, as I have a rhythm of speech in my head that includes the exchange "I'm flummoxed"/"What's the flum?" references to "Bronzing it" (going to a club called The Bronze), and a slur that campus Wiccans are "a bunch of wannablessedbes."
arclevel From: arclevel Date: January 17th, 2005 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)


Have you read Slayer Slang, by Michael Adams? It's all about Buffy and linguistics, in terms of the show itself, the fans to some extent (mostly the "authorized" posting boards), and other pop culture that's been influenced. The author is especially fascinated with the use of the word "much," starting in the first episode with "Geez, morbid much?"
litlefallofrain From: litlefallofrain Date: January 17th, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
The teacher aide in my European History class plays Word Whomp during class all the time, and a couple of the people around the computer (me included) help her sometimes. And there are quite a few times that we put in words that we know for fact are words...that weren't according to the dictionary.
cynthia_black From: cynthia_black Date: January 17th, 2005 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anyone else run into this in word games?

Yep, all the time when I play Literati :-/
sannalim From: sannalim Date: January 17th, 2005 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, not really--but then I don't play word games against the computer/online at all, so I haven't had any opportunities to do so.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: January 17th, 2005 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
All the time. I've never played word whomp, but several others. Most notably Text Twist, which, if you never played it, is basically, "Here is a scrambled six-letter word; how many words can you make from these letters?" We play it all the time at work (a biology lab with a surprisingly high number of word geeks). We're constantly yelling at the screen about how ____ is so a word. Of course, then we get to feel stupid because of our tendency not to get the science words...
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 19th, 2005 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I am absolutely addicted to Text Twist. It's brilliant.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 17th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, I run into this, but I just tend to figure that no dictionary is complete and that most people who are compiling word lists for games are more likely to think of "refin" as a misspelling of "refine" than anything else.

I've never figured out why this one game will accept plural forms of certain words but not singular, though.
(Deleted comment)
butterflysteve From: butterflysteve Date: January 17th, 2005 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Scrabble fanatic. My mum hates playing with me because I utterly whomp her, the last time we played I ended up with over 90+ points for one word and I hadn't even got the seven letter bonus either. The word was... Queer
The Q was on a triple letter score so that was 30 points by itself and the whole word was on a triple word score.
Heh I rule!

But mother wouldn't let me have genfic, any Harry Potter words, "Stargate" (which would have gotten me the seven letter bonus) or yaoi. She's so very mean.
litlefallofrain From: litlefallofrain Date: January 18th, 2005 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
My friends and I actually play Potter Scrabble all the time. 'Tis quite fun! And all words are go, as long as you can find it somewhere in canon. So we've got the stack of 7 (FB & QtA included) piled up next to us, and are constantly flipping through.
murgatroyd314 From: murgatroyd314 Date: January 18th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Triple letter score and triple word score on the same word? Is that possible?

I've played around with Scrabble possibilities from time to time. The highest-scoring word I've come up with so far is 'quartzite', ending in the bottom-right corner. The word alone would only be worth 27, but the 'z' is on a double letter score, and the word hits two triple word scores, for a total score of 333.
butterflysteve From: butterflysteve Date: January 18th, 2005 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yup it's possible. But got the word wrong by one letter... it was Queers. It was on the left hand side, if I remember rightly and somewhere near the middle. I'll find my scoring sheet for that game later.

Out of curiosity how is "quartzite" possible? Wait... did you put down quartz first then ite, because I can't thik of any other way to do it. But wow... 333! You win Scrabble fanatic hands down.
murgatroyd314 From: murgatroyd314 Date: January 18th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
The method I came up with for "quartzite" was to put down "art" one turn and "qu...zite" the next. That's necessary to get the full score, as letter and word premiums count only on the turn in which they are played.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: January 18th, 2005 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, it's not possible...the DLS square are along the same rows as the TWS, but you can't get a TLS and TWS on the same word. "Quartzite" would work if the words "ar" (yes, a real word) or "it" were already in the same column, and then you put down the remaining letters around those to get both TWSs in the same row.

(all y'all should join the Internet Scrabble Club! www.isc.ro My name is Majotaur.)
maerchen From: maerchen Date: January 17th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

If it makes you feel any better...

yourdictionary.com says 'fifed' is so an inflection of 'fife'.
violetsocks From: violetsocks Date: January 17th, 2005 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi there! I've been lurking around your journal for a while, after finding you through a friend's journal. I just thought I'd let you know that I'm friending you because I enjoy reading Shifts and your various essays on fandom. :)
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: February 3rd, 2005 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd be unstoppable in Scrabble if it wasn't for my tendancy to do exactly that, and try to use words the dictionary claims are not real. (I play a computer version, versus the computer, since my moving to Egypt and my usual challenger's moving to Minnesota). And yes, it's exactly that sort of thing--suffixes, prefixes, and the occasional word I forget is 'net- or fandom-central, and it doesn't even occur to me to look it up, because it's so very obvious to me!
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