Spectacular Vernacular

The Making of Wordle

The creator of the online word game tells us about the product decisions that have us playing day after day.


Episode Notes

Episode Notes

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben interview Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle, the creator of the viral online word game Wordle. They also recap their participation in the American Dialect Society’s annual Word of the Year vote, over which Ben presided. And Nicole’s shares some on-the-ground interviews from the Linguistic Society of America conference, at which she presented some of her own research. And finally, we bring on a listener for some wordplay. Can you solve our final wordplay clue? You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.

Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at spectacular@slate.com.

Produced by Jasmine Ellis and Kevin Bendis

Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:

American Dialect Society selects “insurrection” as 2021 Word of the Year

Linguistic Society of America 2022 conference

Wordle: https://www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/

Slate, “Wordle Is the Moment of Zen We All Need Right Now”

Slate, “The Two Best Ways to Win at Wordle”

The Verge, “Done your Wordle for the day? Try out these spoofs instead”

Metro UK, “Wordle fans upset that British game is using American spelling”

  Abstracts for paper presentations:

Matthew T. Carlson et al. (Pennsylvania State University), “Can you un-hear that?”

Justin Pinta and Hugo Salgado (Ohio State University), “Loan verb integration in Spanish”

David Páez (University of New Mexico), “Verbal Semantics in Phonology”


About the Show

Linguist Nicole Holliday and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer discuss the ways language is changing, talk to scholars and writers, and set and solve word puzzles.

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  • Ben Zimmer is a linguist, lexicographer, and all-around word nut. He is the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a contributing writer for the Atlantic.

  • Nicole Holliday is an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on variation, intonation, and language in society.