I suppose in today's information blizzard the game of Hangman does not cause anyone – child or adult – to experience fear and cold sweats. I do not think that can be said of first time participants in Victorian times. Back in those days the term hangman conjured up thoughts of crime and punishment and definitely was not considered entertainment.

In fact, Hangman is one of the oldest word games. To quote Tony Aulard of "The Oxford Guide To Word Games", "The origins of Hangman are obscure, but it seems to have arisen in Victorian Times." 1. In 1894 Alice Bertha Gomme`s book "Traditional Games" it appears under the name "Birds, Beasts and Fishes" in its simplest form. The first and last letter of a word is listed and the player fills in the blanks. 2.

When I take a look at the games available today I see the evolution of Hangman in many of the modern computer games like Bookworm, Word Zen, Tumble Bees, and from Pogo Games the very entertaining Word Whomp Whackdown and QWERTY. I can spend hours in a good game of mahjong. When I discovered the best of two worlds – word and mahjong in one game I was as pleased as punch. (It occurs to me I should look up the origin of these catch phrases if I am going to use them as often as I do.) Word Jong is one of my favorites.You are provided with a pile of mahjong tiles all of which are labelled with a letter of the alphabet. The object of the game is to spell words with the tiles that have a side open. Upon using all of the tiles the player is rewarded with a Fortune Symbol and earning all 4 symbols provides tokens as a reward. Haiku is another. Wikipedia offers this definition: "This (Haiku) is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a cutting word between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related. "3. The short version: Link two Japanese short poems by a word that acts as a joiner by finding all of the letters in the words. The really short version: this is a great way to learn language, spelling and history.

I know this to be the case because I have increased my vocabulary by at least 25% in the last couple of years. When I retired a few years ago I wanted to pursue one of my passions: writing. I had taken a course in journalism and creative writing in my early 50s so I was sure I was ready to set the world on fire with my written words. Imagine my surprise when I discovered myself sitting and staring vacantly into space searching for words. It took a while to discover computer games provided me with "think time" and computer word games provided me with the additional benefit of extending my vocabulary in leaps and bounds. Even now I find myself adding to my vocabulary when playing games like Word Whackdown or Word Jong and I am encouraged to discover it is more likely to be three letter words than 5 or 6 letter words.

The effect these type of games have on children and their ability to learn can not be overstated in my opinion. Ours is a world full of computers, codex (I`m told) and calculations and today`s children must begin their studies a lot earlier in life than we did. Games such as the above mentioned word games provide an element of education which will create a foundation for one of the "3R's" which still apply in a well rounded education.

1., 2. Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangman_(game)

3. Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku

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