Slave to Wordle

The New York Times plays language police with its fun new toy

Everyone knew The New York Times would ruin Wordle. It was only a matter of when, and how. The “when” happened faster than we could imagine. The “how” is annoying but not surprising. As of earlier this week, if you wanted to use the word “slave” as an answer in the popular word-guessing came, you couldn’t. A little message pops up on the screen saying “Not on Word list.”


Also now banned: “bitch,” “whore,” and “wench.” Bitch has long been taboo in word games, even though, in the way of a fifth-grader on the playground, you could easily argue that it means “female dog.” “Whore” and “wench,” while not nice things to call someone, are definitely words. And so is “slave.”

I wouldn’t dream of using “slave” as a guess in Wordle, but not because I find the word offensive. It’s because “V” is one of the least-used letters in the game. Name five-letter words that contain v. There are some. “Viola” might be a good first guess in Wordle because you’re deploying three vowels. But in terms of placing the “V,” you might as well use the word “vowel.”

By guessing “slave” in Wordle, you’re not saying “I approve of the United States’s system of chattel slavery that the Emancipation Proclamation declared illegal in 1863, and I wish we could return to those glorious days where everyone knew their place.” That’s way more than five letters.

We all know that slavery is bad, and was bad, and that it’s one of America’s original sins. But we all also should know that millions of people all over the world remain in some form of slavery. The Times writes about these people sometimes. And “slave,” for better or worse, is in our popular vocabulary. You can be a slave to your work, or slave over a hot stove. According to Bryan Ferry, you are a Slave To Love. You can even be a slave to daily novelty word games.

Who is The New York Times trying to protect by banning the word “slave” from Wordle guesses? What are they trying to protect them from? Remove “cunty” or “felch” from the lists if you must. There are children present, after all. But let people guess slave if they want. Banning words is a lot worse than guessing bad ones.

If  you want to guess “Slave”, allow me to direct you to Lewdle. There you can get your slaves and your wenches, and so much more! As for the New York Times, is “Fucku” a legal Wordle?

Slaves and Dicks and Wench on Lewdle.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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