This is another article I wrote some time ago.
Recently my bride and I had the pleasure of playing the Mattel board game called “Balderdash™”. Owning one of the shortest definitions in Webster’s dictionary, balderdash is defined simply as “NONSENSE!”
To play the game, participants take turns selecting a card and a category. The person selecting the card announces the category and reads a word, a phrase, the name of an obscure movie, or the name of an obscure person. The other players immediately write a definition of the word, describe the plot of the movie, or tell what the person did to become famous. (Well, maybe not famous in the truest sense of the word; let’s just say, “known well enough to have his or her name included in the game.”)
The original reader then reads all the other players’ answers as well as the correct answer. Finally, everyone guesses as to what the correct answer might be. Points are awarded based on guessing the correct answer or having others guess that your written answer is the “official” answer. In other words, you can gain points by making up something totally preposterous if you make it sound believable to other people. I liken it to being a grandfather. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed playing the game so much.
I don’t think being a grandfather is required to be good at balderdash, but grandfathers are usually better at it than other people. To be honest, I’ve met very few grandmothers who even participate. Mostly, they’re the ones telling the grandchildren not to listen to that old so-and-so.
Take, for instance, the modern shopping carts designed especially to entertain toddlers while mama does the grocery shopping.
Whenever I see such things in the presence of my grandchildren I point out that we never had such things when I was a child. “In fact,” I go on, “We didn’t have shopping carts of any kind. We had to ask the person behind the counter to get the items off the tall shelves using a long-handled squeezy thing. Then after ringing up the items on a cash register that had row after row of numbered buttons, we’d pay the cashier, pack up everything in paper bags, and walk home.
If we were lucky, we might have a Red-Flyer wagon to help us with our burden, but we didn’t own a car and the trolley didn’t go by our house.”
Now, for some, that’s pure balderdash. For others, I’ve just brought back some great old memories. And that, my friends, is the secret to balderdash. Whatever is said must sound possible.
A few years back I was walking with a friend along the sea wall in Galveston, Texas. As a seagull flew over our heads, we barely managed to avoid being hit by the “bomb” the bird dropped. As we continued our stroll I wondered aloud, “Considering the diet of those birds, one has to wonder what makes their droppings come out pure white?”
My friend proceeded to amaze me with his knowledge of a bird’s digestive tract and the chemical process involved. I was impressed and demonstrated my interest by saying, “Is that right?”
“How in the world would I know?” was my friend’s response. “I’m making it up as I go!” Needless to say, he was a grandfather.
Some balderdash is more factual than a young person could begin to understand or believe. Try explaining party lines to your pre-teen grandchildren. Many youngsters wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what it means to “wind” a wristwatch. The world has changed dramatically over the last fifty years and it has happened so quickly that many of us have totally forgotten the way things used to be.
Some folks continue to tell their grandchildren of how they had to walk three miles to school and it was uphill both ways. I think the little rug rats have caught on to that tale and have told all their friends. The new-fangled cellular phones and electronic mail have made it more difficult to use the stories our grandfathers used on us. We have to be more creative. Thankfully, the modern world has given us more than enough raw material.
For example, I went to the store to buy my bride a tube of toothpaste this morning. She prefers a different brand than I, but I knew the name, so how could buying her a tube be a problem. All I had to do was worry about the size of the package – right?
Wrong! When I was young, we had a choice of Colgate, Ipana, and Crest if we wanted the paste or Arm and Hammer if we wanted tooth powder. There was one size of each. There were no “travel” or “family” sizes. You simply picked the brand you wanted and you were done. Now each brand comes with and without mouthwash (in various flavors), with or without whiteners, and in numerous sizes.
As a grandfather, I’d take this opportunity to tell how, when I was young, we had a choice of corn flakes, Cheerios, or Wheaties. We didn’t have pre-sweetened cereals because they had not yet discovered how to refine sugar. Milk came in two basic flavors – sweet or butter. If you were lucky enough to have a brown cow in the neighborhood, you could also get chocolate milk from time to time.
Why, when I was your age, Kentucky Fried Chicken only had three herbs and spices and Heinz had only fifty-four varieties of pickles. At McDonald’s, you could buy a hamburger for 10 cents or a cheeseburger for 12 cents. The rest of their menu consisted of French fries, coca-cola (one kind and only one kind) and milk shakes – chocolate or vanilla.
Arby’s sold roast beef sandwiches and nothing more. If you wanted melted cheddar cheese on your sandwich you stopped at the grocery store on the way home and melted the cheese on your own stove.
We didn’t worry about designer clothes back then. We were lucky if our parents could afford to dress us in something other than feed sacks. I didn’t know I was a boy until I started the seventh grade. My mother didn’t know how to make pants, so I wore dresses all through grade school. It wasn’t until I had to take physical education and wear appropriate outfits that my mother broke the news to me and bought me my first pair of knickers.
I could go on and on, but I think you might have already guessed why I liked that game so well. Come to think of it, I was on the winning team! Now, go back over what I’ve said in this story and see if you can separate fact from balderdash.