Study Guide

The Egypt Game Language and Communication

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Language and Communication

Chapter 2

She'd started out just trying to get the old man to talk and then somehow, she couldn't quit. It was almost as if the old man's deadly silence was a dangerous dark hole that had to be filled up quickly with lots of words. (2.32)

April resorts to nervous chatter when she's around the Professor (at least, at first). He's so silent and difficult to read that she can't help it—she has to fill up the awkward silence somehow.

Chapter 9

Elizabeth had a tendency to worry about things like not having permission. She might understand that it was not at all like being downright disobedient. As April pointed out, no one had forbidden them to visit Egypt on Halloween night. (9.5)

Although the kids probably wouldn't be allowed to sneak away from their trick-or-treating group if they asked for permission, they weren't expressly told not to. It's that white-lie sort of thing that you make excuses to get away with, but just hope no one digs too dep into the actual excuses. Maybe a little questionable, but April and Melanie figure this is as good as they're going to get in terms of a parental sign-off.

Chapter 12
Elizabeth Chung

"Please," she said, in a feathery little voice. "Please don't tell on us, and we'll let you play, too." April cringed. It was such a corny, baby thing to say. She had a crazy urge to grab Elizabeth and drag her out of wisecrack range, before she got hurt. (12.31-32)

Somehow, Elizabeth's soft pleading works on the boys. (And this is before puberty, too.) Contrary to what the others expect, the boys don't make fun of Elizabeth or threaten to reveal the Egypt Game to everyone; they actually listen to what she has to say. Even if it's in a corny, baby tone of voice.

Chapter 13

Before he started talking, he looked around quickly to be sure no one who mattered was looking. Ken and Toby didn't believe in talking to girls. Of course, it was all right to make comments at girls—particularly if they were insults—but real conversations were out, at least in public places. (13.1)

Yup, this is the cooties stage of things. Toby and Ken want to join in the Egypt Game, but it would be social suicide to be caught talking to girls at school. First, it would be so out-of-character—not to mention probably get them teased by the rest of the class. When you're eleven, that's about as bad as it gets.

Chapter 14

A mysterious and beautifully drawn page of hieroglyphics got loose in the sixth-grade class at Wilson School and was passed around and puzzled over by everyone, including the teacher; but no one came even close to figuring it out. (14.16)

The hieroglyphics are put to the test when one of the kids' notes gets loose in the sixth-grade classroom. And the note does exactly what it's supposed to: totally baffle everyone who looks at it.

It wasn't that Marshall hadn't taken any interest in hieroglyphic writing, because he had. As a matter of fact, he could almost do a better job of reading and writing in Egyptian than he could in English. (14.21)

Marshall tries really hard to learn the hieroglyphic language, and is in fact better at it than he is at written English. But don't worry too much about his literacy: he's only four years old, so written language isn't exactly at the top of his list right now, anyway.

Besides all the other stuff, Toby had also brought some pencils and paper. He said he'd been thinking it over, and he'd decided the first thing they ought to do was finish the alphabet of hieroglyphics the girls had started. (14.5)

Once they get over their social qualms, the boys get really into the Egypt Game. And one of their major contributions: helping the girls complete the hieroglyphic system. This way, they can communicate via hieroglyphics like real ancient Egyptians.

When they had the alphabet all made up, they could memorize it and use it to write secret messages—at school and everyplace. They could write about things like when to meet in Egypt again, and what they thought of the teacher, and all sorts of other private information. (14.8)

The nice thing about creating a whole new system of written language is the ability to secretly discuss plans in plain view. No one else can decipher their notes…not even the teachers.

Chapter 15

When the Egyptians had assembled the next afternoon, bringing their offerings of oil and spice and salt and perfume, Toby—Ramose—gave a little talk on how to prepare a mummy. It was a good speech, but suffered from frequent interruptions because Bastet and Aida had read the same book and had some ideas of their own. (15.21)

Things don't always go smoothly for the Egyptians. The girls and boys often have different ideas about how to do things, and they have to talk it out in order to reach a peaceful resolution. But even with their fancy Egyptian names, they're up to the challenge.

But as the Egypt Game became second nature to its six participants, and they began to feel more and more at home in the land of Egypt, they gradually began to forget about being cautious. Ceremonies, discussions and arguments began to be carried on in normal or even louder than normal tones, and no one stopped to worry about being overheard. (15.29)

At first, the Egypt Game participants are religious about keeping their whole game a secret, and they never talk about it in public. But eventually they feel more comfortable communicating about their game outside the confines of the yard. Nothing like secret code to get you feeling comfortable in your private little world.

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