When I’m in editing mode, or on a deadline, the first thing to go is the mobile games. They’re a distraction I don’t need, with one exception: Words With Friends.

That’s an exception because I’ve turned a pet peeve into a learning tool.

When I first began playing, I noticed one of my friends had a wider vocabulary in the game than they did in real life. A suspiciously wider vocabulary.

I finally called her on the word oleate. When I asked for the definition, she said, “Hell if I know. The game took the letters on a triple word tile and I got twenty-seven points.”

In my mind, this was straight up cheating. Spit-balling a word that you’ve never heard, that might not even sound like English, in the hopes that the game’s logic would take it perverted the whole point of Scrab … er, Words With Friends. My grandmother, who taught me to play, never allowed dictionaries or thesauri around the board – even though she would play to lose when I was young. Neither would my father, who played to win.

Outside a game setting, both were happy to define new words for me. In the game, though, you only checked the dictionary if you were officially challenging someone’s word.

If it was a word, the challenger lost their turn – if not, the word was removed, and the offending party lost theirs.

I stewed about my opponent’s unfair behavior for a few days before realizing – I still didn’t know what oleate meant. So I looked it up on the phone, and a light went on.

By looking the words up, even if opponents ‘cheated,’ my vocabulary increased. Why get upset about learning?

Since then I’ve embraced Words With Friends. I no longer consider spit-balling a cheat, but an opportunity to explore this beautiful, pleniloquent* language.

* – Not guaranteed to be accepted by the game, but I’m working on it.