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Tail-tag: "how word dances ... in new ways!".


"Shiri-tori" is a verbal game played by every Japanese child. Shiri means buttocks (what James Joyce calls an "arse"), but it's a cute term, like baby-talk. Shiri is used in many compound-words, to generally describe bottom or end. Tori (from toru) is to take or to get. Shiritori: I'd call it "tail-tag".

Shiritori basic rules (from Two or more people take turns, saying nouns. A player loses by saying a word that had already come up. A player also loses by saying a word ending in the mora N ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), because no word begins with that character.

Example: sakura([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [??] rajio ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [??] onigiri([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [??] risu([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [??] sumou([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [??] udon([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). [??] XXXX! The player who said the word udon lost this game. (End of paraphrase from Wikipedia)

Many words end in the mora N ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), (futon, koan, kyogen, shogun, yen, zen, mikan (orange), mishin (sewing machine), ...), so if you're not careful, you'll say one of these words, and you lose. (And the game continues with the remaining players.)

In English, many words end in X, but few words begin with X. Similarly, many Japanese words end in the mora RI, but few words begin with it. Therefore, a common strategy is (1) defense: to memorize many words starting with RI, and (2) offence: to use words ending with RI to challenge others.

When played by adults, a game can easily go on for 2 hours, requiring much concentration to remember all the words that have come up. Variations and additional constraints are common: e.g., loan-words, words related to anime, or film titles.

Chain-link and tail-tag sentences in English

For over 30 years, I've been wondering if a Shiritori-like game is played outside of Japan. Thanks to the internet, my question is partially answered. According to and the linked pages, Koreans play "tail-tag", possibly as eagerly as the Japanese, and there are similar games in Russian, Chinese, and French.

(French children play "Trois petits chats" based on syllables: trois p'tits chats [??] chapeau d'paille [??] paillasson [??] somnambule [??] bulletin [??] tintamarre [??] marabout [??] bout d'cigare [??] ...)

I recently noticed the English counterparts on p. 18-9 of Ross Eckler's Making the Alphabet Dance. In 1994 Will Shortz in his Suhday NPR program asked listeners to submit these "chain-link sentences". Here are my favorites from p. 19:
   Martha has aspirin in industrial allotments.
   Lineman Angelo loves escargot other erudite teammates eschew.
   The hearse sealed Edwin inside; death thus ushered Edwin into
   Two women enter erotic icehouse, seduce celibate teacher.

[The name "chain-link" is especially apt for 2-letter links--in an actual chain-link, there is an overlap of 2 times the metal width. See fig. next page.

Perhaps "tail-tag" could be a more general term that also includes l-letter and 3-letter links in this article.]

When I tried it myself, the first one I came up was: "Tomoyuki kind-of often engages esthetical allegories." And the second one was in ungrammatical German:

"Tomoyuki interessiert Tonbandgerat tonend dunkel Libestod des schwer Richard." (Can someone help me fix this up? I'm trying say: "Tomoyuki likes listening to tape-recorder playing dark Liebestod by severe (grave) Wagner.")

* The great Bush anagram (W-W, Nov. 2008, p. 281) seems to have been independently discovered and published in The l Hate Republicans Reader (2003) and The I Hate George W. Bush Reader (2004). I'm using the anagram in these two:

"G.-Dubya" anagrammatically yields (SOB) "bad-guy." (--where SOB = Son Of(a) Bush)

"Bad-guy" yields slobbering "G-Dubya" anagrammatically.

* (By Feb. 2009, we will have seen ...)

Obama arrived, demanding great tempo on normalizing George's slip-ups.

Longer version: ... George's slip-ups, screw-ups, snafus, scourge & errors.

* (A hypothetical description of what happened after the new U.S. President started arresting unpatriotic citizens and confiscating their lands.)

(--An "ouster" is a legal term for wrongful eviction.)

(3-letter) Obama amassed "seditious ouster" territories.

* (I witnessed a most fantastic sight: a deranged man walking on his hands, singing & leading a march of brightly-lit, Oktoberfest boys. I yelled to a policeman ...)

(3-letter) "Presto... Stop! Topsy psycho chortled & led LED lederhosen-clad lads!"


Tail-tag "Rule-of-thumb"

* Tail-tag's sentence enchainer rule-of-thumb below:

"Word-initial letter: repeat terminal letter" (rule employed during "glommin' noun, name, etc." creating great tail-tag)

* (By Feb., many people would be struggling to keep their new year's resolutions. Here's my wish for the realistic & healthy resolutions ...)

May your resolutions stay year round!

Longer (kludgier) version: May your resonable, empowerin' & nurturin' New-Year resolutions stay year round!

(Google-searching in Dec. 2008: No results found for "resolutions stay year".)

* How Word dances, streaming graceful loci in new Ways!

(Tip of th' hat to Word Ways and the book Making the Alphabet Dance.)

Shiritori in Jp Hiragana: [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]


Tomoyuki TANAKA

(Calif., USA)
COPYRIGHT 2009 Jeremiah Farrell
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:shiritori word game
Author:Tanaka, Tomoyuki
Publication:Word Ways
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Previous Article:Cry-baby.
Next Article:A pseudo-history of alphabetical characters.

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