There’s a good chance that when you logged on to Facebook today, you were met with grids of yellow, green, and black squares. There’s also a good chance that you posted a similar grid.
Many of the more than two million people who have taken to playing the Wordle word game online have been posting their results, either boasting of their victories or lamenting how they’ve been stumped. The suddenly and wildly popular game, an invention of Brooklyn-based software designer Josh Wardle, asks players to guess a five-letter word based on codebreakers’ strategy.
Inevitably, imitations and parodies have popped up, from Sweardle, which asks you to guess the swear word of the day, to Absurdle, a contrarian version that changes the word with every guess just to trip you up. The game’s also available in French, German, and Italian.
Now developers have contributed Yiddish and Hebrew versions — but not before solving a few problems unique to those languages.
“One question I struggled with from early on is which words to choose for the word of the day. Hebrew has many prefixes and suffixes, and words that have a lot of them are kind of unfair to the player,” explained Israel-based mathematician and software developer Amir Livne Bar-on, who is behind the Hebrew version he calls Meduyeket — Hebrew for “exactly.”
Bar-on also decided to eliminate the sofit, or “final,” form of certain Hebrew letters that change at the end of a word. Users had complained to him that the sofits were confusing, and so he removed them; the keyboard now has 22 letters instead of 27.
Other challenges? “Words in Hebrew are morphologically denser – they have fewer vowel letters, diphthongs, doubled letters, and other redundancies,” Bar-on said.
By day, Bar-on creates algorithms for public transit optimization, and he works on projects like Meduyeket in his spare time. He notes that the word game is his first Hebrew venture. All the others are mathematical – like a wallpaper for your computer screen whose design changes every time it reappears.
“Vertle,” a Yiddish Wordle, had the potential to be as confounding as the Hebrew version. Yiddish is written in Hebrew script, with historical and regional variations in the ways characters can be used as either vowels or consonants.
Jamie Conway, a programmer and mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, tried to avoid any orthographical dilemmas by using the Standard Yiddish Orthography adopted by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Vertle’s 35-letter keyboard does away with certain letter combinations that YIVO does not use.
Conway, who has designed the typesetting for the Yiddish translation of the Harry Potter books as well as the “Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary,” initiated the project simply because he could. (Conway married into the Teaneck-based Yiddishist Schaechter-Viswanath family, is the brother-in-law of Harry Potter translator Arun Viswanath, and is raising his children in Yiddish.)
“Many Yiddishists have the same thought throughout their day: ‘If I can have this in English, why can’t I have it in Yiddish too?’” he said. “I was enjoying Wordle in English, and I thought, ‘Why not in Yiddish?’”