Words: Real, Imagined or Omitted

I love word games. I get to use words that never come up in real life. I learn new words when my friends make plays that stump me. Bookworm Heroes has been the greatest daily diversion for me lately, and part of the fun is having a friend text me mid-game to say, “VITIATE? What does that word even mean?!”

That same friend later stumped me with REINSTAL. Even my spell check is stumped by that one, actually, but the game accepted it, and my dictionary assures me that it is a valid secondary spelling of reinstall. (I don’t approve of that nutso secondary spelling, incidentally, but then, I’ve never gotten over the fact that you no longer have to double the ending consonant when you change the tense on a verb. You kids today with your crazy grammatical style… I’ll be over here on my rocker, kickin’ it old school with the UK and Canada.)

But being here on the receiving end of player feedback adds a whole new dimension to the game for me, because I not only get to learn the new words that my friends know, I get to learn the incredibly bizarre words that complete strangers know as well. This happens mostly in the context of “missing words” reports.

Since Bookworm Heroes came out a couple of months ago, we have received a handful of screenshots of words that were not accepted by the game, and I have looked up each word I didn’t recognize. (It’s the easiest “bug repro” in history — type the word into a dictionary search engine.)

Here are some of the words I learned lately from player reports:

Yottabyte.  It sounds like a fast food cyber cafe to me, but it turns out this is totally a word. I don’t see it coming up in conversation a lot, but hey, neither does vitiate.

Prolamin.  Some kind of protein my gluten-free friends are missing out on.

Reclusory.  Now, looking at that word, I instantly understood what it would be, and, well duh — it’s a place where you’d find a recluse. Still, it was new to me.

(Point of interest: spell check doesn’t recognize any of these words.  Yet they are in the dictionary. This is what vexes people about the English language, isn’t it? Well, that and the whole “eye before ee except after cee” business.)

And then there are the “missing words” reports we get about words that aren’t technically missing… they’re omitted.

Some of these are a matter of standard word game rules.  Proper nouns are typically not playable words. The rule of thumb is simple: would you capitalize the first letter? Then don’t try to play it.  Seattle, for instance, is a proper noun and therefore not a word.

Then there’s another category of omitted words, and this is the grey area that some players find capricious. But hey, it’s a family-friendly game, and parents like to use it as a teaching tool, and we couldn’t be prouder of that.  So… there are some words that we disallowed in the game. If a word has a totally legitimate primary definition… but also a very commonly known offensive slang meaning, for instance, it’s probably not in the game. If a word is theoretically innocuous, but you can easily imagine a parent not wanting to have to explain it to a young child, we may have left it out.

So, by all means, keep letting us know when you find missing words in Bookworm Heroes! While you could play solo word games and just run through your own vocabulary ad nauseam, competitive word games make for endless learning as you literally get to see a set of letters through someone else’s eyes. And hearing from you helps us fill in gaps in our own lexicon… or Lexicon, if you will.

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