Word Association Football

What are your favourite words?  What makes them favourites? Do they have a particular feel on the tongue, or sound in the ear?

Some of my particular favourites: –

Serendipity; Bliss; Sandwich; Wimple; Shiver; Cornucopia; Jelly; Flatulence; Fabulous; Thimble; Blether; Lollipop; Bishibarnibee  (that’s a ladybird, or ladybug in this part of the world); Fluorescence; Blancmange; Doodle; Bowling; Scribble; Bubblewrap.

Word Association was originally used by Carl Jung as a psychological technique. Patients are asked to respond immediately to a word prompt with a word of their own. Jung theorised that ideas, feelings and experiences are linked in the subconscious in such a manner as to influence an individual’s behaviour. It’s still a favourite family game during long car journeys – the first player suggests a word and subsequent players follow with the first related word that pops into their head.

eg:  Tea – Cup – Saucer – Flying – Machine

It can be a very useful creative technique when some prompts are required to stimulate our writing muscles, similar in effect to brainstorming, and the more ingenious or inventive the connections, the better. The idea of the exercise is to come up with a variety of subjects to frame a piece of writing around and the trick is not to think too deeply, just put down the first words that comes into your head. The reasoning behind your choices never needs to be explained or revealed.

Taken one step further, we find ourselves in the realms of Word Association Football, where each word may have a connection with the preceding word as well as the one following.

eg:  Word – Association – Football  — word asociation / association football

Black – Bird – Song – Sheet — blackbird  birdsong / songsheet

For those of you across the pond, Association Football is the proper name for soccer and was used to distinguish the game from other forms of football such as Rugby Football. The term ‘soccer’ first appeared in England in the 1880s, as an abbreviation of the word association.

For a great example, check out the John Cleese soliloquy on the Monty Python album, ‘Matching Tie and Handkerchief’, where he famously uses Word Association Football to extremely amusing effect.



7 thoughts on “Word Association Football

  1. My favorite word is kerfuffle. It makes me think of when I’d make my parakeets all mad and they’d fluff up. I don’t really dare free associate it though – not in public. My mind goes straight for the gutter every time.

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