Charades (UK //, US //), also called charade, is a word guessing game. In the form most played today, it is an acting game in which one player acts out a word or phrase, often by miming the words in the phrase or similar-sounding words, and the other players guess the word or phrase. The idea is to use physical rather than verbal language to convey the meaning to another party.
It was originally also used to indicate a riddle either in verse or prose, of which the listener must guess the meaning, often given syllable by syllable. In France and Italy the word 'charade' still refers to this kind of written linguistic riddle.
Charades has been made into a television show in the form of the Canadian Party Game and Acting Crazy; the British Give Us a Clue; the Australian The Celebrity Game; the American Play the Game, Movietown, RSVP, Pantomime Quiz and its revival Stump the Stars, Celebrity Charades, and Showoffs and its revival Body Language. Give Us a Clue has also been parodied in Sound Charades, played on the BBC Radio 4 panel game show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. The ISIHAC version, permits players to speak and so describe a scene (often a pun of the title word), which the opposing team has to guess.
Rules of the acted charade
The rules used for the acted charades are usually informal and vary widely, but commonly agree in essence with the following basic rules:
- The players divide into two teams.
- Each team in turn produces a secret word or phrase, to be guessed by the other team, and writes it on a slip of paper. Rules vary as to which phrases are allowed; single words may be restricted to nouns as found in dictionaries, while multi-word phrases usually are required to be commonly used phrases, or common expressions for well-known concepts. Often the secret phrases allowed are confined to titles of books, songs, or movies.
- The slip of paper with the secret phrase is revealed to one member of the other team, the "actor", but kept secret from the remainder of the other team, the "guessers".
- The actor then has a limited period of time in which to convey the secret phrase to the guessers by pantomime.
- The actor may not make any sounds or lip movements. In some circles, even clapping is prohibited, while in others, the player may make any sound other than speaking or whistling a recognizable tune.
- The actor cannot point out at any of the objects present in the scene, if by doing so they are helping their teammates.
- Most commonly, the actor is allowed to make any gestures other than blatantly spelling out the word. In more stringent sets of rules, indicating anything about the form of the phrase is prohibited, even the number of words, so that only the meaning may be acted out.
- The guessers attempt to guess the word or phrase based on the actor's performance. They can ask questions, to which the actor may give non-verbal responses, such as nodding in affirmation. If any of the guessers says the correct word or phrase within the time limit in the literal form as written on the slip, their team wins that round; if the phrase is not guessed when the time limit expires, the team that produced the secret phrase wins the round.
- The teams alternate until each team member has had an opportunity to be the actor.
Since so many rules can vary, clarifying all the rules before the game begins can avoid problems later.
Signals for common words
Some conventions have also evolved about very common words:
- "A" is signed by steepling index fingers together. Following it with either the stretching rubber band sign or "close, keep guessing!" sign, will often elicit "an" and "and". (sometimes "and" is signed by pointing at ones palm with the index finger)
- An alternate sign for "close, keep guessing" is to turn a single hand in circles as if saying come on.
- "I" is signed by pointing at one's eye, or one's chest.
- "The" is signed by making a "T" sign with the index fingers. The "close, keep guessing!" sign will then usually elicit a rigmarole of other very common words starting with "th".
- "That" is signed by the same aforementioned "T" with the index fingers and immediately followed by one flattened hand tapping the head for a "hat", thus the combination becoming "that". Following this with the "opposite" sign indicates the word "this."
- Pretending to paddle a canoe can be used to sign the word "or."
- For "on," make your index finger leap onto the palm of your other hand. Reverse this gesture to indicate "off." The off motion plus a scissor-snipping action makes "of".
- Other common small words are signed by holding the index finger and thumb close together, but not touching.
- Pointing to the ear means "sounds like".
- For "rhymes with" spin the hands around each other.
In many cultures, these conventions are considered cheating and should not be used. Acting out the word alone should suffice to let the opponents guess the correct word.
- Time's Up! (game)
- Dumb crambo
- Stump the Stars
- Acting Crazy
- Cryptic crossword, for a type of clue based on this game
- Pictionary, a game inspired by charades where players draw words or phrases.