Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bingo's the name, but what's the game?

Stan Carey's Usage Peeve Bingo game is getting a lot of play in language-blog land, so once again I've been wondering: Does anyone ever try to play these games, or are buzzword bingo and its variations just gag ideas?  (A possibility Stan acknowledges when he writes,"If you search Google Images for "buzzword bingo", you’ll see how popular a game (or pretend game) it is.")

The question persists because I never see anyone discussing how such a game would actually work. In old-fashioned bingo, the point is to mark off a row on your card matching the numbers announced by the caller. It's purely a game of chance -- a slow-motion lottery, in effect. And that means (almost) every player's card must be unique; otherwise the whole room would be shouting "Bingo!" in unison (and sharing the pot). 
So if you really wanted to play Usage Peeve Bingo, you couldn't just print out Stan's 6-by-6 card; you'd need to plug it into a randomizing program and generate cards with the words in different positions. Finally moved to research the question, I learned that it's actually easy to do: here, for instance. I'm still not sure how you'd stage the game -- around the copy desk, maybe? -- but I've done enough peeve-hunting already to last a lifetime, so I'll just watch, thanks.


Kay L. Davies said...

Well, I looked it up, enlarged the "card" and tried to figure out how to X for every square that peeves me?
Well, what peeved me most often was Stan's use of that/which in italic, with spaces on either side of the oblique stroke, making it (in italic) look like "that I which" because the oblique stroke (or "slash" as they say since computers) is too short to register as anything other than an italic I.
The thing which peeved me next most often was the fact that it's 6 squares by 6, unlike Bingo, which is B-I-N-G-O or 5 squares.
Ah well, old printers are a dying group, witness the number of old-printer funerals and old newspaper closures recently, so I'll soon have no say in anything, whether it peeves me or not.

empty said...

Kay, brace yourself for this: Wikipedia indicates that in the UK they have bingo cards that not only are not 5x5: they aren't even square!

Bryan M. White said...

It seems to me that there are two ways that Bingo can work: 1.) The normal way, where everyone has different cards but they all listen to the same person read off the numbers. 2.) You give everyone the same card, but they catch what they can from what they hear through-out the day in their own individual experience, making it less a game of Bingo and almost more like a scavenger hunt.

This language peeve Bingo seems like it would have to work under condition 2. Either way, it's got to be one or the other. If everyone has the same card and they're all drawing from the same common experience or listening to the same person (as in the Dilbert comic in the link) then, yeah, that wouldn't work at all. (Unless, of course, it becomes a contest of who actually has the stamina to listen at the meeting ;D )

Stan said...

Does anyone ever try to play these games...?

I've wondered the same thing, Jan. My Bingo card was not meant as a serious game suggestion; I thought it might be a gentle joke for writers and editors, and perhaps provoke some discussion about which peeves people entertain, and why.

As I said in the post, it could also serve as a checklist when people encounter a list of peeves. That could constitute a solo game of sorts. Or people might just want to peeve about it: there's fun in that, too.

If it were to be used for a proper game of Bingo, or a variation thereon, it would require randomisation, as you say, or customisation, or something along the lines of what Bryan describes.

Anyway, thanks for your visits and thoughts.

Jan said...

Hi Stan -- I didn't mean to be cranky, but this question has been buzzing in my head for so long that I finally had to look into it. Bryan is right, too, that a single bingo card could function simply just a test of concentration, say in a student lecture. Though given what I hear about what's on students' notebook screens, I wouldn't expect scores to be high.