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Proverbs By The Letter

No. of Players: 2+
Type of Game: written or spoken
What you need: pen & paper or nothing


To guess proverbs from their initials.

How to play

The gamemaster gives the other players the first letters of the words of a well-known saying, adage, maxim, motto, proverb etc., which they write down on a piece of paper. The first player to correctly guess the proverb becomes the next player to craft a similar puzzle. Alternatively, the initials to five or more proverbs are read out loud to the players. The players then have a certain amount of time to solve them. The first player to do so, or the player who finishes the most in the time allotted, becomes the next gamemaster. Hints can be provided if no player is able to solve a particular puzzle.


Ayla: What proverb has the initials A–M–T–H–G–F?
Brayden: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. How about T–W–D–M–A–R?
Chanel: No one can get this, can you us give a hint?
Brayden: The first word is a number.
Davis: Two wrongs don't make a right. Try this one: T–N–T–L–T–P.
Elizabeth: There's no time like the present. Here's another: T–I–M.
Frankie: Time is money. And another: Y–C–A–G–W–Y–W.
Everyone: Hint, please! (Frankie starts to move like Mick Jagger...)
Goldie: You can't always get what you want!
Frankie: Yes!

And so on.

Did you know?

The world's oldest surviving written text appears to be a set of proverbs. These Instructions of Shuruppak were engraved in cuneiform script on clay tablets and were given by the last king of Sumer to his son over 4,600 years ago.

Instructions of Shurrupak

Indeed they read like an older, wiser man imparting fatherly advice – and in two distinct directions. For instance, one is given practical warnings, like how not to locate a field on a road. But one is also given moral and philosophical advice, like how not to speak arrogantly to one's mother, how not to pass judgment when one drinks beer, and how "Fate is a wet bank; it can make one slip."

Did you know?

Meet Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff of Philadelphia, PA. Long name, but at least he has the typical number of initials to shorten his name, right? Nope! Because that's actually his abbreviated name! His full name reads as:

letters ABCDEFGHI in red

Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus

letters JKLMNOPQR in red

That's right, Hubert has 27 names. But it could be worse. Because if he ever needs to initialize a document, all he needs to do is to write down every letter of the alphabet, in order, with an additional W tacked onto the end. Kinda weird, but that's what makes life so interesting!

letters STUVWXYZW in red

Here's something else most people don't know. According to Guinness World Records, the shortest abbreviation is L.A. These familiar letters abbreviate the Spanish name of Los Angeles when it was originally founded as a pueblo: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula. This translates as "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola." Abbreviating a 55-letter name to just 2 letters represents a reduction to just 3.64% of its original length. No doubt helpful for residents and visitors alike.

red letter L   red letter A

Guinness also lists the world's longest abbreviation: S.K.O.M.K.H.P.K.J.C.D.P.W.B. These are the 14 initials of the Syarikat Kerjasama Orang-orang Melayu Kerajaan Hilir Perak Kerana Jimat Cermat Dan Pinjam-meminjam Wang Berhad – which is the Malay name for the The Cooperative Company of the Lower State of Perak Governments Malay People for Money Savings and Loans Ltd. of West Malaysia.

map of New Zealand with Taumata marked

Some place names are so long that they virtually beg for a shorter alternative. Take Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu. This is a hill located in New Zealand, and most of the locals shorten this mouthful to simply Taumata. This 85-letter word translates from the Māori language to "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his flute to his loved one." Fun fact: tennis player Martina Navratilova learned to pronounce this record-breaking word when she was 10 years old, which she actually put to use when she visited New Zealand many years later.

map of Wales, UK with Llanfair-PG marked

The longest one-word place name in Europe belongs to a large village on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, UK. It's more popularly known in its abbreviated form as Llanfair PG. But visitors can see many signs (very long ones!) that hold the full name of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Translating from the Welsh language, this word means "St. Mary's Church in the Hollow of White Hazel near the Rapid Whirlpool of the Church of St. Tysilio of the Red Cave."

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