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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How do you say Mahjongg?

The literal translation of "mahjongg" is "sparrow".  One translation is "sparrow tail," meaning that winning is as difficult as catching a sparrow by the tail.  Another interpretation is "chattering sparrows," associated with the sound of tiles colliding on the table.   The language of the game can also be likened to twittering birds. Subtle variations in nomenclature reflect a dialect of playing style.  Take note:

Much like spring robins engaged in nest building, players during passing chirp the mahjongg lament:
"This isn't a hand, it's a foot"
"What to do, what to do..."
"This is too beautiful to pass.."
"Are there jokers in this set?"
"Last Rites"
"If only I had two that went together..."

Occasionally the hostility of blue jays is expressed during the play; e.g.,
"Two crap"
"Seven bums"
"Six dot to go with the three other ones I threw"
"I HATE this game"
"I haven't picked one tile"

Like a baby bird being nudged out of the nest, a distracted player is told to pay attention.
"Curtsy, Nancy"
"Your wall, Nancy"
"Nancy's wall"
"Push, Nancy"
"Nancy, you're out"
or just
"Nancy" (accompanied by a forward thrust of the chin)

The pecking order comes to the fore when calling for a tile. Think pigeons running for bread in the park.
"Can I call that 4 dot?"
"I think I want that"
"Wait - um - OK"
"Call it"

And the glorious moment when it all comes together and the winner gets their peacock moment:
"Made it"
"That's it"
(Silent exposure of hand on rack with triumphant look)
"I don't believe it!"

Then the autopsy; the whining over carcasses of hands that might have been.
"But look at MY hand..."
"I was set!"
"Do you know how long I've been waiting?"
"I was going for jokerless!"

Time to fly away now - return the ashes of your hand into the swirling mix to begin again fresh and new, like spring.

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