Online Encore

Are y'all familiar with the game "Encore"? There's a boardgame version of it, but I first encountered it as a parlor game (not sure which version came first), in which one person suggests a word and other people try to come up with a song whose lyrics contain that word.

But just thinking of the song isn't enough; for it to count, someone has to be able to sing at least eight consecutive words of the song, including the specified word.

Depending on how you're playing, players can take turns trying to come up with more songs that contain the given word, until nobody can think of any more. To make it more challenging, you can set a time limit. In the boardgame, for example, players are divided into two teams, and after being assigned a word (from a deck of cards), the teams take turns coming up with songs for that word; the first team that can't come up with a song within 30 seconds loses that round.

The game can be fun and challenging even with pretty common words--it can be hard to mentally search through the songs you know to find one that contains the given word, and it's harder to do so within a time limit, and then you have to remember enough of the lyrics to count, and you have to sing them. And then you (or others, depending on what rules you're using) have to keep doing that, coming up with different songs with the same word.

But one of the things that appeals to me most about the game in the abstract (though this makes it a rather different game, and probably less fun to play in person) is coming up with words that don't appear in very many songs--possibly even a word that's a hapax legomenon within the space of all song lyrics. I mean, okay, there are really an awful lot of songs, so the chances of a given word appearing in only one are very low. But when I hear a particularly unusual word in a song, I often think "That would be a good Encore word."

As noted above, this version of the game would probably be no fun in person. It essentially amounts to "I've got a song in mind; guess what it is!" There would be long pauses while everyone thought; it would become a game of silence rather than of song.

But I think it might be fun in an online version, where there's no time limit. If it helps, think of this as a puzzle rather than as a game.

So: For each of the below-listed words, come up with a song whose lyrics contain the word.

As with Encore, for it to count, you have to be able to sing eight consecutive words of the song (including the specified word). The singing part is on the honor system; we won't know whether you have the tune right, but as you type the words into a comment, try singing them to yourself.

Also, at least one other player has to be familiar with the song for it to count.

No using Google, your music library, or other aide-mémoire.

And no cheating, unless it will make the game more fun for everyone. (For example, if you want to write a song that uses these words, you can break the "one other player has to know it" rule. But if you're gonna do that, try to use at least two of the words, and do tell us that the song is by you. And come up with a tune for it; I don't think it counts if you just use the words in a poem.)

Note that I have a specific song in mind for each of these, but I imagine that there's more than one song for most of them; any song that contains the word counts. Which is good, because some of the songs I have in mind are fairly obscure. Though I'm pretty sure that for each song, at least one of my regular readers knows the song.

Added later: I've adopted a variation of Vardibidian's notation system: boldface for words nobody's found yet; strikethrough for words where someone's come up with the same song I was thinking of; italics for words where someone's come up with a different song; italic strikethrough when both my song and another song have been found.

  • adorn
  • blazing
  • cellar
  • defied
  • embers
  • frequently
  • gavel
  • happens
  • incidents
  • judgment
  • kangaroo
  • longitudes
  • monarch
  • NYPD
  • observe
  • perpendicular
  • quarter
  • resist
  • sacrificial
  • tranquility
  • unexpectedly
  • vittles
  • whom
  • XII (yes, this one's silly, but the other X words I came up with were worse)
  • yawning
  • zombie

There were a bunch of great words I had to leave out in order to end up with an alphabet. My favorite of those was probably "antepenultimate," from the Flanders & Swann song "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear"; I left that out because I don't know the song well enough myself to be able to sing eight consecutive words including that one.

I was also sad to leave out "petrochemical," but "perpendicular" was too good to pass up (and the song I had in mind for the latter is probably better-known than the song for the former).

I should note that you of course don't have to answer all of these at once. Anytime you think of a song for one of them, go ahead and post a comment.

Also, feel free to post other words to challenge others. I recommend that you try for unusual words (ideally two or more syllables apiece).

