Word games

In my later years of high school, my peers would quote short snippets or even long slabs of Monty Python at each other at the slightest provocation. Conversation was generally punctuated with absurdities. Silliness was in. Being seen to take anything seriously was a form of suicide.

Friends of mine would sometimes fool around with a kind of verbal game. “Whizz, Jim,” one might say. “Zock, Mike,” the other might reply.

Then they would giggle.

I had no idea what they were doing.

This drove me crazy. If it was a joke, I didn’t get it. If it was a game, I didn’t know the rules. They might say “Zoom” or “Zap” or something else. They might go fast or slow, and they would drop in and out of ‘normal’ conversation almost as if nothing was going on.

I suspected that there were no rules. I wasn’t having that.

I made up rules. I invented a game. Then, I was able to say to my friends: “That’s not how you do it. This is how you do it.”

The game was called “Whizz Zock Bang.” It was very silly, but it had rules, and it was quite difficult, at least for excitable teenagers, particularly if they were intoxicated in one way or another. Whizz Zock Bang became, briefly, very popular, and spread far enough for me to have the pleasure of seeing it played in pubs by people who had never met me. I’m pretty sure it has died out now, or morphed into something unrecognizable. Perhaps it has devolved into shapelessness again, and hip pranksters say “Whizz, Jim,” “Zock, Mike,” without any idea of why their joke is a joke.

Here, for the record, are the rules of the game.

WhizzZockBang3Whizz Zock Bang

Whizz Zock Bang is a verbal signalling game. The standard game is for six players, although with variations of the rules (see below) it can be played with more or fewer players. The players are arranged in a circle, usually seated, for the duration of the game.

The idea of the game is to pass a verbal signal from player to player without interruption and without breaking the signalling rules, which are:

  1. When signalled, a player must respond at once. The definition of ‘at once’ is decided by the players. It is often defined as responding before someone else can say “Too slow!”
  2. There are four signals: ‘Whizz’, ‘Zock’, ‘Bang’ and ‘Pass’.
  3. WhizzZockBang1WhizzZockBang2Your whizzes are the two people next to you in the circle (one to your left and one to your right). To whizz someone, you say whizz and the player’s name, eg, “Whizz Tim”.
  4. Your zocks are the next two people around the circle (one on the left and one on the right). To zock someone, you say zock and the player’s name, eg, “Zock Les”.
  5. Your bang is the last person (the player opposite you in the circle). To bang that player, you do not say their name. You just say “Bang”.
  6. You cannot pass a whizz. If somebody whizzes you, you have to respond with a whizz, zock or bang.
  7. You can pass a zock or a bang. If someone zocks or bangs you, you can pass by saying “Pass”. It is then back to that player to say something else.
  8. You cannot pass a pass.
  9. You can whizz as many times as you like.
  10. You can zock as many times as you like.
  11. You cannot bang twice in a row. If you bang the player opposite you, they can pass or bang you back, but you cannot bang again. You will have to whizz or zock someone.
  12. You cannot pass three times in a row. This means that if someone zocks you, you can pass. If they zock you again, you can pass again. If they zock you again, you cannot pass a third time. It is open to you to zock them back or signal someone else.

Scoring

There is no winner. Negative points are scored for each mistake. Any player may interrupt play to identify a mistake, by calling “Too slow!”, “Out!”, or “Wrong!”, as appropriate.

The potential mistakes are:

  • Failing to answer a signal in time.
  • Making an incorrect signal, such as whizzing your zock, banging twice in a row, saying the wrong sound, adding a name to a bang, leaving a name off a whizz or a zock, etcetera.
  • Answering a signal that is not directed at you.
  • Interrupting play to call out an error when no error has been made.

After a break in play, play recommences with the player who made a mistake (or the last player to send a signal, if the break in play was for some other reason).

A player is awarded an ‘F’ for their first mistake, ‘U’ for their second, then ‘C’, ‘K’, ‘W’, ‘I’ and finally ‘T’. The first player to receive a ‘T’ is a fuckwit. At that point the game is over, or scores are reset to zero for another round.

If playing to fuckwit is too impolite, the group can play to donkey or some other word.

If there is a dispute about scoring, a majority vote by players is decisive. If the vote is tied, honourable players will accept a letter and play on rather than hold up the game.

