Over the past few months, Wordle has skyrocketed in popularity, with cryptic grids of gray, green and yellow squares appearing on social media. But why has the online word game captivated so many people? And what makes it interesting from a linguistic standpoint?
The game is challenging, but simple: Once a day, players have six guesses to identify a new five-letter word (all players receive the same word on a given day). Each guess provides color-coded hints: a letter turns green if it is in the correct spot, yellow if it is part of the word but in a different spot, and gray if it is not in the word at all.
But what makes Wordle so charming and addictive, said University of Chicago linguist Jason Riggle, is the sense of validation it offers—affirming our intuitions about language when we land on the correct answer.