Just for Fun

One of the occupational hazards of writing is that you get words stuck in your head. You turn them around, examine their construction, imagine small variations. And that’s led me to invent a game I’ll share with you. (I don’t claim to be the very first person to invent this, probably ten thousand other writers have done it as well, but I don’t know any of them, and I never heard of it before. So it’s mine, nyah.)

Take any two or three or four letter word, and exchange the core vowel for the others—AEIOU—and see if you can find one that works as a real word with each of the five vowels. It’s really hard, there aren’t many.

WAN—WAN, WIN, WON, but no WEN or WUN

LINE—LANE, LINE, LONE, but no LENE or LUNE

BORN—BARN, BERN (as in Feel The…), BORN, BURN, but no BIRN

KITE—KATE, KITE, KUTE (if you live in the Midwest and start a craft store, Kate’s Kute Kites), but no KETE or KOTE

RUT—RAT, ROT, RUT, but no RET or RIT (unless you use the brand of grocery-store fabric dye)

SILK—SALK (Jonas), SILK, SULK, but no SELK or SOLK

ED (my cat’s name)—AD, ED, ID, but no OD or UD

I’ll give you a few words that work with all five vowels: B_G, B_D, D_N, L_ST. There are plenty of others, but as specimens in the great lake of English vocabulary, they’re really rare. Go ahead and use proper nouns, everyday words from other languages… it won’t help much.

If you’re anything like me, this will now burrow down into your DNA and interrupt your sleep for weeks. Sorry, not sorry. If you read this on LinkedIn, as many do, go ahead and put your successful words down in the comments to gloat.

Now, for a second game, use one of the non-words you’ve come up with in your search, and make a plausible definition for it. For instance, let’s say I’m working from CART or CURT, and I run into CIRT. That’s now my word, and I can do anything I like with it. So I will now define it:

cirt (n., pronounced with a soft “c”)—the thin space between the back side of a closed drawer and the inside of the cabinet. Hey, honey, I found your grandma’s tea towel. It was down in the cirt.

If the first game is a solitaire, the second game is a party game. Put one of those non-words on the table and give everybody a minute to invent a definition. Winner, chosen by popular acclaim, gets a point or takes a drink or whatever reward fits your group’s larger agenda.

William S. Burroughs once claimed that language is a virus from outer space. This pair of games is one of its symptoms.