Word Games for the Road

Welcome (back) to Amaze-ing Words Wednesday where we enter the labyrinth of language together and follow the scarlet thread to find our way around.

Down here in Texas, school is either out or almost out! While it isn’t officially summer yet, plenty of people will be hitting the roads in the next few months seeking enlightenment, relaxation, or fun. Whether you’re going on a trip to tour museums or amusement parks, you might need something to keep you entertained while in the car.

Summer road trip, here we come!

So here are some Word Games for the Road! Try something from the following list as a fun travel game with your friends or family. If they refuse to cooperate, tell them you aren’t stopping for a bathroom until they agree. Then make as many references as possible to water, rain, lakes, rivers, etc. until they can’t stand it anymore and conclude that a word game sounds like a lovely idea!

I love my love. The first person starts by saying, “I love my love with an A because he/she is __________.” The blank is filled in an adjective that begins with the letter A. The next player must say, “I love my love with a B because he/she is ___________.” Then C, then D, and so on. When a player cannot answer appropriately, he/she is eliminated. The last player left wins.

Example: I love my love with an A because she is amorous.” “I love my love with a B because he is bold.” “I love my love with a C because he is crazy.” Of course, time to respond is short, or you’re out. And letters like Q, X, and Z will be particularly challenging.

from The Fun Encyclopedia, E.O. Harbin, 1940

Name that lyric. Have you heard of Name That Tune? In that game, one player hums a tune and others try to guess the correct song. The first one to do so wins that round. But what about lyrics? Try a round of Name That Lyric instead. One player speaks lyrics from a verse or chorus of a song, and the first player to guess the correct song (full title) wins the round.

Examples: “Ground control to Major Tom.” I don’t know about you, but I’d have that one after the two words “ground control.” However, “I heard that you’re settled down, that you found a girl, and you’re married now” would take me a while (Adele, Someone Like You). Of course, this game is only fair if you select songs that most of you would have a shot of knowing. Still, my siblings or childhood friends and I could have a fabulous time with a round of lyrics using songs from way back when (Are You a Child of the 80’s?).

Progressive Poetry. The first person begins the poem by any line he/she chooses. Each successive player adds a line to form couplets (or more). Example:

We drive all day and drive all night.
We try to avoid a fight.
But Johnny is touching me.
And I don’t have enough room for my knee!

At least, that’s what it might sound like in my car. You must give each person a little time to think of something, but you might come up with some silly lines and enjoy seeing what you all can create. (You could also vary this into a rap song.)

from The Fun Encyclopedia, E.O. Harbin, 1940

The Alphabet Game. Using signs of all kinds (road signs, billboards, business names on buildings, etc.), find words that begin with the letters of the alphabet. First, find a word that begins with A, then B, then C, etc. Each player must call out the word they are using since each word found can only be used by one player.

For instance, if a sign says “La Quinta,” only one player can get that Q word, and other players must find another sign with a Q word if they are on that letter. In addition, each player can only pull one word from each sign, so if you saw “Acme Bricking Company,” you cannot do A, B, C in a row; you can have the A and find another sign with a B word. License plates don’t count, but players can decide ahead of time whether bumper and window stickers and manufacturer and brand names on cars will be accepted. Players must go in order, and the first to find words with each letter wins.

from my sister, and I don’t know where she got it

Categories. The first player chooses a category, and players take turns naming items within that category until they run out. For example, if the category is cartoon characters, you might hear SpongeBob, Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, and other such names. The category can be anything, such as Disney movies, songs by David Bowie, shoe brand names, words for stupidity (believe me, there are a lot), video game titles, etc. You can play such that the player who gets stuck is eliminated, or just keep the play going for fun.

from Family Road Trip: 10 Word Games to Play

Questions Only. Have everyone in the car act out a scene — with dialogue only, of course. The catch is that everything must be worded as a question. You start with two players talking back and forth in questions. When one makes a statement, stumbles, or hesitates, he/she is replaced by another player who continues the scene. Each time someone messes up, that player is replaced by another. See how long you can keep the scene going or who can remain in the scene the longest.

from Whose Line Is It Anyway? TV series (For more suggestions from this show, see Mark’s Guide to the Games. Other word games include Alphabet, If You Know What I Mean, Interview, and Rap.)

