Clams Got Feet: Do Computers Cheat?


I wrinkle my nose, bringing it into alignment with the skin around it.

Vext? That’s not a word. Why is the Scrabble® judge letting the computer get away with playing a non-word?

Then the penny drops. The Scrabble® judge and the computer against which I am playing are one and the same. Talk about your conflict of interest. This electronic version of the game offers no challenge mechanism, so I suck it up and play on. But I make a mental note for future investigation.

It isn’t that I mind losing fair and square. Yeah, yeah, OK, I absolutely detest losing under any conditions, but I accept that I will lose sometimes if the game is hard enough to be interesting.

It isn’t that I mind the outrageous arbitrariness of rules that accept some abbreviations (mic, veep, ref, and trig among them), and summarily reject others (like wifi). After almost a quarter-century in proposal work — where Arbitrary Rules ‘R’ Us — I’ve become hardened to slings and arrows.

It isn’t that I mind the illogical acceptance of some non-standard spellings (luv for love, nan for naan) and the rejection of others (stoopid, ridicklus). Or that some non-English words are OK (piso, fiqh — or fikh if you prefer) but not ‘choy,’ as in ‘bok choy.’

No, no, I’m quite serene about playing the ball from where it lies. Really. I am.

But an arbitrary and illogical game is one thing. To think that the damn computer might actually be cheating — that would be the outside of enough. And so I mutter darkly and squint meaningfully. If the machine thinks I’m going to let this go, it has another think coming. But I mustn’t show my hand too early.

Vext: (archaic) simple past tense of vex

Appealed to after the game’s conclusion, thus speaks Wiktionary.

Either all the machines are in league against me — a theory that holds, if not a certain charm, then at least a certain plausibility — or vext is, indeed, a word.

Although I note suspiciously that all the quotations given as reference for this usage are from Tennyson — maybe the man just couldn’t spell — I can be a big girl about this. I can.

Am I vext? Certainly not. Nothing so ladylike. More like pitht.


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8 Responses to Clams Got Feet: Do Computers Cheat?

  1. Ralph says:

    Slings & arrows indeed ! Raises the bar appreciably for the expectations on us this weekend. I wish you luck.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I think you’re incorrect about clams. Clams don’t got feet, they got foot. Uno. Count’em, I mean count it.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Ah, yes, a quick Google search confirms that the line from the BC cartoon was “Clams got legs.” But “feet” is what I remembered and it rhymes better with “cheats.”

  3. John and I play a car game as we grind along in traffic (read: Ottawa driving): We try to make a word out of the 4 letters of a car’s license plate: as in BLVT or BORD. The second one is easy: Boredom, bored, borrowed… but the first one…not so much.

    What usually happens is that John will make up a ridiculous word and I make groan, making froggy face, demanding he use it in a sentence, which John will proceed to do, in one of his many thick UK regional accents, which always cracks me up and I will (occasionally) allow it.

    What can I say? we make our own fun.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I tried to teach someone this game once, explaining that more elegant solutions (as determined by the unwritten but indisputable rules) arose from adding only vowels to make a word, and maintaining the initial letter of the license plate and the word the same. He looked at me blankly. I’ve never made that mistake again. They get it or they don’t.

  4. If vext, why not belovet?
    If vexed, why not unplugit?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Tennyson is (lucky for him) beyond questioning, but I wonder if he would say that this substitution of “t” for “ed” is appropriate only for verbs ending in an “x”; hence, fixt. Or verbs ending in a “z” or “s”; hence, buzzt or passt. Maybe it’s conservation of “ts”: as they dropt off words like “dost” and “wast”, they had to go somewhere.

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