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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Dictionary Game

The "original" dictionary game goes like this:

Materials: pencils and paper for everyone; one dictionary.

Rules: The first player selects a word from the dictionary and writes the definition on a piece of paper, and marks it with his or her name. The word is then read to and spelled for the group. Each player writes his or her definition on a piece of paper, and marks it with his or her name. The selector then arbitrarily numbers each definition and all the pieces of paper (including the real definition) are put in a container from which the selector of the word draws them one by one and reads them aloud, except for the names.

Play: Each player then writes down which definition he or she believes is the genuine dictionary definition, indicating by number, key word, or quotation. When all players (except the selector, who, of course, knows) has written down his or her selection of the genuine definition, the selector reveals the genuine definition.

Scoring: One point for each player who correctly identifies the genuine definition. One point for every vote that it was the genuine one goes to the creator of each wrong definition that got a vote as the genuine definition.

Strategy: Ideally, one would oneself identify the genuine definition while having written a definition which gets everyone's vote but one's own.

The Online Version:

Clearly, this game is not transferable to cyberspace, not because anyone would cheat but because everyone would -– except philosophers, of course, who are above such sordid behavior, but thin on the ground no matter where you look. If they'd eat more, they would be neither so thin, nor unable to stand up, nor so few.

The basis of the game online, then, is to entertain ourselves by creating interesting definitions and reading others' interesting definitions of words which we are all perfectly free to look up so that we can appreciate each others' ingenuity in creating plausible or witty or funny or offensive or any other kind of definitions -- so long as they are wrong -- or mostly wrong, or at least wrong enough that we know you didn't just crib it from the dictionary.

The word-picker is obliged to judge the entries in as entertaining (and therefore often as whimsical and even capricious) a way as possible, and report on the result to the group, in the process reviewing the other entries in as entertaining way as possible, and then naming the unlucky winner, along with the Coveted Second Place Award, and many others that the judge may invent on the spot. Or after reflection so that they'll be reasonably entertaining. Since I'll be picking the first word and the first unlucky winner, I'll have to do the first judging, which will, of course, be a model of wit and invention that you'd be wise to try to emulate -- though you will, naturally, fail.

Winning is a mixed blessing since the winner becomes the new word-picker, and is then obliged to keep track of the new entries, and to judge them, with commentary, for the entertainment of all.

When a round of play is over is entirely up to the word-picker of that round, but the judges are implored to get on with it, and threatened by the prospect, if they let their round drag on, of having to judge multiple entries as the natives, always restless, start to mutter and post definitions disparaging the judge and questioning whether his or her family life is entirely on the up-and-up. So if there is a rule it is to be entertaining and, if you have the brains god gave giraffes, to come in second -- or even last!

If you should have the misfortune to actually win, you are obliged to immediately choose another word and start keeping track of the entries, or beg off AT ONCE so the former judge can wipe the smug smile off the face of that giggling second-place person by assigning the top spot to him or her. Oh, be quiet -- when I split an infinitive, it STAYS split.

If, in the judgment of the Judicial Board (that is, me) too much time has gone by between words, or in closing off entries for a particular word, or for any other reason, the Board reserves the right to issue, capriciously and whimsically, an arbitrary and binding judgment and either issue a new word or choose a "winner" from the current entries, thus obligating someone else to do the work of judging.

So, to summarize The Non-Rules: Be entertaining and be quick or be quiet.

The Zatoichi Presumption: That if two entries are alike, the second one was invented just as honorably as the first.

The 12"Razormix Non-Rule: That if the winner of a round of play doesn't pick a new word pretty much right away, and can't be reached back-channel to prompt them to post a new word, the smug smile will be wiped off the face of the unlucky holder of the Coveted Second Place Award, and he or she will become the winner of the round.

The Multiple Entry Amendment: There is no Multiple Entry Amendment, except as individual judges decide, with special attention to whimsicality or capriciousness, to create one for their own purposes. Fore-warned is fore-armed -- and fore-armed is what you get if you're a rookie in the NBA.

For adjudications and arbitrations of disputes about Non-Rules and Shady Practices, it's just barely possible that I might be persuaded to scrape my fingers off the cocoa-encrusted table and, raising my bleary, chocolate-reddened eyes to the screen, navigate to whichever file it is in which I've stored THE NON-RULES in order to issue a judgment -- attached to a provocative note which will shock your significant other and astonish your neighbors.

And the first word is: AMPHIBOLY

6 comments:

pottygok said...

Amphiboly, adj., in the manner of or similar to a frog or toad.

She waddled amphiboly through the puddles.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Amphiboly, adj., referring to archers who have facility with both the longbow and the crossbow.

"The Swiss mercenary troops of the late 15th century were trained in amphiboly."

Shelley Chernin said...

Amphiboly, n., an extravagant dual set of rules too lengthy to be read in its entirety and not meant to be followed.

Rob said...

Amphiboly, n.,refers to the "offstage" chamber from which performers made an entrance during plays. (It is the ancient Greek amphitheater equivalent to the "Green Room".)

Odysseus emerged from the amphiboly as the suitors pressed Penelope for a decision.

Marcus said...

Excellent definitions so far! Judging will be on Wednesday. Probably.

Marcus said...

The Boring Old Reality Award goes to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphibology for:

amphiboly (from the Greek ἀμφιβολία, amphibolia) is an ambiguous grammatical structure in a sentence.[c

In Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine the humor is built almost entirely on amphiboly as Abbott’s explanations that “Who’s on first”, meaning a player named “Who” is playing first base, are misinterpreted by Costello as “Who’s on first”, meaning a question about the name of the player who is playing first base. It’s funnier when they do it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfmvkO5x6Ng

Pottygok might have won the Coveted Second Place Award but for a small confusion between adjectives and adverbs, so The Grammar Award, together with a lifetime subscription to GrammaNazi Magazine (“No Synecdoche For You!”), goes to pottygok, for:

Amphiboly, adj., in the manner of or similar to a frog or toad.

“She waddled amphiboly through the puddles.”

Geoffrey A. Landis might also have won the Coveted Second Place Award but for a similar confusion between adjectives and adverbs. So the Oh How Standards Have Slipped! Award, together with a lifetime subscription to BluePencil Magazine (“Dead From The Waist Down”), goes to Geoffrey A. Landis, for:

Amphiboly, adj., referring to archers who have facility with both the longbow and the crossbow.

"The Swiss mercenary troops of the late 15th century were trained in amphiboly."

And the actual awarding of the Coveted Second Place Award goes to Shelley Chernin, together with the Inside Baseball Award, and a lifetime subscription to Recursion, the Magazine of Magazines (“We’re out; if you see us before we get back, let us know we’ll return soon”), for:

Amphiboly, n., an extravagant dual set of rules too lengthy to be read in its entirety and not meant to be followed.

This can only mean one thing: that Rob, also known as Rob, has been called to the stage from the Green Room to seize the Golden Nettle, the Grand Prize of The Dictionary Game, together with a single issue of Follow Spot, the Magazine Of Winners (“Well, They Can’t All Be Winners”), with his (or her, these being the Days Of Political Correctness) likeness on the cover, for:

Amphiboly, n.,refers to the "offstage" chamber from which performers made an entrance during plays. (It is the ancient Greek amphitheater equivalent to the "Green Room".)

“Odysseus emerged from the amphiboly as the suitors pressed Penelope for a decision.”

An excellent crop of entries, very clever, and wrong in just so many ways! Congratulations to everyone, and felicitations to Rob, who now has to select the next word and judge the next round.

What’s the new word, Rob?

Cited...

The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau