When I was in college, I ran a recreation program at an inpatient state psychiatric facility. We did the normal things like art projects and games, but one of the men I worked with liked to play what he deemed, “The Word Game.” I was puzzled by The Word Game at first. The game was played by him saying a word, and then me saying a word. They didn’t have to connect in any way. There were no winners and losers. We would just say words back and forth to one another, with his occasionally interjecting, “Oh, that’s a good word!”
Flash forward, years later, and I met a friend who started texting me random words. It had been years since I played The Word Game, but I was reminded of it almost instantly. We once spent a Saturday afternoon texting words back and forth.
I was reminded of how much I liked words just for their own sake. Yes, I like putting them in order and forming sentences, but sometimes exchanging a word like “cimmerian” can be fun for no other reason than I’ve not run into that word before. Through the new and updated Word Game, I’ve learned the meanings of new words. This is different than a boring word of the day program, and it leads to interesting discussions about how the correct pronunciation of cimmerian makes it sound less interesting than it did in my head. I “know” a lot of words, but I’m sometimes a little embarrassed when I try to use them out loud in a sentence, and realize I have no idea how it’s pronounced. Or even worse, I sort of know, but just can’t make my tongue cooperate.
In any case, I missed The Word Game. When else do I get to use words like “psychopomp,” “chimera,” “soporific,” “phantasm,” or “troglodyte?”
(Incidentally, troglodyte has always been one of my favorite words, though I do love psychopomp.)
Do you have a favorite word?