Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fun with Words

Like many people, we keep a grocery list on the refrigerator, adding to it as we need things. Unlike most people, though, all the items on our grocery list start with the same letter. It all started when one time, by pure chance, the first couple of items on the list started with the same letter. Whoever continued the list started manipulating the names of the rest of the items so that they continued the pattern. Thus was born our tradition: whatever letter starts the first item that happens to go on the list is the letter that must be used to start every other item.

For example, eggs have been, at various times, chicken eggs, poultry eggs, avian eggs, or ovoid eggs, depending on the initial letter (this last one is a little redundant, since the definition of ovoid is "egg shaped.") Milk has gone by such names as cow's milk, lowfat milk, one percent milk, bottles of milk, and, my personal favorite, bovine liquid. It makes for some interesting situations when one person is standing in the grocery store trying to figure out what an item that someone else added to the list is supposed to be.

As with many such traditions, there are rules, but the rules are simple: no manipulating the first item on the list to get the letter you want, and no repeating a modifier. For example, if you've used "bottle of dish detergent," you can't then use "bottle of cranberry juice."

Some letters are easier than others. We've discovered that 'C' is a pretty good letter; besides all the wonderful foods that start with 'C' (cheese, Cheerios, chicken, etc) there are lots of good adjectives and some useful container words, such as can or case. 'D' is a surprisingly hard letter, as we discovered when our recent holiday shopping list ended up starting with a 'D', and we had items on our list such as drops of chocolate (chocolate chips), dough flour: white, dairy sticks (butter), diamond-like crystals of sweetness (sugar), deciduous tree fruit pie (frozen apple pie), and dead chicken in shells (eggs).

For those of us who are writers or editors, in one way or another, words are our tools and anything we can do to sharpen the tools helps us. Wordplay such as this is a great way to increase our vocabulary and build our skills at using words in new and unusual ways. Many times we've had to consult a dictionary or thesaurus to come up with appropriate words, and creativity plays a big component as well. But more than anything, it's just a fun and silly tradition that we enjoy doing together as a family.

14 comments:

Jackie said...

I love this! So funny! Earlier this year, my entire grocery list consisted of "M" items, and I thought it quite amusing. Love the challeng of purposely doing it, though. We may have to take it up!

Sheila Ruth said...

Thanks. You should try it, Jackie. It's lots of fun.

Also, I wanted to add that my son read this, and he reminded me that he was the one who came up with "dead chicken in shells." Truthfully, he's often the most creative at coming up with new names for things.

Emily Ruth said...

This is so amazing! I'll have to try it one day...

Sheila Ruth said...

Thanks, Emily. It's more fun if you can get everyone in the house participating, so you can chuckle together over good ones.

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

LOL! That sounds like something we would do. One of my sons is prone to writing weird grocery reminders, though not necessarily alliterative ones. Can you use subjective adjectives--like delicious rice or delightful broccoli? Or is that too easy?

Sheila Ruth said...

Subjective adjectives are fine, and we do use them sometimes. For some reason we tend not to use them a lot, though.

Tasha said...

What a great idea! I love that it happened organically and that your son is so into it. The most unlikely things can become family memories and traditions, can't they?

Sheila Ruth said...

You're right, and it's often the unplanned things that become the most treasured memories.

Runningflame said...

Lol! This sounds like fun. X^D We sort of do something similar--when writing something on the grocery list or labeling a container of leftovers, my dad often spells something in a humorous shorthand (SOS for spaghetti sauce or RAT for ratatouille, for instance), and I've taken to doing the same thing sometimes. And just this morning, I put "poilet taper" on the shopping list. ^__^

Another word game we like to play is with license plates. I don't know how the Maryland ones work, but around here we have three letters and three numbers, like OBR 739. We take the letters and try to form a word by adding other letters around them--for instance, OBR might turn into ROBBER or OBSTRUCTIONIST. The longer the word, the better. Some of them are quite challenging. ;^D That game is particularly fun when we're on vacation, since the Nebraska plates end up being a bit repetitive after a while.

Jen Robinson said...

That is hilarious, Sheila!

Happy New Year!

Sheila Ruth said...

Hi Runningflame, thanks for stopping by! Why am I not surprised that you guys play word games, too? The license plate game sounds fun; we'll have to try it.

Jen, thanks for the comment. Glad that you're back from the holiday traveling. Hope you have a Happy New Year, too!

Little Willow said...

This sounds like such fun!

Sheila Ruth said...

Thanks, LW!