|By Tom Sloper
August 22, 2010
Last week there was no column. Sometimes there isn't, for any of a variety of reasons. If you come to read the column and there isn't one, well, not to worry. I'm not discontinuing the column. Sometimes I get busy with other things. Last week I went "back east" for a visit with family, and tomorrow is the first day of the fall semester at the University of Southern California, where I teach video game courses. Some weeks I just don't know what to write about. Nobody pays me to do this column, and I don't have a sponsor or syndicate for the column--if I had a sponsor or syndicate, you can bet it would happen religiously, every week!
This year the World Mahjong Championship happens in the Netherlands -- during the first week of the school year! I can't go, sadly. I see that 220 people from 17 countries have signed up. Wish I could be there...
What's In a Word, Part 3* - "Run"
Another mahjong "word" threw me for a loop recently. A player of American mahjong asked me a question, in which she threw in the fact that a player had two "runs" showing. Because I play numerous kinds of mahjong, I had to ask her what a "run" is. The word "run" isn't normally used in mahjong, especially in American mahj. With one glaring exception. The word appears in big bold type on the yearly NMJL card: "Consecutive Runs." This section consists of hands made of consecutively-numbered sequences of pungs, kongs, and/or pairs. Maybe some people think that because of the phrase "Consecutive Runs," that a "run" is "a pung or kong." But I don't think so. I think the word "run" means "a sequence of pungs or kongs or pairs." For example:
In English-language books and discussions about Asian variants, the term, while seldom used, could reasonably refer to what most call a "chow," a three-tile grouping consisting of consecutively-numbered tiles of one suit:
That's what I usually think of when somebody uses the word "run" in mahjong. It's also conceivable that someone might use the word to refer to a full 1-to-9 sequence, like:
That 1-to-9 sequence isn't usually called a "run." It's usually referred to as a "snake" or even a "dragon."
That's why sometimes I have to ask people to define their terms. I guess a lot of knowledge is a dangerous thing!
*Parts 1 and 2 are columns 353 and 460, respectively.
This is part of an occasional series on "Words."
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