If Emily Post Played Words with Friends

by Emily Kemme

The world has become more complicated since I was in third grade. It used to be that I knew exactly who my friends were, and I knew that because they were the ones who handed me a birthday party invitation when the teacher’s back was turned. I had a couple of guy friends back then, too; I knew they wanted to be my friend because one gave me his steelie marble, the other, a beautiful, mariner blue clearie. The friend with the clearie, I think his name was Chris, had an edge, because, although variegated cats eyes were plentiful, and steelies made satisfying, noisy clicks when they hit another marble, there weren’t all that many clear, blue marbles. It was the color of the ocean, it was the twilight blue of nightfall, before the stars came out. It was beautiful to behold. He was special for that reason, and I have his marble in my sock drawer, along with the other marbles I won in games. The rules of friendship have changed, since then. Now there are virtual friends, for whom we have strict categories, classifications and hierarchies. Now, you can purchase a ten-pack of Ice Blue Clearies for $3.50, and they’ll ship them to your door. There’s no need to get down in the dirt, and win them. There is no need to be nice to somebody, on the oft chance that they’ll give you their prettiest marble. On Facebook, friends are easy to acquire, with a quick (and soundless) click. It may be that they are a friend-of-a-friend, that’s good enough. That’s why I’m addicted to the game Words With Friends. You can get down in the dirt, scrape your knees, and really figure out what stuff someone is made of.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Facebook is an interesting game. If you choose to play (and that choice is optional), you can categorize the friends you acquire. People can be classified as acquaintances, close friends (although no guidelines on proximity are provided), or you can create your own distinctions for whatever box you feel that person best fits. I’ve never checked people off, or given them a designation. For a while, I thought about doing that, until I realized I was spending more time trying to figure out how to describe my relationship to a person I may not see more than once a year, or longer than that, if it’s a high school classmate for whom there was a rush of nostalgic affection, possibly alcohol-generated, at a reunion. I still enjoy their company, whenever I see them. The connection is as strong as ever. But, the efforts at classification were taking too much of my valuable time, which was when I made the decision to lump everyone together. Facebook friends are the cats eyes of the marble world.

If friends were marbles, what type would they be?

If friends were marbles, what type would they be?

I enjoy the interaction on Facebook. This particular social media method is a pleasant way of keeping in touch with a whole bunch of people, sort of like a virtual drive-by at the grocery store, those brief interchanges, such as, “Hey there! Nice to see you!” It’s the type of superficial conversation which would never encroach onto someone’s personal habits. It isn’t the place to ask, “Have you put on some weight since I last saw you? Are you sure you want those four quarts of ice cream? There’s a big sale on carrots right now. Let’s go stock up on those babies!” If you get right down to it, I’ve always thought it was off limits to eye what anybody has placed in a shopping cart. It’s one of those life moments where the etiquette is blurry.

On Facebook, we can be “likers,” which translates into a noncommittal, “Uh huh, that’s cool,” or possibly more enthusiastic, “Nice job! Go get ’em!” You can click through a newsfeed fairly quickly, with those “likes,” and I suppose it makes people feel you’re tuned in to them. I know it makes me feel that way.

At times, I get an overwhelming urge to comment, something I do infrequently, for the reason that my comments tend to pop off the top of my head (as does much of my conversation), and I worry about what will people think I meant, by saying that? I spend a lot of time worrying, “Will that sound sarcastic?” (Probably) “Will people think the comment is mean-spirited?” (It is not). Or most often, “Maybe I should just say nothing at all.” I err on the side of inclusion, I suppose. That’s why I spend many nights, losing sleep.

I bet I’m not alone in these worries; even etiquette maven Emily Post has waded into the jellyfish-infested waters of getting along with each other, Social Media style. I’ve considered Liking her Facebook page, but know that, if I spend all my time reading the rules, my mouth will stay permanently taped shut.

I've decided WWF isn't the venue to show off vocabulary skills. Unless, you happen to hit a triple word. It's a great way to stay in touch with people, though!

I’ve decided WWF isn’t the venue to show off vocabulary skills. Unless, you happen to hit a triple word. It’s a great way to stay in touch with people, though! Any hints what to do next? Or would Emily Post frown on that?




