Do you want to play a game?

At some moment on the hazy horizon of memory, I am sitting in the tiny breakfast nook my mother called the “kitchenette.” This me is probably still in elementary school but I’m guessing that middle school is not far off. In this particular recollection I am eating cereal from a white Corelle bowl, but I could just as easily be playing with the last few strands of spaghetti from dinner. I am repeating a phrase over and over, sometimes out loud and sometimes just under my breath.

“Do you want to play?”

Each time I emphasize a different word.

Do you want to play?

Do you want to play?

Do you want to play?

Each iteration carries a slightly different meaning without changing the grammar. The emphasis alters the tone of the question which in turn directs the kind of answer that I expect from my imaginary interlocutor. I’m fascinated with the way the tone shifts with only a little extra volume on a single word. I am especially struck by what is implied when I ask, “DO you want to play?” As if I am speaking to a liar or someone who is only humoring me.

OK, so I was no Blaise Pascal, but in the solipsism of youth, the idea that language could be more than the sum of the literal words was quite a revelation. And that fascination with the subtle (and not so subtle) relationship between the denotational and connotational nature of language stuck with me.

When I tell people what I do as Major Fun, their first reaction is generally one of good natured jealousy. “That must be fun!” And it is! I get to play games and then write about the ones that I think are amazing. I can also write about any and all of the things that I think about as I decide what fits the criteria for the Major Fun Award and what doesn’t. I can write about the fun and playful nature of language.

That part of me that was fascinated by how emphasis shifts the tone of a question also drives me to do more than just play the game, but rather play WITH the game and everything it implies.

Do I want to play this game?

Do I want to play this game?

Do I want to play this game?

Do I want to play this game?

I think many folks regret engaging me in this conversation. It’s about as much fun to listen to wonky abstractions as it is to listen to someone as they relate their dreams. Fortunately for them, in our age of the internet, clicking the Back Button is a handy escape. If you have made it this far then perhaps you are enough like me that from time to time, you will want to splash around a bit in the abstract end of the pool.

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