Oh, and to prevent the comment thread from becoming unmanageable, after three or four people have come up with songs for a given word, please don't post any more on that word unless you've thought of something too good to pass up.

One thing I considered when I was coming up with this list was trying to use only songs that matched a theme. It became clear that that was going to take too much time, so I gave up, but in case anyone else wants to try, you don't have to do a full alphabet of words. You could do a group of five that start with the same unusual letter, for example. Or a set of words that are all place names, or all people names, or all math/science terms, or all verbs. Or a set of songs that are all Christmas songs, or all musicals, or all songs by the same person or people. And so on.

All of those things, of course, tend to make this more puzzle-like and less game-like; it becomes more a matter of finding The Right Answer and less of coming up with a multitude of different answers. But puzzles are fun, too.

34 Responses to “Online Encore”

  1. jacob


    “the boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay, and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day”

    The Pogues, Fairytale of New York

  2. jacob


    Perhaps this is cheating a bit, since I only sort of know the words, but… I do know eight…

    “blazing in scarlet battalions…parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…”

    Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme/Canticle

  3. jacob

    One more, and I’ll stop. One of my favorite games, by the way.

    “Who will remember Judge Webster Thayer, one hand on the gavel, the other resting on the chair”
    Two Good Arms (not sure who it’s by, but has been recorded by Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert among others)

  4. Vardibidian

    I think I’ll wait until I can get ten or so; off the top of my head I’ve got a bunch. In a game like this it helps to know a bunch of musicals.


  5. Jed

    Jacob: Nice! I was trying to avoid using too many Simon & Garfunkel songs, but I didn’t think of that one (I had a different “blazing” in mind, but mine was rather more obscure, so I’m glad you came up with that one). And your songs for “NYPD” and “gavel” were the ones I was thinking of.

    V: Yeah, good point about musicals. I intentionally left out most of the ones I came up with from musicals, but still ended up with at least four or five, depending on how you count; and of course there may be plenty of others that are from musicals I wasn’t thinking of.

    My three biggest sources in the long brainstorming list from which I winnowed the above were musicals, Simon & Garfunkel, and one particular song that I’ll name later, but I tried to vary my sources as much as I could for the final list.

  6. Vardibidian

    OK, here:

    An armband made of black cloth will someday never more adorn a sleeve (“We Will All Go Together When We Go”, Tom Lehrer
    Should we leave them in the dark down in Damnation’s cellar (“Damnation’s Cellar”, Elvis Costello
    embers (I know at least two songs with singular ember, but can’t think of plural embers
    So what happens now/another suitcase in another hall (“another suitcase in another hall”, from Evita)
    There were incidents and accidents, there were hints and allegations (“You can call me Al”, Paul Simon
    Feel like hopping up and down, like a kangaroo (“Once a Year Day”, from The Pajama Game)
    It’s a quarter to three, there’s no-one in the place, except you and me (“One for the Road”, again I can’t remember the writer)
    Temptation, temptation, temptation, temptation, I can’t resist! (“Temptation”, Tom Waits, and I know that’s only seven words, or maybe only four, depending on how you count, and since I can’t remember the verses, I may lose on this one)
    I have a stretch and a morning yawning (“la di da di”, I only know it from the Jim Infantino version inserted into his cover of the “59th Street Bridge Song”)
    It was a zombie jamboree, down at the New York cemetery (“Zombie Jamboree”, don’t know who originally wrote it).


  7. Vardibidian

    Damn. Now that I’ve looked them up, I got at least two lyrics slightly wrong plus one where the mondegreen disqualifies the song (it’s actually “morning yawn and”). Phooey.


  8. Dan P

    “see the blazing yule before us / fa la la [etc.]”
    (“Deck the Halls,” trad.)

    That’s all I’ve got — sorry for the duplicate. One fabulously easy one and the rest are stumping me.

    … oh, wait!

