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What’s the Good Word, Intrepid Reader?

Photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc

Photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Remember that awesome game the teacher would sometimes let the class play when you were elementary school? Telephone, I think it was called. Or telegraph, maybe. The teacher would whisper something into the ear of the first student in the first row and then that student would, in turn, whisper what she heard to the student next to her, and so on, until the quietly-mumbled phrase finally made the rounds to the very last child in the class. Then that kid — usually looking somewhat bewildered, as if he were certain the entire class was deliberately trying to make a dunce of him or get him in trouble — would have to write on the chalkboard exactly what he had heard from the final whisperer. Beside this phrase, the teacher would then write what she had actually said to the first student in the chain.

Hilarity ensued. Every time. Guaranteed. “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din,” would somehow emerge as “Lorne is bitter and green and Sam hung-up tins.” Or maybe even, “Chicken burgers with lysol in the banana yard.” There was no telling what potential trajectory these feral, semantic missiles might take. All bets were off. It was pure nonsense, grammar and logic run amok! We loved it! What’s more, it turned out to be a game, it now occurs to me on an almost daily basis, that bears an uncanny resemblance to trying to manage complex business projects via e-mail.

The other language-related game I really used to enjoy was more of a public speaking-type exercise that I suppose I would have played in junior or senior high. I don’t know what, if anything, it’s actually called. It would begin with everybody writing a random short phrase or a noun on a slip of paper — “two if by sea,” “Napoleon,” “salamander,” whatever. The teacher would then collect all the folded up slips and bring them back to his desk. Then, one at a time, each student would have to go to the front of the class and retrieve one of the random topics from the pile the teacher had just collected. The object of the game was then to speak for as long as you could — with the teaching recording your time — on whatever topic you had chosen, but without ever saying “err” or “uhmm” or “ahh” or the like. It sounds simple, but if you’ve ever attempted this exercise yourself, you know how damnably difficult it actually is. Try as they might, many of those in the class often ended up being disqualified before they even got underway. For a surprisingly large percentage of students, the first thing they said, no matter how much they tried to be conscious of what was about to come out of their mouths, was, in fact, “Uhmm…”

In honour of this particular language-centric challenge, I’ve decided to make you, dear reader, do some of the heavy lifting for a change.

Every week it’s my responsibility to both come up with an idea for a new blog entry and write the bloody thing. Truth is, I’ve got a list of about 86,000 blog ideas in notebook here beside the computer. I can’t seem to blink and not generate another blog idea somehow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re anything you might actually be interesting in reading about.

So let’s mix it up a little, lest things go stale by relying too heavily on the same old format here at The Gooseyard, week after week. (Plus I want to know if anybody’s actually out there!)

Here’s the deal: this week, in the spirit of the above-noted “public speaking” challenge, leave me a comment containing a short phrase or a noun you’d be interesting in seeing me blog about. Or even just a nonsense word that you’ve picked out of the ether — the whole point of the exercise, after all, is that it hardly matters a whit what words you start with. The proof, instead, is in the quality of the pudding. (Yes, oh great interpreter of metaphorical language, by pudding I actually mean the blog.)

I’ll copy out all the words, stick them in the proverbial hat, extract one at random, and then, well I guess you’ll be my muse for this week’s blog! (Yeah, alright, it’s just a convoluted writing prompt exercise, but let’s keep that entre nous, for the moment, ‘k.) So? You in?

Only two conditions. First, personal friends and writing buddies can leave a comment, but can’t submit a word for the hat (’cause, remember, I’m trying to see if there’s any else out there!) Second, no filth (including politics and religion), or anything else that’s going to back me into a moral corner of any sort. I can get into enough trouble on my own without anyone else’s help on that score, thank you very much.

And don’t leave me hanging by not dropping by with a word or two. Don’t make me blog about nothing. Because you know I’ll do it if I have to. And it won’t be some laugh-a-minute “Seinfeld-ian” nothing, I can assure you of that. It’ll be all philosophical, and dense, and probably turn into a three-part series at 5,0000 words an entry, and it’ll be all your fault. All on you!

Or, alternatively, I’ll be forced to revert to uploading more cat videos. And none of us — I hope — want that!



  1. bronxboy55 says:

    I’d never heard of that second game, Phil, but it sounds like fun. Well, it sounds like fun now. I probably wouldn’t have thought so when I was in school. Looking forward to the results in your next post.

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