Outwhirled and OutScrabbled

I thought I was getting an iPad just to save my back and some trees. But the lean, mean machine doesn’t just let me haul a complete set of books and articles to class in my purse. Now, thanks to my friend Pam, I am using it to play something called Words with Friends.

It sounded innocent enough.

“You’ll love it,” she said. “It’s a lot like Scrabble.”

I’m a Scrabble-lover from way back, so I couldn’t download it soon enough. After all, it’s free (money, not time) and before I laid eyes on it, I convinced myself it was “educational” and would probably make me eloquent.

Besides, Scrabble holds fond memories. Growing up, I remember my dad tossing aside work in favor of a hot Scrabble game. Some of our most spirited debates were over high-scoring words like “Unjar.” Without Scrabble, I would never have realized that anything capable of being jarred could also be unjarred. And I wouldn’t have wondered if the same principle applied to canning or dancing or even applauding. In a family that normally discussed the price of potatoes, Scrabble took us to a whole new level.

So it was with sentiment and passion that I downloaded Words with Friends, assumed the code name zyngawf19892 (which I couldn’t figure out how to change), and electronically planted WART, a measly seven-pointer, across the star in the middle of the board. I should have realized right away that if WART was the best I could do, WWF might be a humbling. But it didn’t take long to find out.

In the very first game, my daughter came up with the word OUTWHIRL for 72 points. In the old days, under the family rules, I could have said, “What? Outwhirl?” and jumped up to consult Funk & Wagnall’s or Merriam-Webster. If it was there, fair enough. If not, the burden would shift to her to explain exactly what an “outwhirl” is. Not with WWF. The game takes away the fun by either instantly accepting the word or declaring unconditionally that “outwhirl” is not a word. No arguments.

Right away, we’re bidding sayonara (a high-pointer, I bet) to the educational component. No need to look up the word. It either is one, or it isn’t. And no built-in advocacy training. Thanks to WWF, probably fewer and fewer English majors will succeed in law school. S’long (not a word) to eloquent briefs.

I, however, am doing my best to profit from the (considerable) time spent with WWF by looking up words such as “outwhirl” and finding out what they mean. FYI, it is possible to outwhirl someone when you whirl better than they do. It is only from WWF that I know that “cloot,” which won me 54 points, is one of the divisions of a cleft hoof – knowledge that one opponent points out will come in handy if I am ever a veterinarian in Scotland.

But mostly, I have learned that in two of three games, I have been considerably “outscrabbled,” a condition that WWF tells me is not a word but that serious players tell me I can overcome with much more practice.

Maybe. But with the new semester starting, it occurs to me that FLUNK is probably a word. And so reluctantly, I am turning it off.

Copyright 2012 Pat Snyder

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