Booknerds are Wordnerds


“Booknerds are Wordnerds,” Photo © Bob Trube

It’s not universal, but if you meet a booknerd (or are one), chances are good that underneath there is also a wordnerd. By that, it means you enjoy learning new and unusual words, or have fun with puns, you like a good turn of phrase or you play word games like Scrabble or Words with Friends, or love to immerse yourself in a good crossword puzzle.

Recently, my “Question of the Day” at the Bob on Books Facebook page was “Curious to see if lovers of books are lovers of word games like Scrabble? Are you?” A number responded and I tallied 109 “yeses” and 22 “nos” to my totally unscientific poll. The number of responses however, and the margin, as well as common sense, suggests there is something to this.

Reading is a celebration of words strung into sentences or verses, paragraphs or poems, engrossing or informing us. Studies such as this one point to a relationship of reading and vocabulary growth. Like many of you, when I came across an unfamiliar word and asked the meaning, a parent or teacher usually said, “there’s the dictionary; look it up.” We do love when authors use words well. Some of us also write, and know the difference between the right word, and the “nearly right” word.

I’ve discovered that the kinds of word games we like to play reflects our personalities. Some of us are much more solitary, preferring word searches, word puzzles, and crossword puzzles. Others of us are much more social and love games like Scrabble or Words with Friends. For some, our love of words spills over into love of facts and we like to play “Jeopardy” or Trivial Pursuit. There are certain games we are passionate about. One person loves to play Scrabble though he rarely wins. Another wrote, “Words with Friends for fun; Scrabble for blood.”

Scrabble was the game most mentioned, which may just be a function of the way I asked the question. Next came crossword puzzles followed by Words with Friends. There were a few other old standards including Boggle (one of my favorites) and Upwords. Bananagrams, CodyCross, word search puzzles, Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy also garnered multiple votes. The most interesting and unusual game was FreeRice, a multiple choice quiz game, that includes a vocabulary version, that donates 10 grains of rice for every right answer to the World Food Programme (this is not an endorsement of the game or organization).

One of my old favorites is Fictionary, because there is no game to buy. All you need is a dictionary that people take turns searching for obscure words that everyone else makes up “fictional” definitions while the real one is mixed in and then people try to guess which is the real one. I’ve gotten hours of laughter from that one!

Not everyone who loves to read loves word games, and that is fine. Some just like reading more and seeing word games competing with reading. The most frequent thing I saw were people who did not feel they were good at spelling. I wonder if there were some bad memories there. I heard someone recently who was a music teacher say that those who thought they couldn’t sing well were often told they couldn’t sing as children. Maybe the same applies to word games.

For many of us, though, our love for books and our love for words and games with words, go hand in hand. Is that so for you?