Three Popular Word Games
Word games are good distractions because they’re educational and fun at the same time. I remember playing word games in school when the teacher needed to kill some time or when I would finish an assignment early. Word games train your brain to think more clearly about words and language, and allow for a little friendly competition.
There are all sorts of word games, from simple games you can draw with a pencil and paper to more complicated online word games that require a video game system or computer to play. Here are three of the world’s most popular word games, a brief history of each, and different ways to play them.
Today’s schools are so politically correct, it isn’t common to find teachers playing hangman with their students anymore. Watered-down versions of the game are still played, like “Wordman” where a character walks off a chalkboard if the students don’t guess the word in a certain number of tries.
The original Hangman game was a word game played with pencil and paper. One player thinks of a word or phrase and the other players has a certain number of guesses to get the word right. Every wrong guess ends with the player holding the pencil drawing another part of the hanging man until eventually the entire man is drawn out, hanging from a noose, on the page. Different players use different numbers of guesses, but a standard game of Hangman allows six guesses–one for the head, one for the body, and one each for the arms and legs.
Hangman appears to have come from Victorian England, because the first known mention of a version of Hangman comes from a games book published in 1894 in England. The game was called “Birds, Beasts, and Fishes”, and in this version of the game, the first player writes the first and last letter of an animal and the other player has six guesses to guess the rest of the word.
To play a fun online version of Hangman in different categories, check out the Storyman game at eastoftheweb.com.
The name “codeword” refers to at least two different types of games–the better-known version of codeword gives a player ten guesses to figure out a five-letter word by guessing one word at a time. The other version of codeword is an enhanced crossword puzzle where certain numbered spaces in the crossword puzzle represent a different letter, spelling out a secret codeword after the crossword is complete.
Both games are relatively new inventions, especially considering that the more popular version of codeword, spelling out a five-letter word with ten guesses, comes from a classic 1980s board game involving numbers instead of letters. Crossword puzzles have been around since 1890, so its possible that the crossword version of codeword has been around longer than the more familiar “word guess” version.
For a fun “word guess” game of codeword, check out the codeword games at Brainbashers.com.
The lovable, friendly old word search is a much maligned word game–regarded by many word game fans as too juvenile to maintain a true word gamer’s attention. But the humble word search was most people’s first word game, handed out in elementary school to kill time or during holiday parties as a learning opportunity / fun activity.
A book of word searches is the perfect companion on a boring transatlantic flight, long bus trip, or to kill time during a jury duty wait or any other less than exhilarating activity. There are word searches for every skill level, including so called expert level word searches that use a giant pool of letters and more difficult words to find to increase the skill level required to complete the word search.
The first word searches in America appeared in a small circular newspaper in Oklahoma in 1968, though a Mexican newspaper had been publishing something similar to today’s word searches for decades before that. The word search spread through American schools when teachers in the small Oklahoma town where the paper was circulated sent them to their teacher friends around the country as an educational classroom distraction. The explosion of word searches since that time is evidence of their popularity and use in the classroom setting.
For a great collection of word searches of different skill levels, check out the collection of word sleuth games at abcteach.com.