Now what are some of your favorite road trip word games? What do you like to play when you’re traveling?

Wednesday Words: Are You Game?

I am outnumbered in my family!  Living with three boys, I am often sucked into playing a strategy board game in which I feel like I’m plotting a geometry equation or preparing for the next World War.  If the choice was left to me, we would play word games A LOT!  I know I’m not the only one out there with this predilection.   

Why are word games so engaging?   As I’ve said, language is rich.  Word games rely on the ability to rearrange letters to make a word or to know definitions of obscure words or to describe a word without using any form of it.  The desire to communicate with another player or simply play around with words themselves drives the success of these games. 

Here are a few of my own favorites:

Scrabble – The quintessential word game in my opinion, but that may stem from my grandmother’s insistence that we play the game every time we visited her.  She kept her Scrabble set out on a Lazy Susan on her dining room table, ready to go whenever guests graced her home.  The game involves using seven letter tiles to form words and then placing them on a checkered board.  Scoring is determined by the value of the letter (e.g., E=1, K=5, Z=10) and bonus points available on certain board squares (e.g., Double Letter or Triple Word scores).  I’ve played everything from “at” to “myriad” and in between.   

Apples to Apples – I was first introduced to this board game at a couples’ retreat.  There are two piles of cards – one with adjectives and one with nouns.  An adjective is thrown out each round, and players compete to throw out a noun card which best describes the adjective played.  For instance, “Notorious” might be met with cards saying “Lizzie Borden,” “Richard Nixon,” “Aliens,” and “My Mother-in-Law.”  A judge in each round chooses his favorite, and the player whose card won gets a point. 

The pace and enjoyment of this game depends entirely upon the knowledge, quick-wittedness, creativity, and fun-factor of your players.  I’ve played with overly serious people and counted the minutes (no, seconds) until we were done, and I’ve played with loose and fabulous friends that made me fall off my chair with laughter.  Anyway, it’s a great game for a large group of friends, and my family enjoys the Apples to Apples Jr. version (for 9 yrs+) as well. 

Catchphrase – I have only played the electronic version of this game.  Sitting in a circle with all the players, you divide up into teams (every other player is how we’ve done it), and try to guess a word described by the person holding the Catchphrase contraption.  Meanwhile, the clock is ticking . . . literally.  When the time is up and the buzzer goes off, whichever team is holding the game gives a point to the other team.  It’s like Password or Taboo in that you are describing a word provided, but the race against the clock and the randomness of the buzzer keep the game moving.  It’s always a kick when I’ve played this one with a group of women.  It’s particularly fun to have people hurriedly trying to explain, gesture, and yell to get someone to guess correctly! 

Hangman – No board needed!  Who hasn’t played this one?  It’s a perennial favorite.  And it should be.  It’s fun for both sides.  Choose a word, draw the gallows, and if the other player can’t guess it, you hang ‘em high.  Or try to guess a word by throwing out letters before you get hung.  It’s the perfect waiting-room activity for you and your child.  And you can vary it to teach names or words you want others to learn.  For instance, studying mythology?  Use Hangman to have a group of students guess the Greek god you’re thinking of.  I can recall hours of playing Hangman as a child with my sisters and friends, and I’m still tickled when someone sits next to me and draws it on a piece of paper. 

What word games do you enjoy playing?  Do you have any new or obscure recommendations?  As I look at my short list, I realize I need to add to my repertoire! 

Now back to my family playing word games.  Lest you think that I am merely attempting to sway the stakes in my favor, my logic-minded, non-talkative husband beats me in Scrabble almost every time.  In fact, the first time I pulled the box out, I blabbed on and on about how I had played so many times growing up.  I was sure I would defeat him so badly that he might actually cry.  Instead, he played a word with all seven letters on the Triple Word Score, cinching a landslide victory that smarts to this day. 

But the fun is in the playing!  I’ll be back at it again soon.  How about you?