Remember Playing Hangman?

Remember playing hangman?

I do.

Sometime in the last century they stopped hanging people for real (at least in most States) and converted the activity into a word game. The game was played by two people. One person would think of a word and draw a row of blank spaces, one space for each letter of the word. Above the blanks would go a little picture of a gallows. The other player would guess one letter of the mystery word at a time. If a letter was part of the word, the first player would fill in the appropriate blank. If the letter was not part of the word, the first player would draw in the hanged man, one piece at a time. Guess wrong once and a straight line would come down from the gallows, representing the noose. Guess wrong again and a circle would be drawn for the head. Enough bad guesses and there would be a hanged stick figure on the page and the game would be lost.

I never understood why the hanged man was necessary. The game was just Wheel of Fortune but without the wheel and and without the fortune. But this was in the time before portable devices that held video games and media players. Kids just today just don’t understand – back then, if we wanted to goof off during class, we had to play hangman. I guess even back then our games had to have a violent component.

Most of my hangman memories are from Hebrew School. I don’t know why I would have chosen to play this inane word game instead of learning about Moses and Matzoh and how to light the Sabbath candles. There must have been a lot of peer pressure.

I just found on online site where you can play hangman. I wanted to see what it like, just one more time. The topic was “countries” and the word turned out to be Switzerland. I figured it out in five seconds and not one piece of the hanged man appeared. When I had guessed all the letters the stick body formed all at once and the gallows collapsed behind it, freeing the stick body. I wanted to gloat and cheer, to bask in the glow of victory over my opponent and over the classroom wall clock.

But I was alone. And the only time I had wasted wasted was my own.

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