Monday, September 26, 2011


Any number of players can play Dictionary. When it is player i's turn, she picks a word from the OED that no player knows. All players write a definition from the word (player i writes the actual definition). Player i reads all the definitions; the other players vote for which they think is the correct one. Each vote earns player j (≠i) one point; guessing the right word also earns one point.

We played this, and now you can too! (J. won hands-down; he left halfway through the game and still held the lead until the final round. He came in second by one vote.)

Can you pick out the correct definition? (No cheating!)

What does "quisby" mean?
- a crescent-shaped water hole
- pertaining to the way along the dock or harbor: "The fishermen
admired the quisby view after a long day of work."
- a scrimshaw boat
- the act of feeling apprehensive about one's own bodily odor
- an idle person
- traitorous: "The quisby East German judges only gave an 8.2."
- one who asks questions
- an elongated tube of glass used to ensure cucumbers grow straight
- the state of being confused: "He was in a quisby."
- the feeling of being uneasy or sick
- a childish, precocious middle-manager
- a small nocturnal mammal endemic to Madagascar

(Answer: An idle person. Extra puzzle: see how many times you can use "quisby" in one sentence; can you use all the above meanings? The quisby quisby pulled into the quisby, steered by a quisby who felt both quisby and quisby, and accidentally dropped his quisby on an endangered quisby...)

What is a "kurgan"?
- a failed attempt
- a ceremonial turban used in the observance of the Zoroastrian new
- a stone-age tool used to scrape hides
- a member of the judiciary in the Ottoman empire
- a spice commonly used as a substitute for pepper
- an unmanned water cache used to facilitate desert journeys
- a traditional oil lamp used in the tents of Mongol chieftans
- pertaining to or originating from the mountainous region surrounding
the Caspian Sea
- title for the leader of the Tartar tribes in the 9th-12th centuries
- a prehistoric sepulchral barrow in Russia and Tartary
- an Eastern-European confection whose principal ingredients are
flour, egg, and quark
- a derogatory Turkish term for a non-Turk
- the secretary of a medieval guild

(Answer: A sepulchral barrow! As opposed to a merely decorative barrow!)

What does "zawn" mean?
- a hood for a wood-fired kiln
- the adolescent form of any lizard in the family Orcumbries
- a mythological beast in early druidic texts pertaining to seasonal
- an even-sided diamond used in heraldry
- a fissure or cave in a coastal cliff
- a colloquial expression of disinterest
- an animal found in the south of Mexico that resembles a badger
- enthusiasm; joie de vivre: "The student was full of zest and zawn."
- a young Bactrian camel
- to fall off a high place

(Answer: A coastal cliff, as in "He cried 'zaaaaaaaaawn!' as he fell into the zawn.")

What does "gholam" mean?
- mounted Arab warriors
- a type of building popular in the Sassanid dynasty with passive air
- a zombie
- a sense of awe felt when beholding a mountain range
- a fugitive from a Soviet gulag
- a clearing in a forest with no vegetation growth
- a courier, messenger
- a ceremonial Tamil knife
- an obsidian gollum

(Answer: A courier, but it should be the building with passive air ventilation.)

What does "galactico" mean?
- the many-eyed monster of Greek mythology, beheaded by Chronos and
flung into the firmament
- a demon; cf. manichee
- the substance once presumed to fill the space between stars; ether
- a skilled and celebrated footballer, esp. one bought by a team for a
large fee
- a variety of tomato predominantly grown in the northern regions of
- an abhorrent structure formed during the development of neurological
tissues in mammalian vertebrates
- a form of adhesive made from the sap of a coniferous tree used by
the Metis
- an additive used to enhance the flavor of some milk products
- (1950) a music and fashion subculture that thrived in the
post-rockabilly era in the United States
- a star football player belonging to the Royal Madrid football club

(Answer: A skilled, expensive footballer. N.B. that one player remembered this during the round, hence the two football definitions offered.)

What does "soodle" mean?
- to trick or deceive
- a diminutive horse
- a traditional Norwegian breakfast
- a large burning mound used in the production of potash
- to walk in a slow or leisurely manner; to stroll, saunter
- a food product derived from animal fats, often used in flavoring
- to deceive, in the context of maritime trade or barter
- obsequious, especially in business dealings
- a traditional Norwegian buckwheat porridge
- a jaunty walk

(Answer: A slow walk. I like that a jaunty walk was also offered, hence "would you like to soodle or soodle this afternoon, dear?")

What is an "ozena"?
- the organelle in protozoans responsible for sensing the direction of
- an infection that causes irritation of the skin
- a Turkish pastry, made with pistachios and rose water
- a nose ulcer which results in a fetid discharge
- a sharpened disc used as a weapon by indigenous Amazonian warriors
- a medicinal balm used for treating burns and skin irritations
- a viral skin condition characterized by fissuring and cracking of
the skin
- a luxury fabric woven from silk and gold
- the conduits in mushroom gills down which spores travel
- a drinking cup; quaiche (from the Greek xenos, for foreigner);
- a coastal rock formation

(Answer: Rather unbelievably, it is a fetid nose ulcer! We've got a word for that in English! I challenge you to use this appropriately someday.)

What does "maninose" mean?
- a soft-shelled clam
- deriving from, or related to, the use of statuary in garden designs
- patient, willing to wait for opportunities
- a traditional Peruvian codpiece
- common byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, along with Xylitol,
Ribose, and Lactic Acid
- the original term for mayonnaise sauce
- a flammable oil made from fish products
- a trunk of a coppiced tree immediately after harvesting
- surly; cantankerous

(Answer: A soft-shelled clam. Nature makes it easy for once. I prefer to think of it as a Peruvian codpiece; if enough of us use the word this way, it should catch on!)

What does "mandram" mean?
- a sudden gust of wind on a clear day
- an early loom requiring external weights such as stones or lead
- a metal sheet used for ramming placed on the front of a trireme
- a cylindrical tool, typically maded of brass, used to stress leather
for curing
- a vote in Spanish parliament which passes with 2/3rds majority
- the neophyte dormitory in a Buddhist monastery
- a two-dimensional figure, typically drawn in colored sand, used in
16th century Tibetan meditation rituals
- a drink made from wine and chopped vegetables
- a root vegetable with pale tubers and elongated, pointed leaves
- dusty, dingy or poorly maintained, especially when referring to a
- a vessel for preparing large quantities of stew or soup

(Answer: a vegetable wine drink. It does seem like a vegetably word.)

And finally, what does "ballum rancum" mean?
- elaborate machinations in the pursuit of political power
- the foul odor associated with a rotting corpse
- treacle
- a textured skin rash resulting from excessive moisture trapped by
- a mucosal secretion of skin pustules, esp. from plague
- a collection of Irish street children
- the outermost cartilage structure in the human elbow
- an erotic dance (typically naked) by a number of prostitutes for a
group of clients
- the quarters in which gladiators would wait before entering the

(Answer: Yes, you thought it was a joke for joke votes, but it is a special vocabulary term for an erotic dance of n naked prostitutes to m clients.)