That’s why I’ve become so fond of Words With Friends on my iPhone. To begin with, it’s limited. You may only have twenty games running at any given time, and no one need know with whom you are playing. I tend to run games in two’s, mainly because it’s difficult to keep track of who started one. If you lose, should you be the initiator for the next game, showing what a good sport you are? Or, would Emily Post recommend that the winner take the plunge, indicating that even though they walloped you by 120 points, they still believe in you, that there is merit to your attempted competition?

Once the game is on, a whole playbook of etiquette-driven issues must be broached:  May players utilize the ubiquitous, and therefore wimpy copouts, such as “xi” or “xu,” when dealt the x tile, or is it better gamesmanship to wait in agony in the scant hope that a “t”, “a”, and “i” will materialize before your eyes? After all, what else can you spell with an “x”, other than “taxi?” Don’t even get me started on the groans I let out when dealt a “q”. “Qat?” The only time I’ve heard that one used in real life is when my son’s mouth was stuffed full of gauze after his wisdom teeth were pulled, as in “Qat did you say, Mom?”

Way back when, in the days when Scrabble was made out of cardboard, and tiles were silkily smooth pieces of wood, if someone played a word, there was always the option to challenge it. This meant that an opponent had to own a workable vocabulary, and back it up with a dictionary-approved definition. WWF allows the player to test the market. You can switch around tiles until the cows come home, or at least until something finds accord with the WWF dictionary, much of which is incomprehensible to me, a person who has a thing for words. You can’t challenge, unless you want to look like a sourpuss.

The social element of playing a game remains; I have some opponents who enjoy bantering while they play, others are ominously silent. They can be steelies; they mean business. I learn strategy from all my opponents. The game gives insight into how people think, even if we’re not face to face. Do they build alongside other words, foregoing opportunities to show off their linguistic prowess (which, as we know, ends up sacrificing points)? Or do they aim to win, with minimalism their creed?

My WWF people, they test boundaries, and often joke about it, sharing their day with me, in the best of virtual manners. I think Emily Post would agree:  they are the ocean blue clearies in my virtual life.

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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,  https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.



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Linde Thompson April 15, 2013 - 8:26 am

Might have known your love of words and your iPhone has you puzzling away in WWF. Let’s have a game!

Emily Kemme April 15, 2013 - 8:45 am

You’re on!

Lynne Hugo April 9, 2013 - 7:32 pm

This brought back such memories of my marble collection in elementary school, kept in a (fake) velvet drawstring bag. As I recall, the Connecticut word for “clearie” was “purie.” My favorites were the pale turquoise. I wouldn’t risk scratching or losing them in a game!

Emily Kemme April 9, 2013 - 7:35 pm

That was smart. I used mine. Can you see the nicks in the picture?

Judy April 7, 2013 - 5:28 pm

We won’t get too old to enjoy playing a game with a friend!
I enjoyed your blog.

Emily Kemme April 7, 2013 - 7:42 pm

Thanks! And this recommendation from my 21-year old son: “I want to play WWF with you, Mom, because it’s good for your brain as you age.”

Dede April 5, 2013 - 11:08 pm

I enjoyed that, Emily!

Anonymous April 5, 2013 - 9:25 pm

I love my WWF collie friend….and this article should def be posted on WWF Facebook page. A good read. What a talent you are.

Emily Kemme April 5, 2013 - 11:14 pm

Thanks for the great suggestion! I posted it on the WWF Facebook Fan page. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

R.j. Kahn April 5, 2013 - 8:01 pm

Reminds me of my marble days on the streets of New York. We had old cheese boxes and different sized holes were made. You wagered your marble on the hole size. Some returned 5 for 1, some 3 for one, etc.
If you missed a hole then you lost your marble. If you cared to gamble more, you got down and dirty, shooting marbles on a sewer cover, or just against the curb. Steelies, immies, etc, counted certain points and were used appropriately to annihilate an opponent.

The world changes, but the games of life continue, with different venues, but with the same competetive spirit.

Michelle April 5, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Loved the article, Emily. Especially since I myself am addicted to playing WWF.


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