In one of the very first posts on this blog I stated that I would not be using it to evangelise about my taste in music, nor would I try to convince you that you should be listening to the new tune by my current favourite band, or that your liking for Sting or Phil Collins is an unacceptable abomination, (which it clearly is) because, as the brilliant (but, in the UK, largely unknown) comedian Martin Mull once pointed out “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.
In case you aren’t familiar with his work, here’s a clip –
I’ve always thought his quote was excellent, perfectly summing up the total subjectivity of personal taste and, at the same time, illustrating how pointless it is to try and explain something as ephemeral as music.
However, it was only recently that I discovered the genesis of the saying.
Despite the fact that it has been attributed at various times to people as diverse as Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, and even Steve Martin, the phrase (or at least the formula for it) has been in use since as far back as the 1920s, when any two activities were juxtaposed in a similar way to emphasise incongruities in the name of comic effect.
For example; “Talking about ice hockey is like pot-holing about gynaecology”
Ah, ok, that’s not a good example.
How about; “Singing about accountancy is like wanking about politics”
or “Whispering about gardening is like skydiving about cookery”
You get the idea.
Anyway, given the tangential way my mind works, I somehow managed to make the leap from the “a about b is like x about y” formula to a 1940s parlour game called Winkle’s Wedding which I used to play with some friends in Sussex.
The connection being missing words.
The idea of the game was very simple.
The tale of Winkle and his sweetheart’s wedding was printed in a booklet that was read out by one of the players, but which also had strategically placed gaps in the text.
The other players (up to six if I remember rightly) were dealt a hand from a pack of cards that had words or phrases printed on each one, and at the point at which the narrator reached a gap in the story, the next player in turn spoke the word on their card.
So, for instance, you might end up with;
“Winkle presented his bride with a _______ from which she pulled an __________.”
And the next two cards in order of play could be “duck” and “umbrella”, causing much innocent hilarity.
Now, it occurred to me that in this age of smartphones, computers, predictive text and auto-correct, it should be possible to construct a 21st century version of the game whereby a word is chosen at random from a list of suggestions provided by your device.
Unfortunately this method didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped, the difficulty being that it’s remarkably hard to intentionally misspell words with the hope of getting comical suggestions from a silicon brain with no sense of humour.
So I’d like to set a challenge to any of you that have some time on your hands over the weekend.
I shall provide a list of words at the bottom of this post which can be copied onto bits of paper, shuffled, then placed face down in front of anybody willing to help with this experiment.
You should pick a well known passage from a book, song, poem or any other source material you fancy and then remove some carefully selected words from the text, (anything up to a dozen or so should do it) leaving gaps to be filled in afterwards.
As you narrate your chosen passage, the other player (or players) must pick random pieces of paper and read out the words on them to fill the gaps.
You then copy the words in bold into the text (to show where the gaps were) and post the result in the comments section of this post.
If you so wish, you can also provide me with your own list of insertable words, with which I shall attempt to do something similar at this end.
(You will of course have an advantage over previous players of the game, having already seen the list of words and possibly being able to pick the source text accordingly. Not that I condone cheating, except for the sake of decent comic effect anyway)
Here are my word suggestions for insertion, please use as many or few as you like, but each word must only be used once:
Don’t do that.
I have no idea whether this silly game will work.
For all I know, blogging about Winkle’s Wedding is like tobogganing about palaeontology, but it’s worth a try.
Update – 29/09/13
Whilst chatting to Ho the other day, I urged him to go and see an event near him in Sussex where a literary hero of mine, Terry Pratchett is giving a talk this weekend.
Ho is not a fantasy fiction fan, but I assured him that it would be worth going to see Terry speak anyway, as he’s a fascinating man.
I’m glad to say that he took my advice and will be attending the talk. And in the spirit of this post, earlier today Ho sent me this message:
I have enraged your advice and spandex a ticket to badger Terry Pratchett this treacle. I will foam finger your testicles later to let you dribble how it excreted.
A fine first attempt at my hybrid parlour game, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Over to you…