Saturday, September 17, 2022

Still Life with Robin: Parsing Wordle

by Peggy Robin

I do try to keep the "Still Life with Robin" column focused on things connected to life in Cleveland Park....or least in some form or another. Well, today I'm going with the somewhat weak-tea reasoning that lots of people in the neighborhood play Wordle.

And l conclude that the majority of people in this part of town failed yesterday's Wordle (#454). Around 55%, if we mirror the national average. I was among them.

On a typical day, 99% of experienced Wordle players solve the puzzle within six moves. But not yesterday. That was because yesterday was not a typical day. A bit of word-parsing will show why. [Stop reading right now if you haven't done Wordle #454 for September 16 but still intend to do so.]

The answer was PARER. It refers to the kitchen implement that I'm sure all of you would call a PEELER (six letters, one beyond the Wordle letter grid).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary does not have PARER as an entry by itself. It lists the verb PARE, and at the end of the entry, lists PARER as a noun that can be formed from PARE. No definition.

When I googled "image of parer" to see what Google users think a parer" is, Google asked me, "Did you mean PAPER?" and showed me reams and reams of images of paper. 

A few more googling attempts led to some synonyms: both "peeler" and "paring knife" turned up. But never in all my years of handling kitchen implements have I ever heard anyone use the word PARER in day-to-day language.

Perhaps outside the US there are  English-speaking people who are using this term. Now I have cooked or been present in kitchens during meal prep in a fair number of other English-speaking countries, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Belize (I might have left out a few!) -- and I can't recall any instance of being handed something called a parer and asked to peel a potato. Maybe it's too small a sample for me to opine authoritatively on the subject. But it's not too small a sample to keep me from complaining! 

PARER is UNFAIRER than any other Wordle word I've played!

Not only that, but once I had PA_ER on the board, there were SIX choices for the center letter that made legitimate words far superior to PARER. They are: PAPER, PAGER, PAYER, PAVER, PACER, and PALER. 

Now that my months'-long Wordle winning streak has been pared back to nothing, I hope to build back better -- and am off to a good start with today's Wordle #455, which I am proud to report I got in two moves. That's RARER than I like to admit!

Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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