    “zebras talk philosophy and hamsters turn on frequently, what the [unintelligible]?”
    (“At the Zoo,” Simon and Garfunkel)

  9. Shmuel

    It happens to be true… I only wanna be with you! (Dusty Springfield)

    Tie me kangaroo down, sport; tie me kangaroo down! (Rolf Harris)

    …as a monarch he was quite unfit, but still in all, they had to admit that he loved his mother! (“Oedipus Rex,” Tom Lehrer)

    …I have a song for perpendicular, but I can’t quite remember enough words around it. Drat.

    Never more than (?) friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly… (“Beauty and the Beast”)

    There’s I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII [deep breath] wheels on the big rig… (I shall have to google the name of the artist. …Trout Fishing in America. And it’s “a big rig,” not “the big rig”; I’d been unsure.)

  10. Jed

    Nice! Y’all have done more than half of them, just a few hours after I posted this. Good work. (And as far as I’m concerned, repetitions of words count as multiple words.)

    I’m especially pleased to see songs that I know but hadn’t thought of.

    In case you’re interested, the ones so far where y’all have mentioned the song I was thinking of are:

    gavel, happens (Evita), incidents, kangaroo (Tie Me Kangaroo Down), NYPD, unexpectedly, XII, zombie

    But the other ones you’ve come up with count too, of course.

    …About an hour after posting this entry, I realized that instead of “cellar” I should’ve used “cholesterol.” But by the time I came back to change it, it was too late, since one of you had already answered “cellar”. Oh, well.

  11. Debby B.

    My father slew a kangaroo. He gave me the grizzliest piece to chew. Now wasn’t that a horrible thing to do? To give me to chew the grizzliest piece of a kangaroo?

    I had to put the whole song down.

  12. Shmuel

    There’s “thus shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor,” by, umm, some Jewish artist on a 78 RPM record of my childhood, but that’s got to be too obscure. 🙂

    (This one’s nagging at me. There must be any number of songs with it, I just can’t think of them…)

  13. Vardibidian

    Damn. I was in the car last night, and Big Rig came to mind. Too late.

    To make up for it, though, how about this song lyric: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


  14. Shmuel

    …strictly speaking, the song lyric (unlike the actual Preamble) omits “of the United States,” but good one!

    I’ve been pacing back and forth saying “Whom.” I feel like Treebeard. (That’s why Ents aren’t hasty… they’re busy trying to remember song lyrics.)

  15. Jed

    Debby: Hee! I haven’t heard that song–I’ll have to get you to sing it next time I see you.

    V: Also hee! Nice one. I suspect I’m one of the few Americans our age who didn’t learn that song and who thus doesn’t know much of the Preamble.

    Shmuel: 🙂 🙂 🙂 re Ents.

    I couldn’t decide whether “whom” would be difficult or not when I was putting this list together–the specific song I had in mind is relatively obscure, but I know a couple of my readers know it, and I couldn’t think offhand whether there were obvious other songs using that word or not.

    As for whether the song you mentioned is too obscure, it all depends on whether others here have heard it; seems possible. Anyone?

  16. Shmuel

    Of whom can it be said that he let the dogs out? (Woof! Woof! Woof!)

    …nobody’s gonna buy that, are they.

  17. Vardibidian

    We’re playing as a team, right? Dan, Jacob, Shmuel? Do any of you know the lyrics to “Boys Want Sex in the Morning”? Is the word ‘yawning’ in there? I can’t remember, and while looking it up would be cheating, I don’t think chatting amongst ourselves would be.

    So, what we have left: defied, embers, judgment, longitude, observe, perpendicular, sacrificial, vittles, yawning.

    I’m thinking we could go to Gilbert&Sullivan for a couple of those, yes? Only nothing’s coming to mind.


  18. Shmuel

    Well, if it’s not cheating, for perpendicular, think of an early song by a couple of possible titans, both named John. It’s in the first line, which starts with “Make a hole,” but the words in between have eluded me.

    I have “ember” — “let your love be a flame, not an ember / say it’s me that you want to dismember” — but I suppose “embers” is different. 🙂

    Thanks for that list!

