In the story, Cold Morning Shadow, a deaf teenager warmly and confidently perseveres in stitching two families together. Deafness creates challenges in communication but doesn’t prevent it. Words are the units of language and can be written as well as spoken (and heard). If hearing is partially restored with hearing aids, then a deaf person can relate words on paper to words in the air — but often with difficulty.

Someone thus challenged can develop special skills with language if provided special ways to practice it. Here are two word games that are included in the book.

Botticelli

When I was in the Army Security Agency at Field Station Augsburg (West Germany) I was introduced to a word game called Botticelli. I was 22 years old at the time, and I don’t recall asking why Sandro Botticelli’s name had been attached to the game.

In Cold Morning Shadow, Chapter 34, Wilton is introduced to the game as I was. I suppose it could be widened to include more than two players, but I played it only one-against-one.

All you need is paper and a pencil or pen apiece. As described in the book:

There are two players.  Each one chooses a five-letter word that the other must guess.  Assume Player A’s secret word is LIGHT.  Player B proposes a word: AUDIO (or any other five-letter word).  How many letters in AUDIO are also found in LIGHT?  One.  So Player A tells Player B: “One.”  Now Player A proposes the word CRIME to Player B, whose secret word is TACKS.  Player B says: “One,” because one of the letters in CRIME is also found in TACKS.  Player B, who knows that his first proposed word, AUDIO, contains one correct letter, suggests VIDEO, and Player A once again says: “One.”  Player B can’t tell, yet, whether the one correct letter is the same as the one correct letter from before or a different letter.  They take turns thus until either player has proposed enough words and discovered enough letters in the other player’s secret word, and arranged them correctly, to finally figure out the other player’s word.  It gets tricky when a player has chosen a word such as STACK which can also be rearranged as TACKS.  Besides winning the most rounds, a champion Botticelli player is one who can consistently identify the other’s words with the fewest guesses.

I don’t recall playing it with words of any length other than five. If you play it with words of six or more letters, I would expect exceedingly greater complexity in the game. And perhaps you could play it with a five-year-old using words of two or three letters.

I know of no rules for scoring the game, nor do I know the origins of it. It would be fun, of course, to play it in a language different from one’s own — students in a foreign language class might find it instructive.

Latinos

I invented this game, which appears in Chapter 16. Here is a portion of that chapter:

In the middle of a conversation — the subject of which vanished from everyone’s thoughts once someone innocently uttered “Congratulations!” — Garnette blurted: “Hey, did you guys ever play ‘Latinos’?”

Cyleine, Toleda’s parents, and an eleven-year-old brother, Sander, gaped at her blankly.  Cyleine shook her head, more to say Don’t go there! than to answer her question.

“It’s a word game,” Garnette said helpfully.  “You just said ‘Congratulations,’ Mister Aucoin.  And the game is, when you are about to say a word ending in ‘-l-a-t-i-o-n’ or ‘-l-a-t-i-o-n-s’ you change it to ‘-latino’ or ‘-latinos’ before you say it.  So you would have said ‘Congratulatinos!’ if you’re playing the game.  And then you just go on talking — just switch the ‘o’ and the ‘n’ see?”

“That’s it?” Cyleine asked, still worried.

“Nooo!  So if I catch you saying, for instance, ‘violation’ or ‘speculation’ or ‘relations’ — anything with that ending and if you don’t change it to ‘relatinos,’ then I shout Latino! and I get a point!  It can go on for years.  My brother and I play it all the time still.”

“Still?  I haven’t heard you do it.”

“Well, who goes around saying ‘flagellation’ or ‘coagulation’ or ‘ejaculation’ in a sentence every day?  But twice since we moved here I caught Wilton not changing words when he should have said… let’s see, it was ‘emasculatino’ and ‘miscalculatino.’  I’m up to thirteen points in three years and he’s only at nine.”

“Fast-moving game, I see,” said Toleda’s dad.

“You can do it when you’re reading what someone else wrote, too.  We used to do it with magazines while we were riding in the car.  He’d read Readers Digest and I’d look at Look.  You can get twenty words in a magazine, for instance, in a two-hour car ride.  He was better at seeing them at a glance, so he usually won those rounds.”

“He would find, oh… ‘vacillation’ and ‘immolation’ and words like that in a magazine?” Missus Aucoin asked.

“No, more like ‘revelations of past crimes’ or ‘insufficient insulation.’  Things like that.  Me, I’m looking for words too but stumbling over ads for ugly clothes and cute baby pictures, so I’m slower.”

“But if you can get twenty examples in a car ride, why are you only at thirteen or nine points?” Cyleine asked.

“You only get a point if you catch someone forgetting to change it.”

“Don’t you think people of Latino heritage would find that a little offensive?” Missus Aucoin wondered.

“It didn’t seem to bother Javier and Gustavo Muñoz — they were our neighbors, or any of our other Latino friends back in Richmond.  They’re the ones who taught us how to do it.  They found ‘Latinos’ in dozens of English words.”

Missus Aucoin asked: “Did anyone ever find ‘Latinas’?”

Garnette confidently assured her: “There’s only one word that will give you ‘Latinas.’”  She arranged her napkin on the table as if she wasn’t going to reveal the word.  Everyone else waited until she looked up and apprehended their anticipation.  “Oh.  Paul of Tarsus wrote letters to them, the Galatians.”

=DAVID A. WOODBURY=

One thought on “WORD GAMES IN THE BOOK

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