Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thank You, Shelby Little


For creating this fun book that I found at Goodwill last week. 

It was buried under a mound of assorted stuff-stuff that had nothing to do with books.  I like to think it was hiding out-waiting for me to come along.  Me, as in someone who would appreciate a book like this.

I was curious about the title, and the unassuming exterior.  I figured it to be a novel, misplaced by someone who thought about buying it but changed their mind and dumped it in the bin where I found it.  But it’s not a novel, it’s


The Word-Change Book

The dedication reads:  To those charming people who are dissatisfied with things as they are.

And what makes this book all the more charming to me is that it was written in 1927.  It would seem that in 1927, this word change game-invented in the late 90’s, was once again a new and fascinating phenomenon.

After an amusingly written forward by the author’s husband, and then a note by the author herself, we get down to brass tacks.



1.  Only one letter may be changed at a time.

2.  No letter may be transposed.

3.  Only English words, not definitely marked obsolete, to be found in standard unabridged dictionaries, may be secured by each change.  Foreign words, simplified spellings, abbreviations and proper names are barred.

(The compiler of this book declines to be held responsible for any transgressions of the above rules, either real or apparent, made in the “Answers”-her job ends with Problem No. 180.  When you get past there it’s simply a case of every man for himself and the one with the largest vocabulary and the heaviest dictionary wins.

Furthermore, no guarantee is given that the word-changes are  made in the least possible number of steps.  If you want a word-change done right, you’ve just got to quit your job, retire to some nice quiet sanitarium, and work the damn thing out yourself.)


So here is an example of  what a word change puzzle is:


The answers to each puzzle are found at the back of the book, and I was delighted to see that each puzzle is solved by someone famous, or at least a friend of the author.  In the case of the example above, the solver was none other than George Gershwin.  In another instance, Emily Post solved the puzzle SOUP-----NUTS.


Here is an example of a completed puzzle:


WILD—wile—tile—tale—TAME  (solved by Theodore Roosevelt).



Each week I’ll be posting a new set of these word games-with the solutions given the following week with a new set of puzzles.

Have fun!








  1. What an interesting book! I'm not sure I totally get how to play the game. Maybe once I see the answers it'll click for me.

  2. Good point Lisa-I'm adding an example above:)

  3. Oh wow. I may have to try this. It looks like a lot of fun!

  4. We used to play these games on rainy days at camp!


  5. Melissa-they are fun, and for me it's good exercise for my brain ;)

    C-perfect camp game!

  6. It was totally waiting for you to find it. Growing up we played cards, and chess and all sorts of interacting games. I really need to figure out a way to pass this onto my kids. Not become computer addicts - like their mother?

  7. Thanks Kim-and I know what you mean about not being computer addicts-Amy is learning to love old fashioned games too:)