I thought of this while browsing through the Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs. The game has a flavour of the popular Scattergories but with a more creative aspect to it. There are also several variations to try.

Any number of people can play. Everyone agrees on a selected proverb and a random letter of the alphabet. Each player then creates a probable proverb: a rephrasing of the proverb using as many words beginning with the chosen letter as possible (the literary term for this is alliteration). Other types of phrases can also be used such as famous quotations, movie, book, and song titles, and common expression or objects. Here are some examples, showing the original followed by the Probable Proverb:

Notice that liberties may be taken (depending on the group's level of leniency). Instead of direct synonyms word for word, the probable proverb may attempt to capture the intent of the original.

"Fine", you say, "But how do you score? who is the winner?" Well . . . , okay, I'll give you a scoring method. But keep in mind that in a game like Scattergories, the enjoyment is in completing as many relatively unrelated items on the list as possible in the allotted time. But in Probable Proverbs, the primary enjoyment is in hearing the Probable Proverbs created by the players. Timing and scoring could tend to nullify that enjoyment. Anyway, here goes:

Scoring: When the designated time is up, score ten points for each word that alliterates with the chosen letter and subtract one point for each letter in words that don't. The exception is words whose second syllable is clearly emphasized and alliterates well with the rest of the phrase (the group can decide any questionable claims.) This type of word is worth ten points, minus one point for each letter in the first syllable. Also, decide ahead of time whether to include words that start with different letters but have the same sound (e.g. "k" vs. hard "c", or "s" vs. soft "c", or words like "psychology"). My preference is to allow the variations to count.

Finally, long strings of adjectives that don't contribute meaningfully to the sense of the Probable Proverb, and whose only purpose is for higher scores are to be discouraged. These can always be challenged and voted on by the group. Another rule to discourage this practice is to say that the maximum number of alliterating words in the Probable Proverb (i.e., the ten point words) cannot be greater than the number of words in the original phrase. Any others count just like the negative point words (i.e. minus one point for each letter in the word)

Variations: Several variations are possible. For instance, instead of choosing a random letter, it can be fun (if you have the time) to do a probable proverb for a selected proverb using every letter of the alphabet. Here is a sample that we attempted:

Another variation is to pick a subject like "movies". Then have one player choose a particular title and create a Probable Proverb. It is read aloud, and the other players write down what they think the original is.

Score as follows: suppose there are five players -- one creator and four guessers. If no one guesses correctly, no on gets any points. If there is only one correct guesser, he and the creator each get four points. If there are two correct guessers, they and the creator each get three points. Give two points each if there are three correct guessers and one point for all if everyone gets it.

This method of scoring encourages the creator to try to make the Probable Proverb tricky, but not impossible to guess, since the less players that get it, the more points he gets; but if no one can guess it, the he gets no points.

I also have an online version called Probable Proverbs Online. Check it out and submit your own probable proverbs to be posted on the page.

Lyricalliteration is a spin-off that I like so well, I've given it a separate page and recently linked it to the Probable Proverbs Online page. It is a kind of extended Probable Proverbs using the complete lyrics from well known songs.

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