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Pictionary and the evolution of writing

At a party tonight, people playing a homegrown version of Pictionary, basically Difficult All Play with made up words. A neutral player picks a word and shows it to the drawer of each team, and they race ot make the guesser say the word; no limit on the abstraction of the word. We saw expertise, irrelevant, vulgar, and tact (which was going on when I left.) The winners of the earlier words used "sounds like" techniques, e.g. Vulcan + car = vulgar. This was banned for the 4th round on the grounds of being too powerful. Progress by non-sounds like teams was, uh, amusing.

It occurred to me that "sounds like" is recapitulating the evolution of writing. First, pictures of concrete objects or verbs, then ideograms for the more suitable abstract concepts like 'up'... and then instead of arbitrary graphical symbols for the hard stuff, phonemic techniques to elicit the sounds of the arbitrary spoken word people already know.

This suggests a compromise, based on the vast majority of Chinese characters: people can use a partial 'sounds like' technique, indicating part of the sound but combining it with a other symbols that suggest the meaning domain. E.g. 'vulcan' + pictures suggesting politeness or rudeness or the populace.

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Damien Sullivan
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