By Caitlin Kelly
I’ve always been proud of my vocabulary and I’ve been writing for a living since university.
But it’s humbling indeed to realize how many words I still don’t know or just don’t use.
I recently began playing the New York Times Spelling Bee and am officially addicted!
It’s shaped like a flower, with seven letters — six around a central letter that must be included in every word of four or more letters.
Its feedback as you play is so New York-ishly competitive….as you make more words and score more points (with more points for longer words) it goes from Nice to Solid (!) to Great to Amazing.
The highest level (which I have yet to attain) is Queen Bee.
And I’m such a nerd that when I come up with a word that uses all the letters — that they didn’t include — there is much gnashing of teeth. How dare they!
It teaches me a lot about how I perceive, how I think, how I see (or don’t!) see patterns.
And words I never use or have never heard before.
How could I have missed anime?
I don’t follow it as an art form, even as I know what it is. So my eyes didn’t discern it.
And let’s not forget tontine — an obscure 17th-19th century word for a kind of insurance.
It’s really interesting to work hard at it for a bit, get tired and frustrated, then go away for a while. Maybe an hour or more.
Almost without fail, the minute I see it anew — boom! –– there’s a word right in front me I hadn’t noticed.
I like that it forces me to take breaks and refresh my brain.
I also play Scrabble with my husband, but more often now solo against the computer at the advanced level. It drives me nuts when it — often — makes obviously French words! Like quai.
I also need to memorize a lot more words using q, j, and z.
He and I play Bananagrams and he’s gotten very good!
What I like most about it, other than it’s easily portable (the tiles come in the cutest little yellow cotton sack that looks like a banana), is it forces players to move fast and be super flexible. If the word patterns you’ve made aren’t allowing for the next letters, break ’em up and move them as needed.
This is huge, this sort of instant destruction. It’s the opposite of Scrabble, where you aim for the highest possible score every time. With Bananagrams, the goal is to use up all the letters as fast as possible then shout “Bananas!” when you win.
It’s a little odd that I work with words and also play with them. But I like that they’re not only my bread and butter but a source of real pleasure and relaxation.
These games are a fun and easy way to stay mentally sharp, to grow my vocabulary, to savor a bit of competition.
Do you play any word games?