“Words With Friends” kidnaps innocent brain cells

Published 2:47 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2012

 “All our words are but crumbs that

 fall down from the feast of the mind.”

    — Khalil Gibran

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Computer games have been a no-no for me because who has time? I don’t know how to play online poker or any of those other games and have never wanted to learn.

So, back in December, when Alec Baldwin was thrown off an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York City when he wouldn’t turn off “Words With Friends” on his smart phone, I attributed the altercation to be the result of stubborn actor butts heads with stubborn flight attendant. If a game makes a person that crazy, I’m for avoiding it.

Over the Christmas holidays, however, the grandchildren gave me a tutorial as they sat, mesmerized, with their Santa-delivered Kindle Fire tablets, challenging each other with words I’d never heard. Hmmm, thought I. Nice vocabulary builder.

But remember the old saying that warns about curiosity killing the cat? Yep. One Saturday afternoon when hubby G-Man was on the golf course and I was looking for something to do besides laundry, I decided to see what all the commotion was about. If 20 million people were playing “Words With Friends,” I had to wonder what I was missing. A quick look couldn’t hurt, and maybe I’d play a simple little game or two with the grandkids. How much trouble would that be?

Spell it T.R.O.U.B.L.E on triple word tiles. “Words With Friends” should be banned; it’s addictive. I go to bed at night with words like “toxins,” “duvet,” “oleo,” and “nova” dancing in my head. Strange, strange, strange, this game.

How strange? I don’t know. It’s just a Scrabble game, but the board has a little different lay-out, has more bonus squares, and some of the tiles have different values. Otherwise, this is cyber Scrabble. If you’re not already hooked, don’t go there.

I should say right here that I’ve learned there are ways to cheat, sites that help players when they’re stumped. I don’t do that and, no, I have no curiosity about such a deplorable practice. Still, I wonder about some of my worthy opponents who come up with words like “ixora,” “za,” “lar,” and “weever.” Those aren’t words I use every day and probably never will — unless I’m playing “WWF.”

The old schoolteacher in me says look ‘em up yourself, but since I’m a generous sort, just in case you want to incorporate those words above into your vocabulary, here are the definitions:

(1) Ixora – Any of numerous tropical shrubs or trees belonging to the genus ixora. You knew that, didn’t you?

(2) Za – Slang for pizza. Umm, must be a California thing.

(3) Lar – A white-handed gibbon. Of course. A gibbon with white hands. Clearly.

(4) Weever – A fish with poisonous dorsal spines. Not your best friend. Avoid.

Well, I am learning the game and trying to give myself about 45 minutes to spend puzzling over letters every morning – when I should be on the treadmill. (Personally, I think the treadmill would be a lot more fun if “Words For Friends” could be programmed into the computer thingy.)

G-Man is trying to be understanding about this new word obsession. He studied me carefully the other day as I pondered how I could use my crummy tiles. I had 5 I’s, 1 U, and an R. Terrible. I couldn’t play, and my cousin Jane was killing me.

“Honey,” he said, “I’ve read those computer games can be addicting.”

“Yeah,” I said, “sort of like golf.”

Silence.  Funny thing; he apparently found no need for more words.