Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

July 25, 2006

Poetry, Language, and Word Games

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 5:59 am

Tonight I came across Games for Everybody by May C. Hofmann, published in 1905. And it reminded me of a word game my father and mother came home with when I was young. They had been at another couple’s home. This had to be during an amicable time for them, for they separated when I was 13. Maybe from 10 years on, the Five Letter Word Game has been my favorite pen-and-paper game.

Five Letter Word Game

This is for two people sitting across from each other. Each player takes a piece of letter- or legal-size paper, and folds the top over one inch. Beneath her own resulting flap, each writes a five letter word that the other cannot see. It is also a good idea to write the alphabet at the bottom of the paper, so that eliminated letters can be crossed out, and discovered letters can be circled. The player who gets (but rarely guesses) her opponent’s word first wins.

Let’s say Player One has chosen the word FIELD and Player Two has chosen JUDGE.

Player One starts and offers the five-letter word BULKY–and writes it down on her sheet of paper.

Player Two responds by saying the number of letters the offered word has in common with the word she has hidden beneath her flap. Her response is to say “One” for the U in both JUDGE and BULKY. Player One then writes the answer “1” next to BULKY.

Player two begins by saying BONUS and writes that down.

This turns out to be an excellent play, because FIELD and BONUS have no letters in common, so Player One responds “Zero” and Player Two gets to cross out the five letters B, N, O, S, and U in the alphabet, but also has BONUS 0 written, to aid in creating further words as the game progresses.

Player One then says CHALK.

Player Two now responds “Zero” because CHALK and JUDGE share no letters. So Player One gets to cross out A, C, H, K, L in the alphabet; has CHALK 0 on her paper; but furthermore, gets to cross out those letters in the first word given and now shows BULKY 1 as the first word, meaning that either the B, the U, or the Y is one of the letters in her opponent’s hidden word.

The game progresses until the offering of one of the players is the word beneath the other’s flap.

Note that the use of words with double letters needs to be agreed upon one way or the other by the players, either as hidden words or offered ones. But, if it is agreed that they are allowed, offering DAFFY against FIELD gets the answer of “Two”, one for the D and another for one F only.

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Below are word and language games gleaned from May C. Hofmann’s Games for Everybody. Some of the games use song lyrics or titles to any books, but are easily adapted to be poetry games if this is preferred. Have fun!

Broken Quotations

This is a good game to play at the beginning of a social gathering, as the guests have to mingle together and thus become better acquainted, and the stiffness of a formal gathering passes off.

The hostess has prepared familiar quotations which were written on paper and then cut in two or three parts and pinned in different places around the room.

The guests are requested to find as many quotations as they can during a certain length of time.

As the parts are scattered all over the room, it isn’t as easy as it sounds to find the complete quotations. The person gathering the most quotations, deserves a prize.

~ ~ ~

Building Sentences

The hostess begins by saying one word and announces that each word of the sentence must begin with the initial letter of the given word. The player to her right gives the second word, the next player, the third, and so on, until the sentence is complete only when it reaches the hostess.

Each player must be careful not to give a word which with the others completes the sentence, as the hostess is the only one who is supposed to finish it–but sometimes it seems as though all the words of that letter have been taken; if this is the case, the player who finished the sentence must pay a forfeit or drop out of the game.

Suppose there are nine players and number one says “An,” number two “Angry,” number three “Ape,” number four “Ate,” number five “Apples”; thus number five is out or pays a forfeit as the sentence is completed and there are still four more to play. Thus the sentence might have been “An angry ape ate attractive, audacious, ancient April apples.”

This sentence is absurd, but the more ridiculous, the greater the fun.

For the second turn the player to the right of the hostess begins, using a word beginning with another letter and so on, until each player has started a sentence.

~ ~ ~

Capping Verses

To while away the time before dinner, or while sitting in the twilight, this is a simple amusement for those who love poetry.

One begins by giving a line or verse of poetry. The next one continues, but his verse must commence with the last letter of the previous verse, and so on, each one capping the other’s verse.

Suppose No.1 quotes:

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

No. 2 continues quoting:

“Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”

No. 3:

“O speak again, bright angel.”

No. 4:

“Like summer tempest came her tears,
‘Sweet, my child, I live for thee.'”

and so on until the guests tire of it.

~ ~ ~


Provide each player with pencil and paper. The leader has a dictionary which she opens at any place and selects a word which the rest are to define.

The players write the word and their definition of it on the slips of paper. When the leader taps a bell all the slips must be collected and mixed up in a basket or hat.

Each player then draws out a slip and the definitions are read aloud in turn. The leader decides which one has written a definition most like the one in the dictionary. The author of the best one rises, receives the dictionary, gives out a word and the game proceeds as before.

~ ~ ~

The Five Senses

All the players sit in a circle. No. 1 begins by naming something he has seen, being careful what his last word is, as it must furnish him with a rhyme for the rest of the game. Each player in turn tells what he has seen, then No. 1 repeats his first statement and adds what he heard, the next time, what he tasted; then what he smelt; and lastly, what he felt. For example, No. 1 says, “I saw a ring of solid gold.” No. 2 says, “I saw a boy fall off the car.”

The second time round No. 1 says,

“I saw a ring of solid gold.
I heard a story twice told.”

