Why play (these) word-games? (Idea 29)

Children learn through play. We sometimes forget this as we grow older, and think that anything that’s going to do us good on the learning front has to be serious work. It doesn’t. Older people can learn through playing games, just as children do.

Playing word games is good for your vocabulary – that is, the number of words you know. In turn, a wide vocabulary is useful for writing and talking, so that you can make yourself more clearly understood (or so that you can confuse people, if that’s what you want to do !). Knowledge of a range of words (that is, a wide vocabulary) is also useful in reading and listening, because it increases the chances of understanding what you’re taking in.

By playing word games, you learn to listen more closely and also to express yourself more clearly. You become more creative or inventive in the way you use language.

Word exchanges can also be used, more seriously, to find out about people.

And sometimes, word games can be mischievously good fun!

The Questions Game

You may already know this one. You can start it with someone else at any time, even without their realising you’re doing so. The idea is that you should have a conversation in which you only ever respond in questions. The first person to respond with a statement (rather than a question) loses, and the other person gains a point.

So, you might be asked, “What do you want to do today?” You might reply, “Do I have a choice?” If the other person doesn’t realise you’ve begun the game, (s)e might reply, “Yes. You could …”: too late! You’ve scored a point.

Once the other person realises that the game is on, it becomes more and more difficult to produce a reasonable response in question form in a reasonable amount of time. You might want to put an official time limit on how long there is to reply, but generally people sense what’s a fair amount of time and what isn’t.

“So, do you want to play?”

“Why not?”

“Are you uncertain?”

“Are you?”

“About what?”

“What did you say?”


“Just now …. AAARGH!”

For interest: there is a very well played example of this game in the film (and stage play) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.

Next time: Word Association (and Disassociation) Games.

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