Ever said a word over and over again until it ceases to make sense? I love that, especially with words that have pronounced vowel sounds, like elbow – also a beautiful word to repeat over and over again longhand, of you’re ever stuck during a free writing exercise. I love absurd, unanswerable questions too.
My favourite unanswerable question is one I first heard from my friend Aletia Dundas, back in high school. We were in our blackwatch tartan tunics on the concrete verandah where our group of friends sat at lunchtime, and she suddenly asked me, between mouthfuls of her sandwich: ‘Why is a mouse when it spins?’
I was stumped, and she loved it.
After lots of failed guesses, I gave up and she told me: ‘Because the higher it goes, the fewer.’
We laughed in that way you do when the sun’s shining and you’re in the company of good people who understand the absurd, and why it’s so important to living, breathing humans.
According to the internet, the original question is actually ‘Why a mouse when it spins?’ (no is) and the answer is: ‘The higher the farther’. (If this still doesn’t sound like sense to you, that’s okay: it’s not meant to.)
To me, both versions do the job. Just like Lewis Carroll’s famous riddle ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’, and like the word game he invented called doublets, it’s simply meant as a joyful celebration of language and what it can do.
To play doublets, write a word (HOME) then continue the list by changing only one letter to make a new word (HOPE, HOLE, HOLT, etc), or go the other way: set yourself a challenge — make SLEEP into DREAM in the fewest steps possible.
I love to play doublets, so one day I put it on my whiteboard outside the community reading room — and now we’re hooked. If I forget to put a game up, it’s noted.
One frequent visitor to the reading room (a fellow doublets- and Carroll-enthusiast) introduced me to his text-in-translation version of the game, which I’ve found to be quite addictive (and great inspiration for writing). I’ve also invented my own game of Google Doublets (at least I think I invented it…but details will need to wait for another post because I’m using it for a project). By playing it, I found a word-and-image game. Drawception is in beta, so donate your testing time. What’s not to like about a game in beta?
If you have a favourite word game, let me know.