GeekDad: "[Pijin]’s not strictly a word game, but also a social experience...seems perfect for exploring language and sounds while playing a game."
HowLouSeesIt: "I think this looks like a really fun game and one where my bad spelling wouldn't hinder me one bit!"
NoobSource: "I've never really fancied myself a word-nerd. Crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and even Word on the Street were always tough for me...[but Pijin] aims to change my point-of-view!"
WHAT IS PIJIN?
Pijin is a unique new word game of spelling with phonemes. Players spell what they hear and only what they hear in pronunciation. "Pigeon" is spelled /pijin/, "words" becomes /wurdz/, "spelling" is /speleng/, and so on. (There are more examples below, or check out the Player's Manual here. Words spelled phonetically look a little strange, but that's part of the fun as players explore and tinker with the sounds of language!
WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS?
The child has a hundred languages/ a hundred hands a hundred thoughts/ a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking./ A hundred always a hundred ways of listening/ of marveling, of loving/ a hundred joys/ for singing and understanding/ a hundred worlds/ to discover/ a hundred worlds/ to invent/ a hundred worlds/ to dream.
-L. Malaguzzi (trans., Lella Gandini)
We learn language by hearing it, sharing it, by passing it back and forth, modifying as we go, and adding things along the way. Pijin was made to be a word game that embodied that. While the ever-changing, ever-moving spirit of language has vexed grammarians and baffled philosophers since the arrival of the Greek alphabet in 775 BCE, practically every native speaker who learns to read and write readily experiences first-hand the great gulf between the written word and spoken word. This profound philosophical problem is recapitulated in nearly every individual child's development.
As children acquire language, learn, and gather up their vivid sensations of life into pliant, overflowing expressions, they demonstrate incredible powers of language invention and imagination. And yet, this too soon gets tangled up and children find their creativity drying up -- so although it really ought to be expanding along with their language skills, vocabulary and overall cultural mastery, it contracts, shrinks, and withers away and all but disappears for many by the time they reach adulthood. I'm thinking of Reggio schools' founder, Loris Malaguzzi's famous poem, "The Hundred Languages" which puts the matter starkly, if honestly, in terms of our faulty institutions of learning: "The school and the culture separate the head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands to do without head to listen and not to speak...and of the [child's] hundred [languages] they steal ninety-nine."
My point is that the distance between the written word and the spoken word grows as we get older. But there are schools of thought that have developed in the last thirty years which underscore the importance of language's physicality, tying together the pronunciation of words and the action of speaking or making gestures in our experience of symbols and meaning making. I made Pijin to be a leisurely pursuit of getting back into that more physical experience of language.
Also, it's utterly gratifying - at times even hilarious - to have a game in which you set out let go of “proper spelling” and invoke everyday idioms and pronunciations that aren't necessarily your own. That we all take pleasure in that is obvious in everyday tweeting, chatting, texting, messaging, and emails where abbreviations, acronyms, emojis, and a quick mix of languages and inflections are picked up, absorbed or made up on the fly. At their best, these quick alterations and additions to language expand and enliven communication - they give to written language the sort of rapid mutability that is common in the spoken word. I wanted Pijin to be flexible enough to handle some of those internet-influenced realities seen in contemporary written language practices.
As for the word games that exist already, what does it mean that our most popular word games rely upon reference to "official" written lists of words? Can a game designed with an authoritative list at its core ever hope to catch up with or engage our actual lived experience of speech?
I feel like it can't, and so I felt there was something missing in several of the word games I love playing. I wanted to solve two problems: (1) players who memorize "trick" words in spelling games, for instance, two-letter words, words that start with "q" or "z," and others that never occur in daily speech. (2) The ban on idiomatic expressions, improvised sayings, slang, dialects, pidgins, patois and creole, regional accents, sci-fi and fantasy made-up languages. Also, I wanted to have a word game that moved faster and that could be played in shorter periods of time. So I created Pijin!