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55 Two-Letter Combinations That Actually Count in 'Words With Friends'

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"THAT's a word?"


If you play Words With Friends and are frequently demoralized by opponents scoring very big points using very small words, this list will help you up your game. If you don't play Words With Friends, perhaps you can work these into conversation.

Aa – Noun of Hawaiian origin describing volcanic rock consisting of angular blocks of lava with a very rough surface.

Ae – A Scot adjective meaning “one.” (The game appears to have an affinity for the Scots.)

Ag – An informal noun, short for “agriculture,” or an informal adjective, short for “agricultural.”

Ai – An “ai” is one of four species of three-toed sloth. They are native to Central and South America and one-degree toeier one than two-toed sloths.

Ar – The most likely definitions of “ar” that this could represent: a variant of “are,” or the spelling of the letter ‘R’ (see “ef” below for further commentary).

Aw – An interjection expressing sympathy, tenderness, disapproval or disbelief. (As in, “Aw, a rookie player unfamiliar with the fact that ‘qi’ is likely to be used in all our games. Poor thing.”)

Ay – An archaic adverb meaning “always” or an archaic interjection used as an expression of sorrow.

Ba – A noun referring to an aspect of the soul in Egyptian religion represented as a bird with a human head. Also, the second letter of the Arabic alphabet.

Da – From the Italian and Portuguese, a preposition meaning “from” or “of” – we see this mostly in names like Leonardo Da Vinci.

De – A French, Spanish, and Portuguese preposition meaning “from” or “of,” often used in surnames – we also see this in names like Danny DeVito (a fellow Renaissance Man).

Ed – An informal shortening of “education,” as in “driver’s ed.”

Ef – The spelling of the letter “f.” (As in, “Why the ef would they accept the spellings of letters?”)

Eh – An interjection expressing questioning surprise or seeking the repetition or confirmation of a statement or question.

Em – The spelling of the letter “m”

En – Another letter spelling (If your opponent employs all of these, you can tell him or her to go straight to aitch.)

Er – An interjection used to represent a pause, hesitation, or uncertainty. (The second-most popular word in Public Speaking 101, right after “like.”)

Et – Not sure if the game is accepting “et” as the nonstandard past tense of “eat” used primarily in the North Atlantic, South Midland and Southern United States or as a noun suffix having a diminutive force (as in “tablet”) Either way, weird.

Ex – Short for "excluding."

Fa – The syllable for the fourth tone of the diatonic scale (A.K.A. "A long, long way to ruuuun.")

Fe – No idea why this is accepted, but it is the symbol for iron.

Gi – A two-piece garment, usually white in color, worn by barefooted martial arts participants consisting of pants and a wraparound jacket with a cloth belt – short for keikogi or dogi. (I am not sure what they call it when the individual slips on some shoes.)

Hm – They are actually accepting this as an interjection expressing thoughtful absorption, hesitation, doubt, or perplexity. I always thought it had many more ‘M’s.

Ho – An interjection used as a call to attract attention (as in “Westward, ho!"), to exclaim delight or surprise. Or to tell a horse to stop.

Id – The Freudian component of consciousness that seeks satisfaction according to the pleasure principle. Probably the reason you are playing Words With Friends in the first place.

Jo – A Scot word for “sweetheart.” (As in, when the Jersey Shore cast does Season 12 in Scotland, Sammi will be “Sammi Jo.”) Its plural, “joes,” is also accepted.

Ka – A spiritual entity that is part of an individual believed to live within the body and survive after death.

Ki – The Earth goddess in Sumerian mythology.

Lo – An interjection meaning “look!” or “see!” Usually used as a part of the expression “lo and behold.” (Lo! Look how many two-letter interjections there are!)

Mi – The syllable for the third tone of the diatonic scale (A.K.A. "A name I call myself.")

Mm – I am not sure why this is accepted but it sure is handy to know. Maybe it's like “hm,” but used to express that something is yummy. I also thought this word had more ‘M’s.

Mu – The 12th letter of the Greek alphabet.

Na – Appears to be accepted as a variant of “no.”

Ne – I'm not sure exactly why "ne" is accepted. But it is. I swear. I saw it. It's the symbol for neon and the abbreviation for Nebraska, but neither appears to be the reason it's allowed.

Nu – The 13th letter of the Greek alphabet.

Od – A hypothetical force formerly believed to pervade all nature and be manifested in magnetism, mesmerism, chemical actions, etc. Also known as vital energy or life force. (“May the od be with you” may be a fun new joke to test out among your Star Wars-loving friends. Let us know how that goes.)

Oe – In addition to being the abbreviation for Old English (both the language and the malt liquor), oe is an interjection of Scottish origin used to express dismay, pain, annoyance, or the like. Along with “oi” (also accepted), it is a variant of “oy” (also accepted).

Oi – See above.

Om – The supreme and most sacred syllable in Hinduism and Buddhism believed to be the spoken essence of the universe.

Op – As far as I can tell, this is a shortened form of the word “optical” used in the phrase “op art,” which describes a style of abstract art where lines, forms, and space are organized in a way that creates optical illusions of an ambiguous nature. It is also listed as an abbreviation of “opus.”

Os – A plural noun that can mean a bone or a mouth/orifice.

Oy – se “oe” and “oi” above.

Pe – The 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Pi – 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816
40628620899862803482534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172
53594081284811174502841027019385211055596446229489549303819644288109756
65933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213
39360726024914127372458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436789
25903600113305305488204665213841469519415116094330572703657595919530921
86117381932611793105118548074462379962749567351885752724891227938183011
9491

Qi – Noun variant of “chi.” (This word appears to be used in upwards of 100% of games played, much to the dismay of newbies who are unfamiliar with the term.) The plural, “qis,” is also accepted.

Re – The syllable for the second tone of the diatonic scale (A.K.A. "A drop of golden suuuun.")

Sh – An interjection used to urge silence.

Se – It’s the symbol for the element selenium but I can't tell you why it’s accepted. That was just a fun fact.

Ta – The third letter of the Arabic alphabet. Also a British slang interjection used to express thanks.

Ti – The syllable for the seventh tone of the diatonic scale (A.K.A. “A drink with jam and breeeead.")

Ut – The syllable once used to express the first tone of the diatonic scale, now most frequently referred to as “do.” “Ut” is not considered to be another term for a deer, a female deer.

Wo – An alternate form of the archaic noun “woe” meaning grievous distress, affliction or sorrow.

Xi – The 14th letter of the Greek alphabet.

Xu – An aluminum coin and monetary unit in Vietnam, worth 1/100 of a dong.

Ya – An alternate form of the pronouns “you” and “your” and the 28th letter of the Arabic alphabet.

Za – An American slang abbreviation for “pizza” and the 17th letter of the Arabic alphabet.

Note: While there are 105 total two-letter words accepted in the game, we figured 55 was just plenty for now. Baby steps.
* * * * * *
Words With Friends accepts more than 173,000 words and uses as the basis for its vocabulary list the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon (ENABLE), which calls itself “the most researched, and therefore the most authoritative word list available.”

The Words With Friends website does indicate that they have added some of their own words, such as “zen” and “texting,” and players have the opportunity to suggest additional words here. I already checked—“poo” is already accepted; I am out of suggestions for the time being.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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