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I’m always on the lookout for new word games and puzzles that can be used to make language-learning more fun and effective. (In fact, this is one of the topics in my talk next week.) I recently learned of a puzzle called a metagram, in which several words are illustrated with pictures, and a player needs to identify a target word that differs from each of the illustrated words by exactly one letter. For example, pictures illustrating a PEN, a GUN, and a PUP would yield the solution PUN. In the case of longer words, it’s not necessary to provide a substitution for every letter, though of course it’s more elegant if that’s the case.

For teaching Latin, one possibility is to have the words in Latin, illustrated by pictures or clued in English; an easier possibility is to have English words, clued in Latin, and the student must provide the Latin translation of the target word. As an example of the latter type, the teacher might provide vita, amare, dare, and Livius, corresponding to LIFE, LOVE, GIVE, and LIVY; the students would respond with vivere (or the adjective vivus) for LIVE. The former type is difficult to construct without using any inflected form of the target word, but as an example, one could provide the clues “commander,” “law,” and “I atone,” corresponding to DUX, LEX, and LUO, yielding the answer LUX, or “light.” If anyone can provide an example using four-letter (or longer) Latin words without using inflected forms, please let me know. In theory, a longer word could be uniquely identified by as few as two clues, such as “globe” and “palisade,” if one of the two possible answers is a valid word and the other isn’t, but that’s likely to be difficult for all but the most advanced students.