I’ve mentioned before that I love word games and these can take all manner of forms from Scrabble and Boggle to The Times’ cryptic crossword. (I pass on the latter. If I go for crosswords, it is always the quick kind!).
I will often unwind after an evening’s writing by playing Scrabble on my phone.
The advantage of using technology to play a board game is it does mean I never have to worry about losing a tile again. It does also mean I can’t lose the Q or the X no matter how much I want to at times. There is always a downside to technology!
Oh and before you ask, I have been known to get miffed when the computer, which effectively is what the smart phone is in many ways, beats me at Scrabble yet again. I am improving though.
Over to You
Talking of word games, I thought this post could stretch the old brain a little bit. Hope you have some fun with the following. Here are some anagrams of well known book titles. I’ve also left out missing words from books etc. See how many you can get. I’ll put the answers in the comments box mid-week next week. No prizes. Kudos if you get them all.
Foresight then, Lord.
Add juniper, pierced.
Media theft tougher.
A hulk, obese.
A cami ninja
Joining nor thyme
Armchair cat loss
Exposure misted northerner
Author belief employ
Missing Words from Titles
…. .. .. . …….. Island
A ….. In …….
The …. .. … Library
…… and Son
On … …….’S …… …….
The ……….’S ….. .. … ……
Word Games when out and about
Childhood car journeys were made more fun by various games to play en route. There was good old I-Spy.
Then there was Pub Cricket. My sister and I would take it in turns to “bat” and “bowl”.If a pub sign had a picture which had no limbs of any description on it, that would count as a lost wicket. For example, The Duke’s Head would count as a lost wicket. If a pub sign had limbs on it, your runs would be the number of limbs on that sign.
So what you really wanted to find here was something like The Coach and Horses as you would count up the legs of the horses and the arms and legs of the coachman/men on the sign (and I must admit some of those signs are wonderful works of art). Whoever had the most runs at the end of the journey won.
There were word games too and these revolved around car registration plates. You would take the three letters of a car in front of you or passing by (as there were only the three back in the 1970s) and you would make either the shortest word possible from those letters or the longest. Sometimes we did both with the same letters.
You had to use the letters in the order they were given and start your word with the first letter. For example, an old car of my late father’s had as its three letters VOW. So for a short word, well you’ve got vow itself of course. For a longer one, there is the word vowels. What you dreaded finding was a car registration along the lines of QXC. Now there’s a challenge! Sometimes you’d have to pass or only use two of the three letters. (Oh and I submit quixotic for your consideration for that one!).
Of course, these days you’ve got an extra letter to play with thanks to the change in style of registration plate, so you could add that to the game or use it like a wild card in canasta where you can use it where you want.
Crosswords and Wordsearches
Word games go back longer than I anticipated. See the link for more on that though I did know crossword puzzles weren’t invented until the early part of the 20th century and then to fill space in a newspaper! Now it’s hard to imagine a paper without them. And they are the lifeblood of the puzzle magazines, along with that other staple, the good old wordsearch.
Many moons ago, when I was in my teens (told you it was a while back!), I used to devise wordsearches for the church magazine. We had an old Gestetner machine and produced the magazine in our kitchen every month. The text had to be on stencils which were then put through the machine. The smell of the newly produced magazine was quite something though and took a while to fade! Oh what a blessing the invention of the photocopier was! There are two smells which I will always associate with my childhood – one was for the ink used on the Gestetner and the other was when my mother batch baked bread. No prizes for guessing which I preferred.
The Point of Word Games
I also remember having a word square game which I think must have come from a Christmas cracker. I haven’t been able to find a picture of it but it had a board which could take 16 small tiles. There were only 15 tiles in it. A space was deliberately left so you could move the tiles around to form different words. There was also a numbers square game like it. I loved both, though my favourite of the two was the word one. I guess, looking back, I shouldn’t be surprised at that.
Word games were always popular in my family. My paternal grandfather and father loved crosswords. My mother was a Scrabble “nut” (so I know where I get my fondness for the game from).
And the point of word games?
The main one is to have fun of course but I’ve found they can be great for improving your vocabulary. A working knowledge of the dictionary is always handy for the avid Scrabble fan. My sister and I used to moan at our mother for coming up with words which she swore was in there. She was right… some of the time! Not sure what my mother would make of me playing the game on my phone though.
But I think it is good that the old word games are still popular. I would hate them to die out. I suppose some of that is due to nostalgia on my part, but word games force you to think and stretch your brain. I don’t get time to watch Countdown but I can see the point of it. (Oh and I have occasionally played that on my phone too though I deliberately limit how many games I have on there at any one time. When I’m not using Evernote to draft stories etc on said phone, I am playing games on it! I like to think of it as exercising different sections of my brain. That is my story and I am sticking to it!).
Word Games and the Writer
As a story writer, I have to have a good knowledge of words and their meanings, especially if I’m writing a humorous tale where a good pun makes all the difference to the success of that tale. (Success in terms of making the story work that is, anything else is a bonus and you can’t assume anything!).
This is even more important for my flash fiction work where the word count is reduced and every word I use has to punch its weight. So if I can use words with more than one meaning I do so and save on the old word count at the same time.
So playing about with words does have a more serious side to it.
Another childhood memory is of coming across the word soporific in The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. That one had to be looked up in the dictionary. Is it a good thing to break off reading by going to look up a word you don’t know? Generally not. You want to keep your reader with you until they have finished your story. The ideal is to look up the unknown words afterwards. I don’t see how Beatrix Potter could have got away with that now.
These days I want to be able to pick up words in context. The exception is for non-fiction where I would expect to come across things I don’t know. That is the big thing about reading non-fiction after all – you want to learn (!) – but I would expect a good glossary of terms. It makes all the difference to understanding and enjoyment and that for me is the whole point of reading.
You want to be stretched but you also want to understand and clarity of thought and communicating that to a reasonably intelligent lay reader is not as easy as it may look. You can bet a lot of editing has gone into the final piece you read so it is at that point.
Nobody but nobody writes a perfect first draft. No matter what the technological changes, that won’t change. Words are to be edited and honed so the perfect meaning is got across well.
Words are for fun, entertainment, and knowledge. Playing with them for me is a natural adjunct to what I do as a writer then. Here’s to many more, all of the entertaining kind I hope!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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