The game is simple enough: it presents a word (supposedly an English word, but we have had our doubts on occasion) and a list of four potential synonyms. Choose correctly, and ten grains of rice appear in a wooden bowl in the developing world. Three correct answers in a row inflates your score/ego by one point. Choose incorrectly and you lose a point (don't worry, though--the Third World gets to keep its rice). According to the FreeRice people, everybody wins: we get more words, they get more rice. And it's all paid for by advertisers such as and Toshiba.

We admit that our motivation has little to do with aid to the less fortunate, and even less to do with improving our vocabulary. We simply wanted to trounce our savagely competitive word-game-oriented grandmother. Which we did: for one brief, shining moment, we attained a score of 49--"it is rare for people to get above level 48," the FAQs tell us.

"Improving your vocabulary can improve your life," say the FreeRice folks. Bitter experience has made us less sanguine: testing our improved vocabulary down at the local watering hole, we found that our newfound conversance with temerarious periphrasis was somewhat escharotic to our fellow patrons, and we barely escaped a retrose and edentulous expulsion from the establishment.

We hope FreeRice's claims about alleviating world hunger are better-founded than their claims about better living through word power.

Reader's Digest