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Why the name "Hangman"?

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Joined: 22 Apr 2006
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:19 pm    Post subject: Why the name "Hangman"? Reply with quote


I am not a native speaker of English but I am teaching English in a program called LINC. LINC=Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. It is a national program with unique standards and expectations.

I would like to make a serious comment concerning the popular language game “Hangman”. I would like to express my regrets regarding the name of this game. We as the language teachers need to show much more cultural and social sensitivity toward immigrants, refugees, and international students. We must look much deeper into the issues, rather than simply follow others and use the same name(s).

I have NOT been using the name Hangman in my lessons. Instead, I have been using the names "Living man" or "Making a man". I use a technique for spelling of words for the beginners, gradually making the same game more difficult for higher levels by introducing simple and then more complex context in the sentences. I reverse the order of Hangman to draw limbs to make a man. I create a person as they respond correctly step-by-step to complete their task or objective. I make the learning process a positive one. The students try to do something positive and learn at the same time. If they don’t have the correct answer during the allowed time, they try harder next time. This prevents them from seeing somebody die (hanged) because of their failure to complete a language-learning task.

Whoever created the name Hangman, did not have any consideration for the lives of human beings. Developed countries symbolize civilization and respect for human rights; however, a simple language- learning game contradicts those very important and universally expected principles.

New immigrants and refugees do not need to see similar images to what they have already experienced in their countries. I had discussed this matter with several of my colleagues and they have agreed with me.

I hope all teachers of English will remove that name from their materials and spread the word over this concern on other web sites and among their colleagues.

Best regards,

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Joined: 31 May 2004
Posts: 144
Location: SE Asia

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Shahramca,

I cannot agree that we are being culturally and socially insensitive towards immigrants by playing 'hangman'.

You don't state so directly, but you infer that some of these immigrants and foreign students may come from countries where people really are hanged, and that that is where the offense occurs.

In fact, the game has a certain history and it dates from a time when people in Britain where still hanged. Many English children's games and songs have similarly violent themes (Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill etc.) It is a reflection of the society of the time. However, I refuse to believe that it could lead to society of today becoming more violent. Violence arises from many complex cultural factors - not children's games.

Secondly, there is a trend in countries like Canada to go around changing names of things to make them 'politically correct'. Quite frankly, I find this absolutely ridiculous. Language is something that evolves, and it is very artificial to try to change it in this way. I would only agree in cases such as 'Indians/Native Americans' where the original name is a mistake.

Thirdly, there are much more important things to get worked up over than names of ESL games. Just look at what's going on in the world. Hangman is the least of our problems.

For small kids, it is nice to have a game where something is created rather than destroyed. Otherwise, it's just plain silly.

Sorry if I have offended you anywhere here, but that's truly how I feel.
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