Is IZ a Word In Words With Friends? An Update.

Since mentioning several weeks ago that IZ is a playable word for some Words With Friends players and not for others, that post has generated more search engine traffic through this blog than any other post. (The situation, briefly: Players with most Android devices could play IZ and several other words that are unusual even by word-game standards; iOS users and many others could not. This frequently resulted in an unfair advantage for the Android players since they had extra opportunities to use their tough-to-play, high-value Zs.)

This week, the good folks at the WWF fan and tournament site,, posted an update:

One of our players has a connection with the producer of the wwf app at Zynga. She posed the question about the words being allowed by Android users and not Apple users. Here is the response:

I was a bit confused when I saw this, as we JUST made some changes to address this issue about a month or two ago. However, when I looked back, I saw that you’re completely correct: that some of our changes didn’t take affect for Android users!!

We do make changes to the dictionary periodically, but we always try to update all platforms/users at the same time. Because the Dictionary is stored inside the app on your device instead of our servers, users on different devices (or even on different versions, if someone hasn’t updated lately) could still be seeing different word lists. I just made the fix for this a priority for our next Android release, which should be the last step to get everyone (iPhone/Android/Facebook/etc…) back on the same word lists. Expect that in the next 2-3 weeks!

Going forward, once the new Android update is out, you and your tournament friends will always see the same lists, as long as you make sure everyone has updated to the latest version of Words With Friends on their devices! (Making everyone update their App is probably a good rule for tournament play anyways!)”

This will be good news to end the frustration that many of us have encountered. I would recommend that everyone update their wwf app at the end of every monty so that we are all playing with the same dictionary for the Monthly tournament as well as the Daily Challenges.
Nov 21 Update: Zynga has fixed their dictionaries. Learn more.

The Bittersweetness of Having Arrived Here In the Future

énouement n. the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future, where you can finally get the answers to how things turn out in the real world—who your baby sister would become, what your friends would end up doing, where your choices would lead you, exactly when you’d lose the people you took for granted—which is priceless intel that you instinctively want to share with anybody who hadn’t already made the journey with you, as if there was some part of you who had volunteered to stay behind, who was still stationed at a forgotten outpost somewhere in the past, who was still eagerly awaiting news from the front.

(From The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. “Its mission is to harpoon, bag and tag wild sorrows then release them back into the subconscious.” Here are three more.)

Your AME Rules, My AME Sucks

So the word IZ plays for some Words With Friends players, and not for others. Judging by the big search engine hits for that post, many of you are ready to enter IZ in the dictionary only if its definition is something like “A perfect(ly awful) cocktail of neologism, meaninglessness, and competitive injustice.”

Here’s another one: AME.

I lost on that one this week: A buddy played it successfully; a few turns later I tried to take the lead and go out by playing it myself under his exact same word (my A beneath his M, my M under his E); and the game dictionary in my Kindle said, No! I still love you, WWF, but I might have to start calling you Not-Quite-Words With Friends.

(On the other hand, there’s this particular irony: M-W says AME (AmE, actually) means “American English.” The smile I got out of that almost made up for the bitter, bitter loss.)

What the Meaning of Iz Is

So apparently, the latest update of Words With Friends added the word IZ to the dictionary of playable words…but only for players with the game installed on Android devices. Is this problematic because…

  • …IZ isn’t in the Merriam-Webster 3rd New International Dictionary Unabridged (the official national spelling bee dioctionary, the one that weighs as much as a pregnant Bichon Frise)?
  • …now Apple-users will have to get used to a niggling feeling of uneasy inferiority?
  • …everyone knows the 3rd person singular present of “be”—and “iz” ain’t it?
  • …why should only one awesome Hawaiian songster be commemorated in this way?
  • …now me and my Kindle will triple-word you iPad users two ways every day till Tuesday– yeah, that extra 60+ point every game’s gonna bite a little?


Nov 6 Update: Here’s a bit of news from Zynga, via a player at the fan and tournament site,

Nov 21 Update: Zynga has fixed their dictionaries. Learn more.

Suddenly We Can’t Call it Simply a THING Anymore

After posting that rhyme about retronyms earlier this week, I thought: These things must be everywhere!

After all, a retronym is the new word for an old thing, the new word that becomes necessary when a thing becomes an old thing because along has come a new thing. And suddenly we can’t call it simply a thing anymore. (“It’s coined when innovation’s done / And then refers to Version One.”)  And technology only moves forward, society’s always changing, and products are always getting new and improved. So the opportunity and necessity for retronyms is vast.

More words are retronyms than I’d ever paid attention to before. Check out this tiny sampling–once upon a time, none of these was even necessary:

bar soap  sit-down restaurant acoustic guitar whole milk contiguous United States World War 1 handwriting visible light plain M & Ms Survivor: Borneo silent film hard copy black licorice live music cloth diaper English muffins conventional warfare manual transmission corn on the cob

(From the Wikipedia entry, List of Retronyms.)

The Retronym

The Retronym, by Scott Emmons

The retronym’s a useful word,
A favorite of the language nerd.
It’s coined when innovation’s done
And then refers to Version One.
To wit, our mail was simply mail
Till e-mail forced the added “snail.”
I had to wait till I was grown
To learn a phrase like “land-line phone.”
And no new tricks for this old dog!
The watch I wear is “analog.”
There’s “Classic Coke” and “in-ground pool.”
The retronym conveys “old school.”
But now my lesson’s done.  I guess
I’ll watch some “Star Trek: TOS.”

(Found at The Daily Rhyme.)

Three Obscure Sorrows

Zielschmerz n. the exhilarating dread of finally pursuing a lifelong dream, which requires you to put your true abilities out there to be tested on the open savannah, no longer protected inside the terrarium of hopes and delusions that you created in kindergarten and kept sealed as long as you could, only to break in case of emergency.

degrassé adj. entranced and unsettled by the vastness of the universe, experienced in a jolt of recognition that the night sky is not just a wallpaper but a deeply foreign ocean whose currents are steadily carrying off all other castaways, who share our predicament but are already well out of earshot—worlds and stars who would’ve been lost entirely except for the scrap of light they were able to fling out into the dark, a message in a bottle that’s only just now washing up in the Earth’s atmosphere, an invitation to a party that already ended a million years ago.

kenopsia n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.

(From The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. “Its mission is to harpoon, bag and tag wild sorrows then release them back into the subconscious.”)