No. 2 says,

“I saw a boy fall off the car.
I heard the war news from afar.”

and so on, after going around five times, No. 1’s complete rhyme would be,

“I saw a ring of solid gold.
I heard a story twice told.
I tasted cheese that was too old.
I smelt hay that soon would mould.
I felt for something I couldn’t hold.”

Do not have the verses written as there is more fun in trying to remember one’s rhyme

~ ~ ~

Literary Salad

Salad leaves are prepared for this game by folding and twisting pieces of green tissue paper until they look like lettuce leaves. Then paste slips of white paper containing a quotation, on each leaf.

The participants of this salad are requested to guess the name of the author of their quotation. This may be played very easily at a church social where the leaves may contain Bible verses instead of quotations, and the players are asked to tell just where their verses are found, in what book and chapter.

~ ~ ~

Misquoted Quotations

Choose very familiar quotations from Longfellow, Shakespeare, Tennyson, or any well-known author or poet, and write them on slips of paper.

Change some of the words of the original, or even a whole line, and when each guest receives his slip he is requested to repeat the quotation correctly.

For example–“To be, or not to be; that is the question,” may be written, “To be, or not to be: that is the problem.”

~ ~ ~


Any number of persons may play this game. One is sent out of the room while the rest choose some proverb. Then he is called in and asks each player in turn a question. In the answer, no matter what the question is, one word of the proverb must be given.

Suppose the proverb “Make hay while the sun shines” is taken, then player No. 1 would have “Make”; No. 2, “hay”; No. 3, “while”; No. 4, “the”; No. 5, “sun”; No. 6, “shines”; No. 7, “make”; etc., giving each player a word, often repeating the proverb several times.

The answers to the questions must be given quickly, and no special word emphasized. Often the one guessing will have to go around several times before he can discover any word which will reveal the proverb. The one whose answer gave the clue must leave the room next, and it becomes his turn to guess.

~ ~ ~


Provide each player with slips of paper and pencil. The hostess then announces that each one is to write some question at the top of the paper, fold the paper over and pass it to the player at the left, who writes a noun, folds the paper over and passes it to the left again.

The players who then receive the slips are requested to write one or more stanzas of poetry containing the noun and question written at the top of the paper.

Allow fifteen minutes for this, then pass the papers to the left and they are then read in turn. A prize may be given to the one who wrote the best poetry.


Question–Where did you get that hat?


“Where did you get that hat?”
Said Shortie to Mr. Fat,
“I stole it from the Fair,
When I was leaving there.”
Question–Can you dance?


“May-day! let us away!
Can you dance?
Here’s your chance,
On this lovely May-day.”

~ ~ ~

Stray Syllables

Prepare long strips of paper on which the guests are requested to write several words of three or more syllables, leaving spaces between each syllable.

When this is done, cut up the words into the syllables and mix thoroughly. Then each player draws three syllables and tries to construct a word.

If a word can’t be made of all three syllables, maybe it can be made of two, but if it is then impossible to construct a word, the player must wait until the rest draw three syllables again, and perchance he may be able to construct two words, using the syllables he could not use before.

The one constructing the most words, wins the game.

~ ~ ~


Provide the players with pencil and paper. Each one then writes on his piece of paper ten letters of the alphabet in any order, using no letter twice. The papers are then passed to the right and each one is requested to write a telegram, using the ten letters for the beginning of the ten words, just in the order given. The papers are then passed again and the telegrams are read aloud. Some will be very amusing.


A. E. F. J. K. L. N. O. P. T. Am ever frightfully jealous. Keep lookout now on Pa’s tricks.

C. B. D. W. G. H. S. I. M. Y. Come back. Down with Grandma. How shall I meet you?

~ ~ ~

Verbal Authors

The players sit in a circle. One is chosen as judge and he keeps tally. Each player in turn, rises, and names some well-known book. The first one to call out the name of the author scores a point. The game continues until the interest ceases or the store of literary knowledge is exhausted. The player having the most points is the winner.

This game may be played in another way. Instead of calling out the author as the book is named, provide each guest with pencil and paper and announce that as a book is named, each player must write down the author and the name of some character in that book.


“The Taming of the Shrew”–
Wm. Shakespeare–Petruchio.

“Nicholas Nickleby”–
Chas. Dickens–Mr. Squeers.

Sir Walter Scott–Rebecca.

~ ~ ~

Who Am I?

As the guests arrive pin a card with a name of some noted author, statesman, or poet written on it, on their backs, so that every one can see it but themselves.

Of course, each person wants to know who he is, so the guests talk to each other as though they were the person whose name is on the other’s back, but do not mention the name, and from the conversation, they have to guess who they are.

~ ~ ~


  1. Bud,
    Thinking of all the games we played over the years that were vocabulary building: Scrabble, Anagrams, Password, and this favorite of mine, 5-letter-word game. I remember playing it with cousins at our grandparents’ house. Still enjoy an occasional game.
    Thanks for all the other games, too. I think earlier generations must have been much better read than the present younger generation. (our own fault, I guess).


    Comment by Micky — July 25, 2006 @ 9:59 am

  2. Hi Micky,

    Thanks for stopping in.

    A couple good things about the computer age, is that these games can be shared easily, and also that there are computer word games you can play with partners all over the world.


    Comment by Bud Bloom — August 5, 2006 @ 1:42 am

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