Word games

Subject: Word games
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 09:27:28 LCL

A local radio station runs "the yes/no game" every morning
to test the wits of their listeners. The rules of the game
are deceptively simple: the host asks a series of questions
designed to learn more about the caller's life, job, etc.,
while the caller must respond without using the words yes,
no, or obvious synonyms (yeah, uh uh, etc.). Safe answers
generally involve paraphrasing the question, or forms of "I
am" or "that's true".

The game sounds trivial until you try it with a skilled
partner. The usual practice is to ask two or three "essay
questions", then suddenly switch to a yes/no question; most
callers are so programmed to answer tersely and without
thinking carefully that they automatically answer yes or
no, even if they append an explanation. I haven't kept
track of the numbers, but something like 9/10 fail.

A typical game might go like this:
Host: So Mr. Hart, how do you spell your first name?
GH: G-e-o-f-f.
Host: That's the British spelling, right?
GH: That is how the British spell it.
Host: What do you do at work?
GH: I work as a writer and editor.
Host: What does that involve?
GH: Mostly correcting other people's writing.
Host: People must hate getting back a manuscript covered in
red ink, huh?
GH: Yup.
Host: Yer outa here!
GH: @#%$%*&!

Not a particularly inspiring example, but then I'm not a
talk show host. The game represents an interesting way to
sensitize yourself to the way you think about words and use
them to respond to questions; it's also a challenge coming
up with more subtle questions that progressively seduce
callers into becoming comfortable enough talking to you
that they stop thinking carefully about their responses.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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