"Connecring the dots": origin?

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 4 01:09:10 UTC 2010

I think that the game Wilson Gray describes is found under the name
"Dots and Boxes" at Wikipedia. Here is the link:

dot noun (OED Sept 2006 draft) to connect (also join) the dots and variants:
(originally) to draw lines linking numbered points arranged on a page
so as to form a picture; (hence fig. and in similes) to integrate
discrete elements into a cohesive whole; to make connections between
ideas, to draw conclusions.

First OED cite is 1915. 1915 Charleston (W. Va.) Mail 23 Nov. 9/5 To
solve the Great Dot Mystery, join the dots with a pencil line... Begin
with dot No. 1 and take them in numerical order.

I looks like GB has earlier matches but I cannot review them carefully
right now.

Also dot noun  (OED Sept 2006 draft) b. connect-the-dots  (also
join-the-dots): the (children's) activity of linking dots with lines
to form a picture; ... First cite is 1965.

The game Victor Steinbok describes is probably "Sprouts" at Wikipedia:


On Mon, May 3, 2010 at 8:27 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Connecring the dots": origin?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> If my memory is not failing me now, Gardner had something similar
> under the name Brussels Sprouts. Only the dots need not be on parallel
> lines. Of course, this could have been an entirely different game. He
> also had a race-track game where you could move in any direction on
> the track, but the speed could only increase or decrease in either
> direction by one--the goal being either to get to the finish line
> first or to block out your opponents and make them crash.
> There is now a plastic version of the same game where opponent place
> gates of different lengths in order to block in the final move. This
> can also be a version of solitaire, with the goal of connecting all
> the dots.
> VS-)
> On Mon, May 3, 2010 at 7:55 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I think it's more likely to allude to the "drawing" kind of
>> "connect-the-dots" game.
>> As you connect those dots, a recognizable picture emerges.
>> Hence the metaphor. IMO.
>> JL
>> On Mon, May 3, 2010 at 7:42 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:
>>> At 6:46 PM -0400 5/3/10, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>> >When I was a child, there was a popular game called "dots." You put
>>> >parallel lines of equal numbers of dots onto a sheet of paper. The
>>> >number of lines was a function of the patience of the person drawing
>>> >up the "board." The game was played by connecting the dots, drawing
>>> >only one line at a time. Neither player "owned" the lines, so that A
>>> >could draw a line to connect a dot to which B had already drawn a line
>>> >to make a connection. The point of the game was to be the one who was
>>> >able to make the most squares by connecting the dots. A put "A" into
>>> >his squares and B put "B" into his, to keep track.
>>> >
>>> >There were also puzzle-drawing for kids that involved connecting
>>> >seemingly randomly-placed, numbered dots in such a way as to draw some
>>> >figure by connecting the dots in mumerical order.
>>> >
>>> >I'm not suggesting that *either* of these games is the source of the
>>> >phrase, "connecting the dots." They're just two games that I know of
>>> >that involve connecting the dots and which come to mind whenever I
>>> >hear talk of "connecting the dots."
>>> >
>>> >Does anyone know the actual source of the phrase? BTW, I don't really
>>> >care. I'm just randomly wondering.
>>> >
>>> We played that first game in NYC; I'd totally forgotten it.  It was a
>>> variant of another game called "Territories". I remember both fondly.
>>> The second, puzzle-drawing exercise was a lot less exciting, but I
>>> always associated the "connect the dots" metaphor (as in the
>>> blamecasting post 9-11) with that one.  But it's nice to be reminded
>>> me of that first one!
>>> LH
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