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Wordle sparks transatlantic rift as Brits denounce American English spelling of ‘favor’

‘FAVOR?!?!?! REALLY??? It’s FAVOUR !!’

This photo illustration shows a person playing online word game “Wordle” on a mobile phone in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11, 2022. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — The “special” relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is strained once again, this time not over politics but over a new gaming phenomenon: “Wordle.”

The free online word game, which currently has an estimated 2.7 million players, gives people six attempts to guess one five-letter word each day. And one word this week has enraged British players, who branded the game unfair after it was unveiled to be one that used an American spelling, arguably putting players on U.S. soil at a significant advantage.

“FAVOR?!?!?! REALLY??? It’s FAVOUR !!” tweeted one user after realizing — or, perhaps, “realising” — that this is indeed a five-letter word in America.

'What’s Wordle?' and your other ‘Wordle’ questions, answered

Launched publicly in October last year, the game was created by Josh Wardle, a software engineer from Wales living in New York, for his partner, Palak Shah, who loves puzzles. At first, the game was played by family, before it was rolled out globally, Wardle told the New York Times. The game’s name is intended as a riff on Wardle’s surname.

Everything seemed to be going well. The New York Times called the invention “a love story,” while the Daily Mail declared it was “Taking over the ‘Wordle.’” Players on both sides of the Atlantic became hooked, sharing screenshots of their success in the form of colored squares on social media.

Until Wednesday’s word divided many in the English-speaking world.

“Today’s Wordle will not find favour with anyone in the UK,” read another tweet from a user who predicted that the British would be rather displeased once they discovered that the guessing game uses American English.

One of many puzzled tweets read: “Bloody American spelling. I thought a Brit invented this?”

Some pointed out that the game’s official website uses a domain — and that they expected it to use only British English and not American English. The term “British English” began to trend on Twitter in the United Kingdom on Wednesday and again on Thursday as complaints flooded in.

“My mum is also appalled by the Wordle scandal — we deserve justice!” tweeted one user. Several others said they felt “cheated.” Would this war of wordles ever be forgotten?

The uproar led some users to request that the game alert users when a word can be spelled more than one way, so that people do not unfairly lose out.

Josh Wardle did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

While Wordle has been around for only a few months, there have been other instances where players have voiced displeasure at the day’s chosen word.

In recent weeks, fans called out the game for inviting players to guess less familiar words such as “tapir” and “rebus.” According to Google trends, searches for the terms “rebus meaning” and “tapir meaning” soared in the United Kingdom earlier this month as people researched the words.

Wardle told the New York Times that he has around 2,500 words in the bank to keep the game going for another few years or so.

There is currently no iOS or Android app available for the game which can be played on the web only, although app stores are already filling up with copycat apps.

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