Is this for real? I just found the Free Rice site (through Seth Godin) that has a word game that promises to donate 10 grains of rice through the UN every time you correctly pick the right meaning of a word. It’s an admirable mission, although I wonder just who is counting out those grains of rice. The site says it has donated 1,712,371,750 grains since it began on Oct. 7.

The site claims playing the game will help us “formulate ideas better and speak more precisely and persuasively,” but I’m not so sure. The words are pretty obscure and not likely to be seen in ordinary speech, unless of course you’re talking with Conrad Black, lover of grandiose words. For instance, I made it up to 280 grains before I was felled by “imaret,” not found in my dictionary but said to mean “inn.” There was also “gammon” (ham), “hebetude” (stupidity) and “perspicuous” (lucid). When you get three words in a row wrong, you go to an easier level; three right, you go to a harder level. It’s actually fairly addictive.

It reminded me of the breast cancer site, where you click to donate a free mammogram to women in the U.S. The site began in 2000, and since then, busy clickers (and shoppers of the convenient store) have funded more than 11,000 mammograms.