Scaros: No Word Is Safe from the Long Arm of The New York Times
The game Wordle has taken America by storm, and The New York Times seized the opportunity. In early February, the Times bought Wordle and in a hot minute managed to emboss its giant, judgmental, patronizing, pompous imprint on it.
The game itself is simple, and it’s easy to see why it’s so appealing: The object is to unscramble a five-letter word in six tries by guessing other five-letter words. Each guess results in that word’s letters receiving either a green color for being in the secret word and in the exact spot, yellow for being in the word but in a different spot, and gray for not being in the word at all.
Suppose, then, that the secret word is TABLE. If your first guess is BADGE, then your A and E would be green (in the word and in the correct spots), your B would be yellow (in the word but in a different spot), and your D and G would be gray (not in the word at all). Five chances left and you’ve already guessed three letters, two of them in the correct spots. That’s a great start. Does it make sense so far?
Good, that’s the easy part. The hard part is trying to unravel the Times’ logic, or lack thereof. You see, the Times took it upon itself to change the original British version.
In some instances, the Times omitted words in European English in favor of the American version. For example, “fibre” was cut, while “fiber” was retained. Why not just keep both? For a newspaper with an international reach, that seems awfully Americanist.
Far more egregiously, sitting high atop its exalted perch and appointing itself the arbiter of good sense, the Times banned words it deems offensive. One such word is “slave.”
What is the Times’ reasoning here? That people whose ancestors were once slaves (which essentially describes every group known to mankind) will take it personally and be offended?
If that’s the case, why did the Times retain “Niger,” the name of a country in Africa? It is one “g” short of what is arguably the most offensive word in the English language, and there’s a good bet many who use it think that word is only spelled with one “g.”
That the Times would include the names of nations with five letters prompted me to explore more: China and India make the cut, but Italy and Malta do not. Hmm.
“Wench” is another word the Times thought prudent to remove, yet it had no problem keeping “hussy.”
As for wanting to keep slaves entirely off the Wordle board, what about peons and serfs? They’re still there.
In a recent Op-Ed, I wrote that the “N-word” is just the first step in eliminating a litany of words from acceptable usage. Not that I’d want anyone to use it, but where will it end? I predicted Hitler would soon have to be referred to as the “H-person,” but little did I know the Times had almost beaten me to it. Soon enough, it won’t even allow “slave” to be printed on its pages. It will be the “S-word” moving forward.
Of course, once we’ve banned multiple words beginning with the same letter, things will get even more confusing.
But look on the bright side: Wordsmiths in our country will be plentiful, as the American lexicon will have been reduced to a minuscule sliver of its former self.
For those who wish to play the original version of Wordle, before the Times politically corrected it, it’s still available.
You may want to bookmark the page, because the Times’ woke sweep may not be over, and permissible clue words will become scarcer and scarcer.
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