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Tennis, Elbow, Foot

two tennis rackets and a tennis ball     arm at 90 degree angle     footprint

No. of Players: 2+
Type of Game: spoken
What you need: nothing


To think of words associated with a previously spoken word.

How to play

Players take turns saying one word. Each word must be associated with the preceding word in some way. For instance, the first player says tennis, the second player elbow (as in tennis elbow) the third player foot (another part of the body), and so on. Words must not be repeated, and words must be spoken without hesitation (or within a strict time limit of, say, 3 seconds). Players repeating previously spoken words or hesitating too long must drop out. Players can also challenge each other if they do not see a connection. One player can be elected to act as referee, or the entire group of players can take a vote: if the challenge is upheld, the player challenged is forced out; but if the challenge is unsuccessful, the challenger must drop out. The last player left in the game is the winner.

This game is similar to Word Associations and Explain That.


Andre: MOON
Barry: BEAM
Dawn: BATS
Barry: HOMER
Andre: Challenge! What's the connection between GLOVE and SIMPSON?
Dawn: Oh, I thought of the famous trial of O.J. Simpson: "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!"

(Barry and Carol rule this a legitimate connection and the game continues without Andre.)

Carol: OVEN
Dawn: CAKE
Barry: WALK
Carol: MOON
Barry: Repeated word, you're out.

And so on.

Did you know?

Some historians believe the game of tennis is thousands of years old. The evidence is rather thin, but interesting. They point out how certain Arabic words, which date back to ancient Egyptian times, resemble words we use today to describe the game. For example, the Arabic word for the palm of the hand is rahat, which is similar to the English word racket. They also note how the word tennis may be derived from the Egyptian town of Tinnis.

two tennis players playing in front of two pyramids

More substantial evidence suggests that tennis only emerged around 1000 when French monks began playing a crude handball game against their monastery walls or over a rope stretched across a courtyard. The name they gave to their pastime was jeu de paume, meaning 'game of the palm.' According to this theory, the word tennis arose from the French tenez – meaning something to the effect of 'take this!' or 'play!' – which the Monks would shout as they served the ball to their opponent.

monk holding tennis racket with ball

As the game grew in popularity, it spread outside the monastery walls to become adopted by the European nobility. The nobles took their new sport indoors. Some accounts claim there were as many as 1,800 indoor courts by 1200. At that time the game was still played off of walls with bare hands. But eventually gloves were constructed, either with webbing between the fingers or with an attached solid paddle. The ball they used was made from hair, wool, or cork wrapped in string, cloth, or leather. By 1500, a wooden frame racket strung with sheep gut was in common use, which players used to strike a cork-cored ball weighing about three ounces.

nobleman holding tennis racket with ball

Historians refer to this Medieval form of tennis as 'real' or 'court' tennis and argue it was an earlier ancestor not only of modern tennis, but of table tennis (or ping-pong) as well. But it had very different rules to today's game. Games took place in narrow, indoor courts and the ball was played off angled walls which had a number of openings. Players scored points by hitting the ball over a drooping center net and into netted windows. During the 1700s, however, real tennis dwindled in popularity.

Goodyear blimp in blue sky

It's the American chemist Charles Goodyear who largely deserves credit for reviving and revolutioning the game of tennis. Goodyear had been working to improve tube tires and by the mid-1800s he made a breakthrough when he discovered the vulcanization process. This made for bouncier tennis balls and allowed the game to be played outside on grass courts. Since the new venue had no walls, tennis had to be quickly reinvented. And it was.

picture of actual Wimbledon tennis match

By the time the first Wimbledon tennis tournament was held in 1877, the game had court dimensions and a set of rules essentially as we know them today.

In case you're wondering, the images under the title of this word game form a rebus puzzle:


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