Tag Archives: verbal skills

Wordplay: License to Spell

So you’re sitting at a stoplight, waiting for the light to turn, bored out of your skull. Here’s a little something I turn to whenever I’m stuck in traffic. I think of a word using the letters on the license plate in front of me, keeping the letters in the same order. Here’s one from that vacation I’ve been meaning to take to Alaska.


For this plate, etude works well, but so do perturb, restaurant, and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how many letters separate the ones on the plate. You just need to use them in the order you see them. Or, if that stumps you, try them backward or mix them up.

This game works in American states that use the three-letter license plate format. Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Illinois, however, are out of luck.

If you’re traveling or live outside the United States, you may still be able to sharpen your verbal skills this way. Several Canadian provinces, for instance, style their plates with three letters, although you may find yourself flummoxed in Ontario, which went to a four-letter format in 1997.

Ontario License

Mexico, too, uses three letters in most states, including Chiapas.


Did you know that word games help stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia?

So when you’re out and about, sitting at a stoplight, backed up on the freeway, or even walking through a parking lot, try this little diversion on for size. Word games boost the memory and keep the mind sharp, and they might just help you come up with more word choices the next time you sit down to write.



Filed under Wordplay