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“Ultra” Is a Word, but “Lynch” is Not? The New York Times Has Already Ruined Wordle

With all the other bad things they have done over the past years, this is not nearly as significant, but it is telling. You know the Wordle game, very popular; and the NYT bought it from the originators, so now it is on their site. It is only a matter of time before they seek to make money of it, by putting it behind some kind of paywall.

But they haven’t yet, so I have kept playing. The other day, for the first time, I used a word that it rejected as a guess, because it was not on their list. MULER, which I had seen in adventure books as a boy, it is someone who drives or owns mules. That is not a common word, so no big deal, but it still was irritating. But today, something much more upsetting.

I tried the word LYNCH, which is useful for using five letters which I have not tried yet. But the site said that the word was not in their list. And why is that? The only possible reason is that they have created an algorithm which takes out all the words whose connotations they do not like. Which by itself is appalling, on more than one level.

It is a word game, the connotations of the words are irrelevant. I don’t use the word in a word game because I approve of the meaning, I am trying to guess letters, and need to think of words which provide many untried letters But NYT has decided that the word offends people, and so they don’t count it as a word? This from the publication which was famed for its crossword puzzles and other word games? They are bowdlerizing the language now?

I got the Wordle answer, but it was made more difficult because of it. Maybe NYT should tell us all the words they have expurgated from their dictionary. There are all sorts of words which taken in a certain context, might offend, or even be vulgar. Is this going to be like it is for broadcasters now, where you have to think very carefully before you say anything, because it might be on a proscribed list, or offend someone? That is one thing, this is just a word game.

I rarely use vulgarities, and I am well aware of connotations. But apparently the New York Times doesn’t want anyone to use the word “lynch” in any form of conversation or writing. If that is not what they are implying, then why is the word not in their word list to be used as a guess? What other words are not there? Chink? (there was a story a few decades ago, about a student having a paper not accepted by the teacher, because he or she used the term “a chink in their armor.”) Screw? Punch? Breast? Who knows? Censorship casts a wide net, and one never knows what is going to be allowed or not.

This may sound like a trivial thing, and it is, in one sense. But it seems like another shadow betokening the rise of restrictions, prohibitions, and even punishments, for saying or writing or thinking what “1984” might have called “word crimes.”

I play Wordle once a day, it is a fun and challenging game. Can’t people be left alone to play it, without the NYT imposing its stupid word rules on them, which are apparently that any word that they don’t like the meaning or usage of, is not an acceptable word?

Meanwhile, of course, the NYT hid facts about Trump destroying classified and top secret documents, after making “Hillary’s emails” the red herring of the century. Their value system is warped. They don’t know better than everybody else, certainly not about what words should be in the dictionary.

Oh, and the Wordle word of yesterday, “ultra,” is not a stand-alone word to me, and I almost did not guess it, because I thought it was not a word, though some do think it is. It was considered a word by NYT, that is fine, but “lynch” is scrubbed from their word game dictionary, because…they can do it?

Why don’t you write some more about Hillary’s emails, you sanctimonious disgraces to journalism. They hid the Nazi atrocities, too, but that is in a book about another era not so long ago. The book is “Buried By the Times.” I received it as a gift, but the story was too depressing for me to want to read. This little story about the Wordle game seems to me to be just another, infinitely less important, but not to be ignored, example of powerful entities which seek to control the dissemination of facts, and freedom of expression.

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28 Responses

  1. Interesting essay, William. I play Wordle every morning and have missed only one answer since I started playing it. I have you to thank for introducing Wordle to me through your previous essay. It is a highly enjoyable game.

    I already answered today’s word but I wanted to test a few possibly “offensive” words to see if they are excluded from the word list, so I cleared my browser. Sure enough, “lynch” is not considered a word. But I discovered that “jewed” is. Really? A word most Jews would consider offensive but the NYT thinks it’s fine. Very strange. I am not one to be in favor of censoring any such words if they are found in standard dictionaries but who is making the rules about what is acceptable and what is not for Wordle?

    • Further research: The “b” word is not accepted by Wordle but the “c” word (plural form) is accepted. If you ask women which word they find more offensive, I think most would say the “c” word. The “b” word, as a noun, also is a common and nonderogatory word used to describe a female canine, so why is it verboten? Seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of these words that are excluded.

