Words & Stuff

AA: We Do 'Grams, Word Games

(5 July 1998)

Okay, is there anyone here who doesn't know that an anagram is a rearrangement of letters from a word or phrase, ideally resulting in another word or phrase that has some bearing on the original?

Didn't think so.

The Net is full of anagrams; they're so common that I'm surprised it's taken me a year and a half to get around to mentioning them. Some of the classic anagrams are somewhat relevant to their subjects: "Old West action" for "Clint Eastwood," for instance, or "insane Anglo warlord" for "Ronald Wilson Reagan." Others are random nonsensical insults, like "huge berserk rebel warthog" for "George Herbert Walker Bush." Some are topical (and therefore quickly dated), like "villain" for "Vanilli"; some are timeless, like the fact that "eleven plus two" anagrams to "twelve plus one."

I'm fond of phrases in which the first half is an anagram of the second half, such as "quintessential tinsel antiques," or what someone should have told Hamlet, to get him to chill:

"No big deal, O glib Dane!"

(By the way, I'd always been told that "O" should be used only in addressing someone -- that is, that it was not a general-purpose synonym for "oh." But my dictionary gives it as simply a variant of "oh," without so much as a usage note. O well.)

For more anagrams than you could possibly want, go visit I, Rearrangement Servant, the Internet anagram server. Be aware, though, that like most anagram programs, this one only knows stem words; if you ask it to anagram "quintessential," the word "antique" will appear in the resulting list but not the word "antiques." (If I remember right, one of the better downloadable anagram programs, which I've unfortunately lost the contact information for, allows "s" as a word; you still have to do the pluralizing yourself, but at least it reminds you of the possibility.)

All of which is merely by way of lead-in to the new game I'm introducing this week: Thogs (also known as Goths). As you may have guessed if you're a quick anagrammer, Thogs is an anagram variant of Ghost. There are two versions: Easy and Hard.

In Easy Thogs, players add letters to the growing collection of letters (rearranging the list if desired, though the order of letters doesn't matter), until one player has formed the anagram of a word (over three letters long) and can't think of a longer word that can be made using those letters. For instance:

Xaviera: Q
Yitzak: QY
Zinnia: UYQ
Xaviera: QRYU
Yitzak: YRUEQ
Zinnia: Ha! You lose.
Yitzak: Not hardly. We could go another three steps, to GINQRUEY, for QUERYING.
Zinnia: Ah, but three more steps would take us back to you, so you still lose.
Yitzak: Nope, you challenged me and I had a longer word in mind, so you lose.

So in Easy Thogs it's okay to reach an anagrammed word en route to another word, as long as you have a longer word in mind that uses those letters. In Hard Thogs, you lose if the letters you say can be rearranged to make a word, so Yitzak's last turn above would indeed have been a losing move. I call this version "Hard" because it seems likely to result in every move being intensely scrutinized by all other players, hoping they can anagram your letters into a word.

I should note that Thogs has not yet been thoroughly playtested. If anyone tries it, please report back to me on how it went and how it could be improved.

Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>