Place-Name Wordles

I’ve put together a couple of place-name versions of Wordle: one covering the whole of Scotland (SPNle) and the other covering Dumfries and Galloway (DnG-le).

An (entirely unhelpful) answer map for DnG-le, showing the location of the 132 place-names in the game’s correct-answer list.

There’s plenty of linguistic interest to be found in the databases behind these games: patterns in the length (letters, syllables, elements) of place-names; how letter frequency and distribution differs between the lexicon and toponymicon; Anglicisation of Gaelic names; what counts as a place-name, and so on. However, what struck me most in putting together these games is how generous people have been been with their skills and knowledge.

I say ‘putting together’ because I actually did very little other than filtering the GB1900 Gazetteer down to 5 letter entries and then a wee bit of tidying up. This database is largely the work of over 1000 volunteers who transcribed the text on the OS 2nd edition six-inch maps. The Wordle clone was built by Hannah Park and subsequently developed as React Wordle. Once I’d forked this and edited it as SPNle, I had no idea how to get it running on the web. After a Twitter-plea, Heikki Vesanto put the game up on his site. You can still play SPNle there: A wee bit later, Martin Carlin let me know about Vercel, which can host the game in a couple of clicks. Steven Kay solved a frustrating bit of formatting for me.

I’ve never met any of these folk and I’m very grateful that they’ve freely shared their time and expertise. It’s been a positive reminder of the collaborative, open-source ethos that characterises the best of the internet.

This map, unlike the one above, shows all five-letter, one word entries in the GB1900 Gazetteer, including entries like ‘Cairn’ and ‘Stone’ which more often than not won’t be place-names. SPNle uses just under 1300 of the places marked on the map.