Playwriting Exercise: What’s in a Word?

Playwriting Exercise: What's in a name
Written by Lindsay Price

Did you know that the word moment actually used to mean a specific time? It’s so general now – Just a moment….. I’ll be there in a moment…. wait a moment.”  In medieval time a moment meant 90 seconds. It had a precise measure. Why? I don’t know but what a wonderful thing it is. And how interesting that the meaning has shifted over time.

I love finding words that have change their meanings over the centuries. Dismal, for example, used to mean unlucky but now has a much more gloomy connotation. Awful used to mean “inspire wonder” it was a form of “awe.” Now it gives us the opposite emotion. Nice started out with negative connotations – ignorant and foolish.

Playwriting Exercises
  • Research and find a word that has changed its meaning over time. Write a one page scene where you use the word in its original meaning. For example use the word “awful” to describe someone as full of awe.
  • Write a scene between the original meaning of a word and the current meaning. So for example a scene between two version of the word “nice.”
  • Decide on a word that we currently use, that will fade away in a 100 years. Write a scene that takes place in the future where characters are bemused and confused by this “archaic” word.
  • Write a scene that centres around a word trying to up its usage so that it doesn’t fall out of favour.
Click here to download a PDF version of this exercise.
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About the author

Lindsay Price