Wednesday, 21 November 2018


I have invented a game for Latin classes and life in general, which I name in honour of the author of the Technopaegnion. The rules are simple, the required tools pens and a whiteboard, or chalk and a blackboard, or a big piece of paper if there are fewer of you. You start with a Latin monosyllable and may change, add, or subtract one letter at a time to give another monosyllable. For example, you would expect mos to be a good starting point in Latin, and it gives mas (male), mus, mors, nos, vos, bos, dos, hos, ros, and two identically spelled words os. From mas you get mars, as (penny), das, fas, has, nas (you swim), vas; from mus, you derive rus, sus, tus. Oblique forms are fine, but somebody will at some point introduce a disyllable by mistake. Write the first word in the middle of the board and draw dashes or arrows from each word to its neighbours. With a big enough board two or three individuals can work on this at once, while others heckle, and soon you will have a complex web.

The first flush of enjoyment comes from simply coming up with a large list of words quickly; the second comes in adding the less common words (it was interesting that my class got nix and nex from nox but had to be told nux), or from working out how to get words you know into the web. One interesting part of the game is to identify words that cannot be changed to another monosyllable by the alteration, addition, or removal of a letter (vult and dein, for example). And once you get used to the idea, you can start thinking of ways to get from A to B, let us say from nunc to cras: my first thoughts were nunc, hunc, hinc, hic, dic, duc, dux, nux, nox, mox, mos, mus, rus, res, Cres, cras.  But actually it’s quicker to go rus, crus, cras. Perhaps somebody can shorten this? [afterthought: Yes! hunc, huc, duc!]

I started the game on the board as people were walking in before class, and it only took about 8 minutes of actual class time. Then at the end, one of our number got up and added the extra 25 or so items she had thought of in the interim (gratias ago Gratiae).

(On the board I wrote 'connected by two out of three letters' but was initially thinking of three letter words; I should have written, 'changing only one letter at a time').