  19. Jed

    It’s fine with me for y’all to collaborate.

    V’s list left out “whom”; much as I admire “Of whom can it be said that he let the dogs out”, I don’t think it quite counts. (And Shmuel’s earlier cite only counts if someone else here has heard of it.)

    I was going to say that “ember” is different from “embers”, but it occurs to me that my readers who would know the “embers” song I had in mind aren’t playing; I’m almost certain that none of you know it, and it’s very obscure by mainstream standards. (In fact, it was written, performed, and recorded by one of my readers who doesn’t appear to be reading this.) So if you can come up with another “embers”, then great, but I’m willing to count “ember” in this case.

    V’s list mentioned “longitude”, but (nitpick) it’s specifically “longitudes” (and that one isn’t nearly as obscure).

    …Btw, any/all of you should feel free to post other word challenges for the rest of us….

  20. Vardibidian

    Yah, perpendicular was bugging me enough that I looked it up, so I can’t count that one.

    It seems odd that ember should show up in so many songs (Begin the Beguine and Only Flame in Town were my two), but in prose it’s usually embers. I suppose it’s the rhyme thing.


  21. Shmuel

    I’m working on assembling a list of my own, actually. It’s harder than I would have expected. 🙂

  22. Vardibidian

    I have a little list of my own, now. Come on over and play!


  23. Vardibidian

    Is it cheating if I just happen to hear the word in a song? “April in Paris” just came around on the player, and Frank Sinatra crooned ‘Whom can I run to/What have you done to/my heart’.

  24. Dan P

    Why does my skin crawl when I think of Frank Sinatra singing that song? In my mind, “April in Paris” belongs to Billie Holiday.

  25. Melissa R.

    “…you’ve got twenty minutes starting now: make some gourmet vittles! Basil, endive, parmesan, shrimp, live lobster, hamster, Worcester, Muenster, caviar, radicchio, snow peas, scampi, …” can the next words really be blue beef? I always have to look it up at that point. Moxy Früvous.

  26. Miriam Nadel

    I got here after others had already guessed the ones I would have gotten.

    Creating my own list is suitable revenge. I have a couple of twists and will give out actual prizes, so come and play!

  27. Naomi

    For “observe”–Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.”

    He was something to observe, came in close I heard a voice, standing stretching every never, I had to listen had no choice…

    Actually I could probably quote that whole song, so I’ll stop now–before it’s too late [horror!]

  28. Naomi

    Uh, sorry. typo. That should read “nerve,” not “never.”

  29. Vardibidian

    Observe me if you will/I’m Professor Harold Hill/And I’m here to organize the River City Boys Band!

    That didn’t take long, did it?


  30. Yee

    And as the flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite I saw Satan laughing with delight The day the music died
    (Sacrificial) American pie

    • patrick

      “…treating people just like pawns in chess, wait till their judgement day comes” and “Day of judgement, God is calling on their knees, the War Pigs crawling”
      Both from War Pigs by Black Sabbath (judgement)

      “Make a hole with a gun perpendicular…”
      Ana Ng, by They Might Be Giants (perpendicular)

  31. Jed

    It’s been a long time since I looked at this post!

    I’ve now updated the markup of the list to cover the last half-dozen words y’all found.

    It looks like the only remaining words on the list that nobody came up with songs for are:

    defied; longitudes; whom; yawning

    I no longer recall what songs I had in mind for defied or whom! I would probably recognize them if I saw them, though. And I might have notes somewhere about what songs I intended for all of these (but if so, they’re not in any of the likely places where I usually keep notes). I do remember the songs I had in mind for longitudes and yawning.

    …Oh! A couple minutes later, I remembered what I had in mind for defied. Still not remembering whom, though.

    • Vardibidian

      Did I not get credit for “April in Paris” (Whom can I run to/What have you done to my heart)?

      This reminds me that I would enjoy playing again.



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