Cover of a Mad Libs book (© Penguin
Group USA) ONE of my favourite party past-times — theoretically, as I’ve never actually played it — is Mad Libs: a phrase-template word game typically published in book form. It is a collection of short stories, or situations, with many of the words blanked out. Beneath each blank a lexical category — “noun”, “name of pet”, etc. — is supplied; players have to find words to fill in the blanks. The point, of course, is to select the most humorous or surreal option presented, so that the result is bewildering, and side-splitting.
Mad Libs was a 1950s invention, so the concept is no longer novel; you’ll find many examples online. But, since I’m attached to the idea of having something I can hold in my hands, I went to the bookstore to get a copy. There was a wide range available — most were unauthorised spin-offs. I picked one at random.
I found several of the passages in Missing Word Activity Book strangely apt. Here are two from the “(noun denoting high complexity)” section.
On a (adjective) day I was (verb, method of transportation) to the city when (name of female friend) rang me up over the phone. She (intransitive verb describing laughter) said: “I (past-tense verb) a girl last night at a (evening social activity) and I really (verb denoting enjoyment) it!”
Taken by surprise, it took me (measurement of time) before I could answer. “Isn’t that a line from a (piece of creative work) by (name of pop musician)?”
“It so is!” she answered. I could hear sounds of (intransitive verb) in the background. “I heard that (piece of creative work) uncensored over the (broadcast implement) last (day of the week), and that’s what gave me the (adjective denoting illumination) idea to try it out!”
“Um, (positive adjective) on you, I guess,” I said (adverb denoting care). “Did (name of male friend) like watching?”
“He so did!” she said. Then her voice took on a (adjective denoting worry) tone. “Because we left (name of evening social activity location) separately, me and (name of male friend), I decided to (verb) with the girl for a bit more.”
There was a pause for several (measurement of time). “We ended up going back to her (family member)‘s place, where we had (noun).”
“(colourful exclamation of shock)!” I exclaimed.
“I know! Like, what the (noun), right?” she answered. “I think I’m turning into a (slang for sexual libertine).”
“Okay, don’t panic, (name of female friend),” I said. “Don’t put the (wild animal) before the (farm implement).”
“I need some (noun)! Like, what will everyone think?” she said. “You know how my (family member) is!”
In my mind I (past-tense intransitive verb). “Yes, and members from your (religious organisation), too! Everyone will (verb denoting dislike) you! You (derogatory slang for sexual deviant)! Your (ranking work-related manager) will fire you! Even(subscriber-based broadcast service) hates you! You know how they (past-tense verb describing audio cue) out ‘(slang for sexual libertine)‘ and ‘(different slang for sexual libertine)‘ from (name of famous creative practitioner)‘s acceptance speech at the (name of famous creative-practice awards ceremony)!”
“You are such a (noun),” she said, and hung up.
Last (date) I met (name of male friend) at a (location). Before I could say “(greeting)“, he said, “I think I should stop going to(religious house of worship). I can’t call myself a (adherent of a particular religion) anymore.”
“What?” I said. “Why?”
“Well, two (measurement of time) ago, I was putting on a (piece of apparel) on my (body part or parts). Then I picked up a copy of (name of periodical). You know how (name of periodical) is; they’ve got articles about (noun) and (plural noun). (Plural noun)with large (vegetable)-like (plural noun).”
“Yeah? So you’re feeling guilty for (verb describing a repetitive action), is it?” I said. What a (noun), I thought.
“No, no! You’ve got it all wrong! In that issue that I was (intransitive verb describing scrutiny), there was a (type of periodical text) about (major monotheistic religion). I stumbled across it, so I started (intransitive verb).” Then he stopped talking. We were ordering some (plural noun).
“Well?” I said, finally.
He looked (direction) and (direction), then (past-tense verb carrying conspiratorial connotations): “I saw the word (non-English-language noun describing religious deity).”
“(Forceful exclamation of denial)!” I (intransitive verb pertaining to speech). “They had the (body part) to do that? (verb)! Don’t they value their (name of government body) permits?”
“I don’t know,” he said (adverb). “But all I know is that I saw (non-English-language noun describing religious deity). In a (type of periodical).” (name of male friend) stopped (verb) his (noun). “I can’t un-read something so (derogatory adjective).”
“Yeah,” I said.
We (verb) there, at a (abstract noun), for several (measurement of time).
“What can I do?” he asked.
“You should (verb). Write a letter to (name of media organisation). They’ll make a (noun denoting excessive agitation) about it,” I said. “We have to teach these (plural derogatory noun) a lesson they will (verb).”
“You think that will work?” he said.
“Of course. Look at what happened in that (different non-English-language noun describing religious deity) issue, last (date)! Not even the (plural noun) or (type of broadcast organisation) dare use the word, now.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” (name of male friend)said.
“When have I ever been wrong?” I answered.
(name of writer) wishes he got invited to more (evening social activity).