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Taking Ownership: What Makes Words Ours?

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Just like the idiosyncrasies of our personalities, our vocabularies make us distinctly who we are — or at least make us sound like who we are. Look at a block of written text someone you know wrote, and you can probably tell who wrote it just by paying attention to the words they used.

From the pet names we have for others to our distinct catch phrases, to our assortment of curse words; we have a way of sticking to certain ones that we eventually adopt as our own. And at that point we call others out for using “our words.”

Let’s take a closer look at what makes words distinctly ours.

Saying it first.

Being the first to say it is the definition of coining a term, right? Oy with the poodles, already! was born out of thin air. It’s just how it happens. You’re in the moment, and BAM! It’s like the saying goes about modern art: I could’ve done that. Yeah, but you didn’t.

Saying it often.

Paris Hilton was far from being the first person ever to say that something was hot. But she kept at it. Eventually, we ended up with the mindless yet catchy, “That’s hot.”

*eye roll*

Similarly, Donald Trump decided to reserve the rights to the phrase, “You’re fired!” after using it in every one of his The Apprentice episodes. Talk about originality.

The same principle works in literature; you know The Great Gatsby is talking to you when he asks, “How about that, old sport?” Or that Dear Sugar is soothing your worries when she calls you “sweet pea.”

Saying it, period.

Have you ever heard anyone other than Fred Flintstone say, “Yabba Dabba Doo?” Maybe cause no one else can pull it off. Same way that only Bart Simpson can tell you to eat his shorts. As long as you’re saying something outlandish enough that no one else would ever say, consider it yours. Bazinga!

Saying it with sass.

Joey from Friends probably inspired many to use his classic pick-up line, “How you doin?” Nothing special about the line itself, except how he said it. Similarly, Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond had a very specific way of saying, “Holy Crap!” Specific enough that it became his thing.

So next time you notice someone start to use the same words you do, consider it a compliment.

The Best Word Games to Get Competitive Over

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Word games are the best because anyone can play them. You use words all day, every day. Even if you’re not speaking or writing, your thoughts are made of words.

You know how to use your words. Here are a few ways to win with them:

1.    Scrabble

Duh — the obvious first choice in word games. This tried-and-true classic has been around since the late 1930s. Make the best of the seven letters you get and build onto words already spelled by your opponents. The more you play, the more two-letter words you’ll learn (and never use outside a Scrabble Game).

Alternate rule suggestion: Make tile trading legal. No one wants to be stuck holding AAEIOOU or FJKRLBX. And quite frankly, it slows the game down for everyone. So if two players want to trade, just let ’em. It’ll get you all that much closer to an open triple-word.

2.    Taboo

Test your ability to colour outside the lines, so to speak. In Taboo, you have to describe something without using most commonly used words to describe it. For example, if the word you’re describing is pirate, you can’t use the words treasure, hook, parrot, skull or island. So you’d have to get creative and say something like, “Jack Sparrow is one of these” or “the term for illegally downloading movies.”

Alternate rule suggestion: Make inside references illegal. If your partner is a good friend, you’re at a serious advantage. If the word was Godfather, you could say “You fooled around with Sheldon Finklestein while this movie was on in the background” — and that’s just not fair (and not right because…Sheldon Finklestein? Really?).

3.    Mad Gab

Perhaps not as popular or well-known as the others, Mad Gab is a word game to exercise your phonetic capabilities. Phrases your partner tries to guess are spelled out as completely different words that sound like your given phrase. Huh? Here’s an example to demonstrate: “He’s a sly fox” would be written as “Ease Ace Life Ox.” Say the latter really fast and moulded together, and it’ll sound like the former. So here you need to ditch logic and let instincts kick in to sound it all out. It’s essentially like learning a new language — which makes you respect the foreign exchange students you went to high school with that much more.

Alternate rule suggestion: Limit the number of repeats. The more the reader says the phrase, the easier it becomes. Give them two shots, then shut them down.

4.    Boggle

Who doesn’t love a nerve-wracking battle against a ticking clock? Not to mention a bunch of competitive opponents. Using a grid of 4 x 4 dice (with letters instead of numbers), you have to think of as many words as you can using the letters in the grid — all before the designated three minutes run out. Playing Boggle is a great way to keep the gears in the ol’ brain turning and stay sharp between the ears.