      • Lethe (a good word which most would not get!), this whole thing is ridiculous and so wrong! I comprehend why they would the blatantly anti-semitic term in.

        The C word would not seem appropriate, though it was originally an Anglo-Saxon term likely with no insulting connotation. The B word is indeed from the animal l world, it then was used as term of insult. I wonder about the other Anglo-Saxon terms for private parts, of which there are a few, though the P word has another entirely different meaning as well.

        The NYT is venturing in an area they should never be in. Don’t use any vulgar words as the answer, but if people want to use as a guess, hopefully just in order to rule out letters, do not expurgate them!

      • I can remember Elizabeth Hoffman, then President of the University of Colorado, testifying in a sexual harassment suit against the University’s Athletic Department that the “c” word was a term of endearment in Anglo-Saxon and therefore couldn’t possibly have been derogatory when used to refer to female athletes by members of the department.

        The court, to the amazement of all, did not buy this argument.

    • I must confess that I have missed one, too; and it came from being a little too confident, and thinking I could breeze through. Somehow I got to where i had one more guess left, and it was either Jerky or Perky, and I thought that (beef) jerky was a better word, and the answer was perky, and I was chagrined, and brooded about it for days.

      I lay in bed and came up with three better opening guesses, and since then I have not missed one, and have even gotten two words in two guesses, and a few in three. But do regret missing the one! One of my early guesses has been lynch, and now the NYT has taken that away for some absolutely inane reason, so I will have to think of another group.

      • The one answer I missed was SHIRE. I was down to my last guess and chose SHORE instead. WRONG! It was an off day.

        I usually get the word in three or four guesses. Getting the word in two guesses (twice) is quite impressive. I haven’t done that yet. Congratulations!

        • Thanks, but you record is as good as mine! How quickly one gets them is a bit of an extra feather, but the crucial thing is getting them in six or less,which you have done very well.

          • I got the word Moist in 2 guesses. I had the s…it was a proud moment!
            Today, even though I had 4 letters I did not get Robin….more disappointed in that than proud of the 2 guess answer.

  2. Replying to Tamens, “moist” was one of the words I got in two guesses, but I had the o, i, and s, which obviously made it easier than your very impressively getting it with only one letter!

  3. At one point I read somewhere that WORDLE (the original) used the dictionary found here. It does contain the word lynch, but does not contain muler (which I too am pretty sure is a word). I am pretty sure you are correct that they are blocking words that they don’t think are proper; and I also agree that this is a WORD game, so you have to take all words in your chosen dictionary. The online Scrabble game I play does no matter how offensive some might find them. Words with no context are just WORDS.

    I have never gotten a WORDLE in 2 guesses, 3 is my best, and I am still on my streak having missed only one since I found it, which was how I found out they allowed double letters. The day NANNA is the word a lot of streaks will end ;-o). I play a defensive game, and generally make the same first 3 guesses, which tests 15 letters. The few I have gotten in 3 guesses where cases where after 2 guesses I had enough to make a decent guess. I noticed yesterday that my wordl link took me to the times, and was pleased that they did do as the said and kept the statistics, but GREED being the quintessential American virtue that it is, I expect this might go behind the paywall at some point, although the Times Mini is still free.

    The day the word was moist, using my normal method I only had the o and i after my first three guesses; I tried foist and joist first… but eventually got it in six… PHEW

    Note to Lethe: If you’ve only missed one you obviously do not display the attribute your name implies.

  4. William FYI:

    This article (Guardian, no paywall) discusses WORDL since the change, and they do not see that there have been any changes. Did you ever use LYNCH in the past, during the ‘True Wordle Era’? Since lynch is in Collins, I would think that the times has a list of ‘so-called’ offensive words that they exclude.

    I don’t think it is getting harder, and IF I wrote the game I would be picking a word at random from the dictionary used. The word game I wrote I had 8,592 5-letter words in my dictionary; Collins(Brit Scrabble) has 12,972; and NASPA (US Scrabble) has 9,383. I would imagine the reason Collins is used is because it has the most 5 letter words.

  5. jmac, impressive that you still have only missed one. i hope there is nobody who has never missed one, but there probably is somewhere.

