What’s In A Word

Do you sometimes try to look back at a run of bad days and try to identify what helped send those days packing, what rescued you from the doldrums? I like to think if I could retrace my steps, I might be able to call on that memory to rescue me from current malaise. Usually, I can’t put my finger on the moment of recovery. I remember being dreadfully homesick and not liking university one little bit. I was engaged in a lot of tears and whining, begging my dad to let me come home. My cousin took me to a Bee Gees concert, and I felt a reprieve from homesickness. Though temporary, I do recall the feeling of excitement and awe as I sat at the edge of my seat listening to that unique harmony and I didn’t have a single thought of home for two hours. I don’t think a Bee Gees concert is in the cards these days; Barry Gibb is the lone survivor. When I was eight, my sister and I were engaged in what we thought was good fun – jumping on one side of her pony and off the other side as fast as we could. Smokey, her pony, bless his heart, tolerated this annoyance in good form, but it didn’t end well. In one of our falling off the “other” side of Smokey, I fell on top of my sister and broke her arm. In fairness to me, no witnesses could be called upon for testimony, nor could we examine security camera footage on slo-mo to identify the moment the humerus bone in her upper right arm decided to break, but I was willing to be the guilty party. In moments of trauma, parents like to assess blame. “How did this happen?” my mother said, with hands on her hips. Actually, it was more of a yell. I hung my head and my shoulders drooped as I received a verbal lashing. In regret, my mother gave me ice cream for supper and let me watch The Wonderful World of Colour (Disney) while I had my supper on a tv tray. I think that was her way of apologizing. And it worked. But then ice cream solved just about any problem when you’re a kid. My dad carried my sister home and I wanted to point out it was her arm that was broken, not her leg, but I stayed nobly silent. Ice cream lifts my spirits even now on a hot day, but I’m not sure it is the miracle cure it once was.

These days the stakes are much higher, the problems more severe, the news laden with devastating events at every turn, take your pick. As I read the news headlines from Ottawa this week, I wondered if I had been transported to some other country, but it turns out we have our own inventory of thugs – those who think it’s acceptable to wave a swastika, to desecrate a war memorial and a statue honouring Terry Fox, the kind of hero very few of us can claim to be.

As an antidote I have been reading jokes in the midst of all this madness. One I particularly enjoyed was about those who get their facts, including medical advice, from Facebook, should be prepared to have Mark Zuckerberg perform their next colonoscopy or bi-pass surgery. The jokes help. Laughter always does.

I have good news. I stumbled upon, as many people have, a sure-fire antidote to languishing. It is called wordle. I make my morning coffee and sit down and have a wee game with wordle, a fun-filled start to my day. I can even boast of getting the right word on the first try. In all honesty, I am not clairvoyant, but rather it was a lucky guess and had nothing to do with good “ciphering”. I think the word was SPEAR, but it was more than ten minutes ago so I don’t remember.

Wordle is an on-line word game created by Josh Wardle that allows for six attempts to guess a five-letter word. Colours are used to guide the guesser – orange means the letter is in the word but positioned incorrectly and green means correct letter in the right spot. Even wordle is under threat as The New York Times has purchased the game from Josh and probably plans to make some money with it. But for now, the game is free. I wish I had thought of it. Like Frederick Banting and his team who discovered insulin and sold the patent to the University of Toronto for one dollar, I would have let the masses play Wordle for free into eternity.