The Game of Vish

From Projective Geometry:

J.L Synge has described an amusing and instructive game called Vish (short for “vicious circle”): “The Concise Oxford Dictionary devotes over a column to the word ‘point’…’that which has position but not magnitude.’ This definition passes the buck, as all definitions do. You now have to find out what position and magnitude are. This means further consultation of the Dictionary, and we may as well make the best of it by turning it into a game of Vish. So her goes.

Point = that which has position but not magnitude.

Position = place occupied by a thing.

Place = part of space….

Space = continuous extension …

Extension = extent.

Extent = space over which a thing extends.

Space = continuous extension.

The word “space” is repeated. We have Vish In Seven.”

I like this, but it doesn’t seem like a very fun game to me.  Here are some ideas for ways to spruce this game up:

  • Make it a competition that doesn’t involve a dictionary. Play with a partner. The game starts with “Point,” and the first person gives a definition. Then he asks his partner to define a word in that definition. Then the partner defines the word, and so on. The first person to repeat a defined word loses the game.

I tried playing it with my wife,  but it was sorta boring. We thought it was because defining words is hard/annoying to do, and not in an interesting way. Things get abstract, very quickly, e.g. “Couch” –> “Surface” –> “Layer” –> “Level”.

  • Use a dictionary to find a word with the longest possible “Vish” number. So the competition is to see who can find the longest chain, but then we can do all sorts of interesting math with that. We could find the average vish-length of a word in the dictionary. We could determine the spread, etc. Is it possible to have a vish number of 1? A vish number of 0? What would that mean?

More ideas? Comment it up, people.

One thought on “The Game of Vish

  1. They’ll never really need this again. Most kids won’t get it on their own. Better to just give it in class discussion form. Talk about how every typology has undefined terms, and how weird it is that we use the word “undefined” to describe the terms that *we* define, out of the blue.Your kids are higher ability than mine, but this is what I do to kick things off:

    I’ve also done some fun exercises with paper, raw spaghetti, and plastic chips.

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