Alternate rule suggestion: Whoever loses has to clean. And they can’t lose any of the letter cubes. Good luck with that.

5.    Cards Against Humanity

While not a classic or typical word game, per se, we included Cards Against Humanity because it is, technically, word-based. Not to mention, totally amaze-balls. One person reads out the phrase on a black card, and the rest of the people answer with one of their white cards that best goes with that phrase. Offensive. Inappropriate. Glorious.

Alternate rule suggestion: None needed. Just play.

Writing for Love vs. Money

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“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” – Moliere

Depending on what stage of your career you’re at (as a writer), that likely made you either laugh or cry. Or perhaps give a melodramatic sigh of “ain’t that the truth?”

Either way, our motivating factors for choosing to write and choosing what to write change over time. Is it fair to say, then, that writing as an act of reflecting on our lives is a way to grow and flourish as an individual? Perhaps you haven’t thought of the simple act of putting ink on paper as such a substantial part of how people learn.

For Love

Let’s reflect on what we learned from that last relationship.

Poetry, witty and introspective aphorisms, journal entries and the like live in this territory of writing. It’s romantic, carefree and has no deadlines. We do it for ourselves and only share if we decide to. Most of the time, it’s for our eyes only. If you ever remember a time when you might have done this, dig it up and read it — you’ll see just how far you’ve come since then. You may also see the exact point at which you sold your soul.

For a Few Close Friends

Them:

Can you help me write the content for my website?

Can you quickly go over my resume?

Would you mind proofreading my entrance essay and adding in a few things?

You:

Well, you’re my friend ¾ I’m not going to say no. I can’t let you submit that without my professional expertise brushing through it.

Sound familiar? You’re in the transition period. You still have enough love for the craft not to charge your friends for a bit of work here and there, yet you’re not tainted enough to treat it like a job and ask for money. This period usually doesn’t last very long. Fear not. You’ll be either rejecting them or asking for money in no time.

For Money

I need 500 variations of the same headline in three hours.

Can you have that website copy done by Monday? The same exact content in five different tones?

Your next assignment is ghostwriting a new e-book, better get started.

Now it’s down to nothing but business. You’ve drifted to the other end of the ocean that separates this land from the one of poetry and feelings. Now you’re following exact instructions with a deadline and an invoice at the end. Ghostwriting? That’s all the work with zero credit. No one knows you wrote that bestseller, and you’re not allowed to disclose to anyone that you did. But you’re a real writer now! Take your cheque and be on your way.

3 Vocabulary-Building Games to Play with Toddlers

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Why is little Johnny across the road speaking in full sentences while your little darling is stuck on goo, ga and dljhkfwncsjadjbhlk?

It could be because you’re not teaching her to use her words.

Don’t feel bad. The process of associating a specific group of sounds to an object or action is a big leap for kids. They’ll all turn into 16-year-old jerks eventually. But if you want to speed the process along a bit, remember that they’re more likely to succeed if they’re having fun, so make a game out of it. Here are some of our favourites:

Name That Relative

All you need is a family photo album. Go through it and name everyone over and over again. “Daddy,” “Mommy,” “Uncle Peter,” “Aunt Becky.” Then go back to the beginning, point at someone and let them say it. They’re the words they’ll be saying most often at the beginning, so you might as well start there.

 

I Spy

You can work on colour recognition. You can introduce your kiddo to basic words like chair, door, sky, tree and dog. And you can do a little interior design planning: “I spy with my little eye the perfect spot for an end table.”

 

The Repeating Game

When your little one’s six or seven, she’s going to play the repeating game with you:

You: Time for bed

Her (somewhat mockingly): Time for bed!

You: No, seriously — get upstairs!

Her (very mockingly): No seriously — get upstairs!

You: I’m not kidding!

Her (mocking to the point of cruelty): I’m not kidding!

But when they’re little, it’s your turn. When they say something, just say it back to them — but instead of mocking them, be super-duper excited. After a few times, you can start repeating back to them in different accents and voices. Perhaps you have a hidden talent for doing Cookie Monster or Jack Nicholson?

Of course, the best way to encourage your kids to speak is to read to them. Read anything and everything to them. Goodnight Moon? Yes! The Economist? Why not? Jeff Blair’s latest blog post/rant on Sportsnet.ca? Absolutely! Donald Trump’s Twitter feed? Well…