In the Czech republic I discovered that the Czech people are very proud of their rich and versatile language. I found that Czech people play on words in everyday life and conversation. The deep and colourful Czech language lends itself very well to play, so much so that I found more than 10 different word games here in a very short time and there are probably many more that I didn't have time to research. The popularity in these games shows a depth of interest in language which I believe is unique to Czech culture. It was here in Prague that I recorded a game called Zeme Mesto.
Zeme Mesto (Country City) is one of many word games that I found in the Czech Republic. This game is perhaps not the most representative of my findings and may not actually originate here, but was the first and only game I was able to record on video at this time.
Any number of players may join the game, but it is most common to play with around 4 people. Each player is armed with a pen and piece of paper. The page is divided into columns with the categories titles above each one; Name, City, Animal, Plant, Object and Country. The first player begins to recite the alphabet in his/her mind, the second player shouts STOP! The first player then calls out the letter of the alphabet that s/he reached when "stop" was called. At this moment all the players furiously write down words beginning with that letter that also belong in each of the categories described above. The first player to complete all the words beginning with the elected letter in each of the categories shouts STOP to end the progress of the round and all the players must stop writing. The player who completed all the categories then asks each of the other players if they have any of the same words that s/he has. The players then confirm yes or no for matching words. A player with a word that the others do not have scores 10 points and words that are matched score only 5 points. If a player has the only valid word in a category another 10 points are scored. The game continues in this manner until a player reached a predefined score, or an allotted number of rounds have been completed.
Education and Tactics
The game is educational in that it develops players cognitive reactions to general knowledge through words and alphabetical indices. Expert players will also be able to think fast and deep enough to come up with words in each category that they can count on other players not arriving at so easily thus increasing their score. Some players may choose to write down the most obvious words but with greater speed so that other players don't have time to think of more uncommon words.
The Czech language lends itself particularly well to play on words because of its versatility. Many Czech words sound similar to each other and this makes it very easy to rhyme and make puns and double-edged meaning. Although there are fewer words in the Czech language than English, more Czech people know these words and as a result have a greater general vocabulary and commonality with each other. This commonality makes it very easy for people to invent new words that make sense rather pure gibberish. This invention of words is also helped by the frequency of the similarity in beginnings and endings of words using the same letters or sounds. Czech words are also richer in meaning as each word is more concise, specific and condense in the articulation of its subject. For this reason it is quite difficult to translate meanings of Czech word to English as the expressions and colloquialisms are so individual. The origins of the Czech language come from a mixture of cultures in such a way that the current language has many unique aspects to it and it may well be that this diversity is what has generated such a rich and playful aspect of Czech culture.
Other Words Games
There are many other word games that I found in the Czech Republic. The most noteworthy are described below:
In this game a circle of players trade volley words to each other in quick succession. The first player calls out a word and the next player must call out a word that begins with the last letter of the first word. The following players must continue to extend the exercise without repeating a word that has already been called. If a player is too long in coming up with the next word s/he is dropped from the game. The player who manages to stay in the game long enough to call the last word is the winner.
Papirky - Word Consequences
The first player writes down a noun on the page and the word is hidden by a fold, the next player must write a joining word, fold and pass it on to the next player who alternates with another noun. This continues until the page is complete. The players then unveil the string of word to see what kind of sentence they have created and are humoured purely for its creative quality or lack of.
Similar to word consequences, players write sentences and fold the page. The difference here is that the next player is allowed to read the previous line, but not the line before that and so the page is folded accordingly. This is an attractive game because an amusing story can be created very quickly between the players. Again the outcome is enjoyed purely on its artistic merit.
This is much like Sentence Consequences, but this time the players each write 2 lines of poetry and are only allowed to read the lines of the previous player. This game generate a more lyrical and fluid use of the language and can show some great imagination from its players.
This game really test each player's knowledge of their vocabulary through mathematical addition of letters. The first player must think of a letter beginning with 1 letter. The second player with 2 letters, the 3 rd with 3 and so on. As the challenge is passed around it becomes very difficult as players reach word of up to 30 letters long!