Word enthusiasts will geek out over the visually stunning and educational app Phrase Wit by Ballpoint Inc. Closely related to the developer’s other word-centric app called Word Wit, the Phrase Wit app turns exploring the nuances of the English language into an addictive quiz.
Phrase Wit introduces you to commonly mangled phrases (Think: “to pore over” versus “to pour over,” and “to palm off” versus “to pawn off”) and then teaches you the correct versions. Plus, you’ll learn the story behind some of these old classics (where did the phrase “scot-free” come from, anyway?) and the right and wrong ways to use them. And, if you’re feeling phrase-savvy, there’s a “Play” option that puts your knowledge to the test. Think you know your phrases? Hit the jump and let’s find out.
When you open the Phrase Wit app, you’ll see a gorgeous swirl of color with phrases in the center. “Spin the wheel” with your finger in a circular motion to call up various phrases (there are more than 100!) which appear in vibrant complementary shades. You can continue spinning until a phrase that interests you appears — just flick the extra phrases off to the side to make them disappear.
Clicking on any phrase will take you to its description page, where you’re provided with some some background on it, such as where the phrase came from, how it’s correctly spelled, and how you can remember the difference between it and its mangled cousin (for example, “blessing in disguise” versus “blessing in the skies”). The developer’s goal is to not only teach you the correct phrase and its proper use, but to also provide easy ways to retain the information.
Additional tools for committing the correct phrase to memory include the inclusion of quotes for each one. Select the thumb’s up to view a quote from a classic or current book showing the correct phrase used in the correct sense. Or, select the thumb’s down to see a quote from the Web showing the phrase used in an incorrect (and often humorous) manner.
If you’re looking for a phrase you may have originally passed up, or if you want to search for a phrase that you can’t correctly remember, you’ll find all the phrases under the List tab. (Ballpoint Inc. says this list will be added to and updated regularly.) Notice that you can see them all listed alphabetically according to either “common phrase” or “mangled cousin,” which is a very helpful option in the event you don’t know whether or not the phrase you’re thinking of is the correct version.
And under the Trends tab, you can slide a blue button across the screen to view an animated graphic (trivia: it’s called a Medusan circle) depicting phrases’ popularity among Phrase Wit users.
To take your experience from education and informative to challenging and addictive, tap the Play tab. Here a timer counts down from 30 seconds and you’re given four variations on a phrase. Choose the correct version to fill in the blank in the sentence above. Your score is shown on the right, and a coffee cup is shown on the left. Tapping the coffee cup takes you to the “Lounge,” where you can view your progress, including which levels you’ve unlocked, the number of phrases you’ve mastered and how many points you’ve accumulated.
You can also select the Master It! tab at the bottom of the screen at any time in order to see a list of all the phrases you’ve mastered. Click on any one to revisit its description page for a refresher.
On every phrase’s description page, you’ll find a Share button in the bottom right, which gives you the ability to spread your newfound knowledge via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email. (This capability could be used to let another word-loving friend know you found something neat … Or it could be used to, ahem, prove a co-worker wrong. The choice is yours!)
And if you ever get a little lost within Phrase Wit, you can always return to the Spin screen and select Info in the top left corner. This will take you to the User Guide page, where you’ll find instructions on how to use the app.
Ballpoint Inc. promises future inclusion in the Game Center, which means players will be able to share scores and compete with friends, which I look forward to as it will add a whole new level of competitiveness.
Overall, I’ve found the app to be well organized, entertaining, educational and easy on the eyes. The developers have taken a concept that could have been executed using just a very boring set of flashcards, and yet they’ve delivered the information in a highly appealing and memorable way. This app would make a great learning tool not only for native English speakers, but also non-native English speakers who are trying to master the language.
Are you a self-proclaimed work geek, too? What language-oriented apps do you love?