Traditionally, the first game of a session begins with three practice rounds where no letters are scored.

About names

It is recommended that the players’ names all be shortened to a single syllable for the game, as it can be an unfair advantage to have a polysyllabic name. Thus, “Les”, not “Lesley”, “Pete”, not “Peter”. This recommendation can be ignored if the players collectively agree.

Variations

Five players: You have two whizzes, one zock (next on your left) and one bang (next on your right). The person you zock bangs you and the person you bang zocks you. When you zock you do not say a name. Other rules remain the same.

Four players: Moving from left to right, you have one whizz, one zock and one bang. The person you whizz bangs you, the person you zock zocks you, and the person you bang whizzes you. Other rules remain the same.

If you have fewer than four players, it is recommended to do something else.

Seven players: You have two bangs, so you have to say a name. You cannot bang the same person twice in a row, but you can bang one then the other (potentially endlessly). Other rules remain the same.

Eight players: You have two bangs, with bang rules as for the seven player game, and one pop. You cannot pop twice in a row. You cannot pass a pop. Other rules remain the same.

Nine players: You have two pops, so you have to say a name. You cannot pop the same person twice in a row, but you can pop one then the other. After two pops in a row, you have to say something else. You still cannot pass a pop. Other rules remain the same.

Ten players: You have two pops, with pop rules as for the nine player game, and one zap. You can zap as many times as you like. You can pass a zap. If someone passes your zap, you have to bang. Other rules remain the same.

And so on, via zip, buzz, wack, wow, and ummagumma: Write to me if you want rules for more players. In practice, the game becomes unwieldy with larger numbers.

I will mention one more variation because of its fiendish difficulty.

Whizz Zonk Bang Mefigliano into Bottles: Bottles is another game in which players count around a circle: “One, two, three” etcetera. Whenever a player gets to a number which contains a seven (eg, 7, 17… 70, 71… 703) or is a multiple of seven (eg, 14, 21, 28… 49… 84), the player must say “bottles” instead of the number, and the direction of counting around the circle is reversed.

Bottles can be combined with Whizz Zock Bang using the signal Mefigliano.

When in Whizz Zock Bang, any player can mefigliano their bang (ie, they say mefiglio instead of bang). The mefiglianoed player then launches into bottles. If this is the first entry into bottles, the player starts at one and the counting moves clockwise. If bottles has already been commenced, the player starts at the next number in the sequence and play carries on in the current direction of counting.

When in bottles, any player can choose to say mefigliano instead of bottles on a bottles number. Like saying bottles, this reverses the direction of play, but the next player is now playing Whizz Zock Bang.

You cannot mefigliano a mefigliano. You cannot pass a mefigliano.

Afterword

Many happy hours were wasted with Whizz Zock Bang. Or should I say many wasted hours were happy? It is actually just one of many frivolous word games that are part of my cultural heritage.

‘Bottles’ was well known in my childhood.

My father taught me ‘Thumper’, which he described as a drinking game, in which all the players drum on the edge of the table with their hands, and the signalling was by hand gestures. I can provide further details on request.

My father’s parents were quite good at ‘The priest of the parish’, which begins with someone saying:

The priest of the parish has lost his considering cap. Some say this and some say that, but I say … Red one two three down!

For this game everyone has a colour, and if Red has not answered before the accuser finishes one two three down!, he is caught. The response must be in an exact form of words, in dialogue with the accuser:

  • I, sir?
  • Yes, you, sir.
  • No, not I, sir.
  • Who then, sir?

Red then says a colour, followed rapidly by one two three down! The player called says I, sir?, and the sequence repeats until someone is caught out. They score a letter (it was always D, O, N, K, E, Y) in our family games. It was considered a failure to get a single word wrong: a common error for beginners was to say Then who, sir? instead of Who then, sir? After making a mistake, the player begins again with The priest of the parish has lost his considering cap…

All this sort of stuff is being blown away by smartphones and apps. Whether the sum of human happiness is going up or down as a result is beyond me. One last thing I will say about word games like Whizz Zock Bang and the rest: they’re just about impossible to ‘monetise’. This is both a huge vote in their favour and a reason why no-one is looking after them.

© 2018 Craig Bingham

Read something similar:

Young fish No

Read something different:

The conservatism of same-sex-marriage [non-fiction]

Care [fiction]

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