    Yes, lynch was a word I came up to use with after missing the answer the one time, and i have used it many times until yesterday, when learning it was expurgated by the NYT. There are now articles about various words they have proscribed, and there may be more, they are still working on it, they say. Maybe it will be like the Puritan Primer. And what makes it even more absurd is that words that one employs in the game are not seen by the public. And yet they are not letting people use a word like lynch, because they want to protect someone from a word which has a bad meaning. Do they write about David Lynch, or Jane Lynch, or should they change their names? I think that the word trump should be banned, and the game of bridge change its nomenclature. Take out spades, too, and clubs, maybe diamonds is okay to have as the only suit, the NYT will decide.

  6. “Purim” is not a word according to Wordle but “Shmoe” and “Shtup” are.

    Could the game have some WEIRD SENSE of HUMOR?

    • I tried “PURIM” as my third guess the other day when I only had the “R” and “I” (I knew “I” was the fourth letter) and it was not accepted as a word. The answer was “ROBIN” which I got on my sixth guess.

    • IMO Purim is a proper noun, the name of the holiday… but as a goy I could be wrong, William will give us the final ruling.

      • Well, I never thought that holidays would not count as nouns to be used in word games, but that may be an old-fashioned view on my part. Would Easter, e.g, be accepted in Scrabble? I would not think so, but it is probably used by various players.

  7. According to the website Game Rant, the NYT is removing certain words from Wordle it considers “offensive”. The NYT says this is in keeping with their policy regarding all their print and online operations. Some words already eliminated from Wordle are AGORA, FIBRE, LYNCH, PUPAL, SLAVE and WENCH. Other words considered ethnic or gender slurs are also being removed. It is part of an ongoing process of changing the word list of the game now that it is owned by the NYT.

    • This is ludicrous. I thought that an agora was a market area in ancient Greece. The word agoraphobia means fear of open spaces. So how in the world does agora merit censorship? Do the people doing this have any knowledge of words?

      Slave is often used as a verb or metaphor. Bryan Ferry wrote a song, “Slave to Love.” People slave over hot ovens.

      Wench is a perfectly acceptable word, which even has charm. My parents went to one of those Medieval Times type restaurants and the woman with a peasant blouse came up to the table, smiled and said, “i’m your serving wench.” There was an Inspector Morse episode, the only one which involved a murder from a long-ago time called “The Wench is Dead.”

      I am tempted to write another post suggesting words that the NYT could ban. Such as choke, slam, mute, sneer, beat, chicken, grab, leer, and polis (if we’re going to ban agora, might as well put in some other words from ancient Greece). Bang, trick, force, cheat, whip, so many words which censorious people can try to remove from discourse much like in Puritan days. This is what law school types like to refer to as a “slippery slope.”

      • Pupal refers to an insect in a cocoon type stage of development. It’s a word that some people may be unfamiliar with but why in the world would it be banned? Because it insults immature insects? It makes no sense. The same with agora. It’s a fine word, going back to ancient Greece like many other words in the English language. As far as I know, neither word has an alternate meaning that is offensive in any way. Even if they are uncommon words, learning them helps people to expand their vocabulary. Isn’t that a good thing?

      • WOW Fibre way to offend the brits, possibly Canadians too; I bet metre must be gone too.

  8. Perhaps the NYT can change to the 11th edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. Double plus good!

  9. The NYT says it is eliminating WORDS from Wordle that are considered “insensitive”, “offensive” or “obscure”. Imagine the possibilities and POWER jollies this creates for the NYT word police! Or rather don’t, because it is likely to make your BRAIN hurt.

    AGORA was removed from the word list for being “out of date”. Those ancient Greeks were such fogies. I don’t think they even had Netflix. How did they survive long weekends or snow days???

    People who live on Twitter complained that today’s word was too difficult. It required a bit of knowledge about the WORLD. I got the answer in four guesses. Not that I’m bragging. I’m just old.

    Expect to see Wordle being dumbed down going forward.

    • I got it in four guesses, too. It is a good word. But taking out “insensitive” words is so condescending, intrusive, and insulting. And it is also a reflection of the needs of many people to ban anything that they or someone who complains, doesn’t like. It would be amusing if people inundated them with various words that offend them. And yes, they will probably make the game easy enough for more people to do well, and hence subscribe to it. Is “hence” archaic? Why should someone not be able to use the word “agora” as a guess, archaic or not? The needs of people to dictate what they can say, write, or guess!

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