Friday, July 22, 2011

Wordplay: not just for kids anymore

“Language is most daring and most advanced when it is used in a playful setting.”
 -Jerome Bruner

We have been given the beautiful gift of luscious language, why not make it a regular part of our adult playspace? More and more research is finding its way into popular media on the importance of play in innovation, creativity, and personal health for both kids and adults. Words are with us every moment, which means we have an infinite number of opportunities to let loose, flap our traps, and cut a literary rug. 

"The opposite of play is not work, it is depression."
-Brian Sutton-Smith

I feel fortunate to belong to an urban tribe full of playful wordsmiths. We seem to find ourselves rhyming, alliterating, parsing, and coining with reckless abandon. Here are some examples that tickle my fancy.

I giggle inside at the use of Old Timey words used in modern contexts. Words like:
alas and alack

Some words just feel good to say like hoodikai. [(noun) the thing you can’t remember the name of]
“Where the heck is that hoodikai?”

Skedaddle, Roxaboxen, picnic, cinnamon...

My friend calls her Kitchen Aid stand mixer the “the Mixin’ Vixen.”

I also love moments that might call for super swags to use swear words or slang but they choose totally innocuous phrases instead, like:

 “You! You’re such a turkey.”

Did I mention that you are allowed to be as nerdy as you want in wordplay?

Invented Words
In an unusual energetic role reversal (I’m usually beat by 9:30 each night, he’s working hard to get to sleep by 11:00) Ben sleepily said to me, “Why are you so awake and I’m so…whomper??”

Last night, nine of us kids had a “Hangout” on Google+ (more to come on this soon!) We had aimed to have a Meaningful Creative Melding of the Minds, but the excitement of being together took over and “important work” transformed to pure silliness. Someone snapped a shot of the screen with their phone for documentation, and I quipped, “We’re so meta beta right now.” Like, commenting on our fumbling prototype? Get it?

Then we got lost with trucker lingo for awhile.
"Gotta get my covered wagon to the chicken coup before another Big R blows my doors off!"

One of my word champions started a game around the campfire in Yosemite. The goal: to make the longest, sensical string of rhyming words possible. (You can start it off with a non-rhyming word.)

I sought her hotter, broader, daughter.
Caught her.
Got her water, got her fodder.
Taught her, fought her,
shot her.

You need to read this out loud as fast as possible to really get it. Go on! You know you wanna try it.

Another 'king of non-sequitor' friend tweeted:
{Why sing a song of sixpence when you could just rob the "Feed the Birds" lady, who's clearly been raking in the tuppence all day?}

You may have hilarity oozing from every orifice. (Please share your kooky examples in my comments! Bad puns earn extra points.) Or you may not realize how much you already engage in wordplay. Give an extra ear to conversation, sports headlines, and commercials to find language being used in surprising ways. And listen to kids—they’re naturals at messing things up in funny ways.

Lucas: “I know why there’s a [-ber] in December. It’s because it’s so cold and usually snowing!”

It’s Friday—the perfect time to play!  So loosen your lips and let out some luscious language. If you're a writer, be sure to jot your findings down in a notebook for possible future use.

And as the truckers would say,

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