Willful Ignorance: A Literary Drinking Game

Back in the heady days of my Craccum editorship, I was surrounded by some of the cleverest, most talented people I’ve ever met. Tama Boyle, Matthew Backhouse, Jess Ralph, Alec Hutchinson, Joe Nunweek, the list goes on. And we spent a lot of time on the balcony of Shadows (RIP), drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and playing cards (Asshole, mainly).

However, at one point, we invented a drinking game that went down quite well with these clever folk. I’ve introduced it to a few people since, and they’ve all quite enjoyed it, and I’ve been meaning to share it here for a while.

The game is called Willful Ignorance. It’s based on the old name game, where you say the name of someone famous – say, Michael Jackson – and the next person has to come up with a name where the first name begins with the second initial of the previous name. Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Charles Barkley, etc. And if someone says a double-initial name (Janis Joplin, Chris Carter, etc.) or a one-word name (Madonna, for example), the order is reversed.

But with Willful Ignorance, you’re not saying names. You’re saying two words that…

  • Are so often used together that the majority of people at the table recognise the cliche, and….
  • Are not so often used together that the combination is in any dictionary.

So, for example, willful ignorance. Instant dismissal. Dire circumstances. Certain death…

Now, you couldn’t follow “certain death” with “diminishing returns” or “dental care” or “data entry”. Those are all the sort of thing that would turn up in a dictionary, because they’re sort of… things all by themselves. What you’re looking for are those combinations of words, usually an adjective and a noun (but not always), that are over-used in combination, but not terms for identifiable things (which tend to turn up in dictionaries, medical dictionaries, legal dictionaries, etc.)

It sounds a bit fuzzy, and it is, so any time there’s confusion (“I’ve never heard that before” or “I’m pretty sure that’s a thing”), you just put it to a table vote. If the majority agree, it’s accepted and you move on.

Oh, and you drink while you think.

After a while, everyone gets into the groove of it. It’s very intuitive for a lot of people.

If you get stuck, here’s an example for each letter of the alphabet. Almost.

  • Arrogant prick.
  • Broken spirit.
  • Callous disregard.
  • Dramatic flair.
  • Extraordinary circumstances.
  • Fighting fit.
  • Gotcha journalism.
  • Happy accident.
  • Iconic Kiwi.
  • Journalistic integrity.
  • Kill switch.
  • Light relief.
  • Martial prowess.
  • Nuclear option.
  • Opportune moment.
  • Pointed remark.
  • Quite interesting.
  • Rightful heir.
  • Serious business.
  • Trace amount.
  • Ulterior motive.
  • Vicious circle (that might be in the dictionary, actually).
  • Waking nightmare.
  • X… Um… Okay, okay, I’m drinking, I’m drinking…
  • Young love.
  • Z… You might be fucked if you get Z, too.

Play it with your friends. Hell, play it in the comments. I’ll start it off: total annihilation.

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