Monday, September 24, 2007


Shuncabbage and Smugbottle

Tony Augarde, The Oxford Guide to Word Games (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 117-118:
The game of word-building leads naturally to another game based on the same principle—the very well-known game called Ghosts or Donkey.

The first player thinks of a word of three or more letters, and calls out its first letter. The second player adds another letter, which continues but does not complete a word, and so on, until one player is forced to finish a word. Any player who adds a letter can be challenged by the next player to say what the word will be. Any player who loses such a challenge or completes a word becomes 'a third of a ghost'. When he loses again, he becomes 'two-thirds of a ghost' and the third time he is 'a whole ghost' and is out of the game.


SUPERGHOSTS is a variation of the game, in which letters can be added at the beginning as well as the end. James Thurber was an addict of Superghosts, and he described its agonies and ecstasies in an essay entitled 'Do You Want to Make Something Out of It?'
In the essay, Thurber took up a challenge to find words that can be made from the combination of letters sgra, such as disgrace. There aren't many in English, so Thurber invented a series of compounds, to which he added amusing definitions. Among Thurber's invented words is the following:
fussgrape. 1. One who diets or toys with his food, a light eater, a person without appetite, a scornmuffin, a shuncabbage. 2. A man, usually American, who boasts of his knowledge of wines, a smugbottle.

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