Saturday, December 03, 2005

Three speedy free-association techniques

About this post

Type of technique: free association

Techniques in a nutshell: use the beginning or end letters of a word to trigger a new word.
Or use the whole word to trigger well known phrases or sentences.

I have been using these three free-association techniques. They can quickly create a large list of words that can be used as random stimuli, to profile a subject, or to suggest focuses for creativity.

'Suffix' method

To use the 'suffix' method I start out with an initial word and use the final letter or letters of that word to trigger another word (or phrase). So, for example, with a starting word 'usher' I select either one, two, three or four of the final letters and see if a possible word is triggered. Selecting 'sher' - for me - triggers the word 'Sheringham'. Then from that word I select the final two letters 'am' to trigger the word 'amateur'. I can also choose to set a quota and list several words (to take me beyond the obvious choices).

Example of Suffix method:

Amateur, urn, national, alley, eye, yes, estuary, Rymans, answers, erstwhile, leapyear, earpiece, century, Ryan Giggs, seed, editor

If I set a quota of ten at that point from the word 'editor' and its final three letters 'tor' I could make a list of:

Tory, torpid, tornado, toreador, torpedo, tornoi, torque, torn, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Tori Amos

'Prefix' method

The 'prefix' method is similar to the suffix method, but I use letters at the start of the word to trigger a new word/phrase. Example:

Banana, banish, bannister, Bangladesh, bandana, bap, baptism, barter, bartender, bat, battery

Suffix and Prefix methods used in conjunction

I use the prefix and suffix methods in conjunction. Here is an example of this (I have highlighted the chosen letters that were used to trigger the next word/phrase in red):

Comedy, communist, sternum, numismatist, numbness, essential, alimony, align, gnasher, gnat, national, Navratilova, ovation, Overlord, ordinal, altimeter, terrible, blemish, bleeder, blimp, Blowfelt, tankard, Ardal O'Hanlon

Catchphrase method

I use the catchphrase method in conjunction with the prefix and suffix methods. With the catchphrase method I select a word and use it to trigger catchprases, well known phrases or any phrase or sentence.

Examples with some of the words from the example above:

National: National Velvet, national miners' strike, national curriculum, Grand National, national pride,
Essential: essential oils, essential selection
Terrible: Terrible Tim Witherspoon, a terrible waste, terrible twos, infant terrible

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