One of the random things I happened to notice yesterday, in a list of people who passed away in 2011, was the name of Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs. (Back in 2008, Arnold Zwicky marked the game's 50th anniversary here on Language Log.) For those who've never seen it, Mad Libs is a word game in which one player prompts a second player for a list of words — give me a noun; ok, now an adjective; ok, now another noun, etc. — where the kinds of words needed are determined by labeled blanks that are situated in a little story that only the first player can see. In the second step of the game, the two players read the story together with the words inserted in their proper positions. The very first Mad Libs gave the following as an example:
"_____________! he said ________ as he jumped into his convertible
______ and drove off with his __________ wife."
(Footnote: I've borrowed the example from the game's Wikipedia entry.)
Thinking about Mad Libs last night after a bedtime conversation with my six year old, I've concluded that someone really needs to design a linguistics course entirely around Mad Libs.
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