N: Crotchety Old Crocheters

Various memory-related games involve reciting a list of items; each time you recite the list, you add a new item to it. The act of reciting the full list each time makes it much easier to remember the entire list as it grows. Some years back, Ed Cook taught us a list of eleven items […]

M: What’s Showing?

When I was in high school, doing backstage work for the theatre department, one of my occasional responsibilities was to put announcements (of theatrical presentations, sports events, and so on) on the marquee-style sign out by the road. Unfortunately, we had a limited set of letters to use, and every so often we would need […]

L: Too Much on My Plate

Pennsylvania's license plates used to say "You have a Friend in" at the top, and "Pennsylvania" at the bottom, with the license number in between. Some enterprising group or company capitalized on this design by printing up fake Pennsylvania vanity license plates on which the license-number area read "JESUS," so that if you ignored the […]

K: Gallivanting Around the World

There's a word game in which players take turns saying the names of countries; each name must start with the final letter of the previous name. No repetitions of names are allowed. I'm sure this game has a name, but since I don't know it, I'll call it "Gallivanting." The problem with Gallivanting under those […]

J: Unleashing the Prescriptivist Within

I've got my prescriptivist hat on this week. Although I'm fully aware that language changes over time, and that linguistically speaking an utterance is grammatical if a linguistically naive native speaker says it's grammatical, I grew up with a strong grounding in correctness of language—correct speech and correct writing. And sometimes that background shows itself […]