Making up words

I grew up in a game-playing family – party games like Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and Scattergories were staples of my childhood. You would find us playing them all, especially during the holidays. My favorite game of this time period is a game I’m guessing you have probably never heard of – The Game of Sniglets.

Sniglets were popularized by Rich Hall of HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News.” However, that’s not where I knew them from – we were forbidden from watching HBO in our household! I came to know them from a series of books spawned by the show.

(From Amazon)

Sniglets are defined as words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should. In other words, “sniglet” is the made-up name for the words we make up for things that don’t have words. Whew. A favorite example:

Carperpetuation – n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

The Game of Sniglets is essentially the game of Balderdash (or the dictionary game) in reverse. In each round, one player – who I’ll call the reader – draws a card and reads the definition of the Sniglet found there. All other players make up a word to go along with that definition.

The reader also writes down the “official” Sniglet, then collects the words from the other players, mixes them up and reads them all. The non-reader players vote on which one they think is the official Sniglet. Each player who’s made-up word gets a vote, gets a point, and if the official Sniglet is chosen, the reader gets a point.

From Amazon

I loved making up words to fit definitions – that was my favorite part of the game. I wasn’t necessarily good at it, but I had fun with it. My uncle, on the other hand, was great at it – maybe too good. he knew various latin prefixes and suffixes that made the words sound almost real, which was a dead giveaway that they were not the official Sniglet.

What I remember most about this game is the laughter it created. We would giggle as the reader stumbled over the various words everyone made up or as we guessing whose word that terrible one was.

I remember seeing the game at my parents house up until a few years ago. However, the last time we helped my Mom move, the game was gone – otherwise I might have brought it home with me. I suspect that my current game group wouldn’t actually like the game – we aren’t big into party game and, of course, Sniglets aren’t exactly part of current pop culture – but I still love thinking about the many hours of fun and laughter the game brought to my family those many years ago.

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