Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fools and their land are soon parted

I've never met any other family who owned the party game Wise and Otherwise. But it's become a legend in ours. In this game, someone reads out the first half of an old ethnic saying, viz., "There's an old Polish saying: If you knock three times with no answer ..." Then everybody writes down a more or less plausible conclusion to the saying, which is then combined with the real ending and read out for votes Dictionary-style.

The importance of this game to our family comes from a memorable occasion in which the saying to be completed was "Darkness conceals ..." My older brother's answer, "... the fool's shoddy workmanship," is a masterpiece of Wise and Otherwise misplay. Note the reliance on a proverbial construct, the fool; note, too, that the word "workmanship" is not only odd, but is judged incapable of standing on its own without the strangely archaic adjective "shoddy." Put it all together, and "Darkness conceals the fool's shoddy workmanship" has, improbably enough, become an actual saying in our household.

As the caretakers of the Wise and Otherwise game, we were implored by this reunion's organizers (my parents) to bring it along, and tonight we broke it out for an hour's hilarious play. You know a game is going well when the very first candidate read for our votes, "When the rats have enough food, there be nothing left in Mother Hubbard's cupboard" could not be completed without the poor reader cracking up. (Yep, that's a Dwayne classic too my mistake; it was my sister-in-law playing on his team, clearly affected by decades of close contact with the master, from the affected "there be" verb to the allusion to a nursery rhyme probably unknown in the country of this saying's origin.

Pretty soon, every time someone mentioned "fool," "land," "wisdom," or "piled high like the snows in winter," the room broke up. I don't know whether this game plays this well for all gatherings, but for our family, it's a guaranteed good time.

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