There's a game you can play on Facebook, an application called Scramble, which involves random letters, like Scrabble tiles, on a 4X4 grid. You're given three minutes to find as many words as possible, moving up, down, backwards, forwards or diagonally from letter to letter.
Points scored increase exponentially with word length, so you get one point for a 3-letter word, 2 for 4 letters, 4 for 5 and so on. This being a culture very very big on empowerfulification, not unlike the Victorian Education Department in the 1980s, Scramble boosts your self-esteem every three minutes by flashing you up messages like this: CONGRATULATIONS! YOU GOT 139TH PLACE!
At the end of each game the screen also flashes up a list of all the possible words for that board, with green ticks next to all the ones you scored. If you've scored a word that nobody else online playing that particular game along with you found (and sometimes there are 400 people playing a single game), you get a blue star.
I am pretty ordinary at this game. I've been reading and writing the alphabet's 26 beautiful letters strictly from left to right for anything from two to sixteen hours a day, every day, since some time in the 1950s. Following letters in all directions to make a word does not sit well with me.
But I do score the occasional blue star. And I've noticed that when I get blue stars, I almost always get them in a very particular category of word, and it's nothing you'd think was obvious.
I often, for example, score words in Biblical forms and you'd think that might rack me up a few blue stars. While hath and wert are a doddle for anybody, you'd kind of expect you might score a blue star occasionally for sayeth and doeth and cometh and goeth and other such constructions that trippeth not off the tongue. But no. The overwhelming majority of Facebookers are young North Americans and they know their Bible pretty good.
But here are some words they're obviously not all that familiar with, because I've scored blue stars for all of them: NORI, SARI, GADO, OBI, HAIKU, VINDALOO.
You have to wonder.