Die-hard Wordle fans are likely aware that the list of answers has been penciled in since the game was launched, as they were randomly assigned to a date and there are enough words to not repeat until late 2027. I say penciled, because it’s not totally unchangeable, and while people suspected that when New York Times acquired Wordle, they made it harder, the truth is they didn’t. They have only ‘removed’ words by moving them to the very end of the list, so they’re technically still possibilities… just in late 2027, but they were all words coming up.
While we shared our discovery last Friday, New York Times confirmed that they did proactively adjust the Wordle answer for May 9th from “fetus” to “shine.” The way that Wordle stores its data is in-browser, so those who did not refresh their browser still played the May 9th puzzle with the answer being “fetus.”
As of midnight Eastern on May 9th, NYT published a tweet in reference to the change for the May 9th answer.
They didn’t mention that they also changed May 10th’s Answer, which was
“gecko”. This means that if you didn’t realize that NYT switched things up or haven’t yet refreshed your browser, than you, too, will play the original word.
You’ll want to stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled (go play today’s Wordle, I’ll wait).
I’ve been keeping tabs on the changes NYT has been making, since we cover Wordle extensively, and there were a lot of updates that were made to the list in late March of 2022. When New York Times first acquired Wordle, they also removed some words, like lynch, which would have appeared in February.
I noticed that they seemed to omit and modify the list through October of this year, but there were some upcoming words this week that gave me pause and made me wonder if the New York Times was going to catch them and make some more modifications.
Sure enough, when I checked on May 6th, they pushed out six more words to the end of the list, two of which I was surprised hadn’t already been culled: fetus and butch. Those two were actually why I kept checking routinely for any changes to the upcoming answer list.
There are several words that NYT has effectively removed from upcoming Wordle puzzles where I can understand the rationale; they are often more emotionally- or politically-charged words and often would have occurred during times that would merely have amplified them.
In the United States, a Supreme Court draft majority opinion was leaked this past week that is looking to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is the case law that makes abortion legal, federally, in the United States, so a term like ‘fetus’ would certainly make waves if it went live in the next few days (it was supposed to be the word for May 9th). The debate over pro-choice and anti-choice has been fierce for decades in the United States as well as other countries.
In the leaked draft majority opinion, Judge Alito’s argument also puts certain rights at risk, most notably same-sex marriage and contraception (particularly emergency contraception), which may partially explain the removal of ‘butch’ as well, though there are other reasons to remove it from this month’s answers.
“Butch” refers to someone exhibiting more ‘masculine’ appearances or behaviors, often used in lesbian subculture. “Butch” is the opposite of “femme,” which would be exhibiting more ‘feminine’ appearances or behaviors. While it can be celebrated, the term has been used in a derogatory way by non-lesbians, and it can be offensive if ascribed to an individual who does not identify that way. Historically, those identifying as butch often faced harsh discrimination and oppression from within and outside of their community.
Knowing that there are plenty of words to play through, and that the games are meant to be lighthearted and fun, so the sidelining/soft removal isn’t surprising, especially given the timing. Obviously, NYT covers these topics extensively, so perhaps they want to keep Wordle as an escapist form of entertainment.
Here were words that I tracked from shortly after NYT acquired Wordle that were coming up in the next few months but were pushed until the end of the game’s word rotation, presumably as a way to ‘remove’ them from circulation in late March of this year. NYT sounds like they are working on “updating” the code behind Wordle, so I imagine they’ll eventually remove fully.
Words like ‘bobby’ and ‘harry’ seemed to get ‘removed’ because they can be used as first names and may have proved confusing otherwise. Other words that have been pushed to the end don’t always seem to have an obvious reason for the change, like ‘hasty,’ ‘hydro,’ or ‘flack.’ I’ve wondered if they just felt they were too similar to other recent Wordle, as a possibility.
I wonder who gets the task of going through upcoming Wordles and determining what words aren’t going to make the cut… at least, not any time in the next few years…
I no longer play Wordle now that NYT has drawn attention to their censorship of controversial answers, especially removing “butch”. This word is inoffensive when used by my LGBTQ+ friends – removing it does not reflect the liberal attitude I expect from the NYT.
I play 2 days ahead on a clone version, so I got FETUS on 5/7/2022, and went over and looked at the NYTimes JS source code, and sure enough, I saw that both FETUS and BUTCH for 5/9 and 5/10 had been changed to 2 words scheduled for August 2022, which earlier this year were originally scheduled for September 2027. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just let all the words roll up. It’s ultimately going to happen in August anyway, because the 2 words they moved up to 5/9 and 5/10, they didn’t replace with any later words. And I still don’t understand why they removed completely words like LYNCH, WIDOW, SLAVE and VOMIT and a couple others, instead of just sliding those to the end. Especially VOMIT. Why not? When I saved the new JS file with all the words, it reflected a revision date of 5/6/2022.
I got BOTH fetus and butch. Butch is a much more offensive word, in my opinion. It’s derogatory in most cases, and only used for one reason. Every time this game has two different words, I have gotten the one they didn’t mean to use. It’s annoying and making me want to give up on the game, because the whole point is enjoying it with others.
Me too Baba, I guessed hutch and dutch bc I thought no way they would use butch!
I also got fetus and butch while my husband got Shine and Gecko. So ridiculous that the NYT did this. What exactly is offensive about fetus? Are people that fragile that they can’t solve for that word in a word game because of a draft Supreme Court opinion?
Nyt is the new thought police. Thanks!
What pathetic behaviour. If they can’t cope with words why does NYT think it is fit to be a publisher.
Except today, I ended up playing the word fetus. When all my friends played another, shine. Super weird. We’re all in Australia and I just don’t know why I got a different word (it’s happened before, can’t recall if the word was as “political” though!), particularly if it was removed from the list. Feels very political given Roe v Wade and also super triggering being around Mothers Day.
I wonder why though that the words prior to May 6, that were scheduled for August 15 and 16 were moved up to May 9 and 10.
In England, fetus is spelled “foetus”. World gets a lot of complaints when they use American English-only words.
I think the changes have more to do with universality of word spellings than “political charge”. People complained yesterday about “homer” – a very common word in the US that isn’t used in the UK in the same way (they don’t do baseball).
Yeah, but I got fetus yesterday and gecko today….
and while we’re complaining about words that have or have not been removed, why remove bobby, harry and fanny and leave ralph???
And what’s wrong with payer and right with homer?
This whole Bowdlerisation attempt is beyond a joke: they need to reload a complete definitive list once and for all – or stop tinkering with it – the whole point is the joy ofcomparing results within a group, but we can’t do that if we’re comparing apples with potatoes.
Mel (139 not out)