When you’re behind the wheel, in most places you aren’t allowed to (or shouldn’t) use a hand held cell phone, an iPad, Blackberry, or other device that can distract you from the road ahead. If you play Angry Birds while negotiating a road in the mountains, you can be no better than a squashed pig.
So what do you do when you’re facing a 600-mile stretch of highway on your next vacation? Play the “License Spelling Game.” It gives your brain a bit of fun to keep from falling asleep while you focus on the road ahead.
Once you learn the very simple “rules,” it’s a way for drivers and passengers to have friendly competition, whether on city streets or country roads.
Back before there were all these electronic devices to keep kids occupied in the back seat, you may have played the “Alphabet Game.” In our family’s version, we would compete to see who could get through the alphabet first by finding letters on trucks and signs along the way. If you’re interested, you can read a post I wrote a couple years ago called “Take the Alphabet Game on Your Next Road Trip.”
However, once your kids have gotten the gist of spelling (and you, of course, are a greater speller, right?) the License Spelling Game uses license plates rather than billboards for competition.
Here is how the game-that-doesn’t-require-an-APP works.
Let’s say that the car ahead of you has a license plate “2IVE734.” According to the most basic rule, the goal is to make the shortest word from the letters in the order in which they appear. If you started with a consonant, it would be fairly easy to come up with a four-letter word like “dive, five, give, hive, jive, or live.” Any of those would beat the five letters in “river.”
Any word might fit a variety of license plates. For example, FRK – RRK - IEO and IEW could all produce the nine letter word “fireworks.” On the other hand, you could turn “FRK” into “frank,” which is four letters shorter!
My car’s license is 4RYY015. What would you do with that? My son’s answer is below.
You can make up your own “rules,” but here are the ones our family followed:
1. Places, things, verbs, adjectives, nouns and so forth are welcome. However, since one could easily make up a name (or use a creatively spelled one-of-a-kind name), no personal names or nicknames are allowed.
2. You can create more than one word. This is often needed when you can’t possibly find a single word for something like “VWZ.” In this case, I might try “very wild zoo.” Maybe you can do better.
3. Since some states only have one or two letters on their standard, personalized, disability, special interest, and veteran plates, that is fine. Makes it easier, of course, and since the point is to enjoy yourself, just go ahead and find the shortest word for ones like “X” or “U.”
4. If you simply can’t think of a word with the letters in the order they appear on the license plate, you may allow letters to be scrambled if no one can think of a better way to use the letters as they are shown.
5. Play a variation with the longest word you can create.