All work and no play are bad, so now it's time to play!
SIGNALS AND TIPS
CONSIDERATIONS FOR HOSTING CHARADES
OTHER WEB SITES THAT DEAL WITH CHARADES
REASONS FOR DESIGN DECISIONS
ENCORE, OTHER GAMES, AND PUZZLES
MUSIC AND ART
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SIGNALS AND TIPS:
I learned a set of signals that some friends use.
Later I searched the web for signals, and I found some differences.
There is no universally used set of signals, so I used what I consider the best from all the sources.
Here are documents for charades:
Two pages of signals and tips for charades.
This document includes tips for acting.
I suggest distributing two-sided copies to the charaders.
A copy of the signals with a larger font.
This version lists only the words and signals, not the surrounding text.
I suggest keeping a one-sided copy near where the actors will act.
An entry form on which players can write their entries.
The following list of tips for acting an entry
is longer and more detailed than the list of tips in the signals document:
I'll misquote John F. Kennedy:
Think not about what's easy for you to translate from words into signals.
Think about what's easy for guessers to translate from signals into words.
You may act a word that's pronounced the same as the entry's word, e.g., “2” for “too.”
Acting a word might speed the guessing of other words.
Here are ways in which this can occur:
If a word rarely occurs in examples of an entry's category, then acting that word first might inspire guessers
to think of the entire entry immediately, although this can happen only if at least one guesser has heard of the entry.
For example, if you start by acting the word “salesman” in the title of a certain play, a guesser might
immediately think of the entire title
(“Death of a Salesman”).
Similarly, if you start by acting the word “monoxide” in a certain quote from a song,
a guesser might immediately think of the entire quote (“If the hoods don't get you, the monoxide will.”),
from Tom Lehrer's song “Pollution.”
In a sequence of related words, one word might be easier than another.
Acting the easier word first might make it easier for guessers to interpret your method for the harder word.
For example, I once acted an entry that contained the sequence “Baptist Church.”
I probably acted “Church” before “Baptist.”
The guessers' knowledge of the presence of “Church” would make it easier for them
to interpret a signal of crossed forearms as “Christian” (which can be modified with
more specific to produce “Baptist”) instead of something like “plus.”
Try to act a word (or a word pronounced the same) directly.
If that's too hard, act syllables, and/or act an easier word plus one or more modifications.
I'll use the name “Leroy” as an example,
and I'll describe how to think backwards
from the entry's word to pick the starting word and the modification or series of modifications to use.
Let's try syllables:
Can “Le” result from deleting a letter from a word that's easy to act?
It can result from “lean.”
So you might
and then act delete last letter to produce “Le.”
Alternatively, does “Le” sound like a word that's easy to act?
It sounds like “me” and other words.
Often you have a choice of methods.
Does “roy” sound like something?
It sounds like “boy,” which can be derived from “man.”
So you might act woman, act opposite to produce “man,”
lower your hand (symbolizing “small”) to produce “boy,”
and act sounds like to produce “roy.”
If a method for acting fails, try a different method,
or postpone the word and hope that somebody will later guess it from the context.
After acting sounds like, add to beginning, or add to end,
optionally you can speed the guessing by signaling the alphabetic position of the desired letter:
Hold your hand high and lower it (for a letter in the range A through M),
or hold your hand low and raise it (for Z through N).
You may use a signal for an unintended purpose; one quote from a movie
(“Play it, Sam”)
may begin with the signal for the category of play.
A use of a signal may be nonsensical; “4” + past tense = “ford.” ☺
You can do something unorthodox, on the rare occasions when you think that it would help.
For example, when acting one 8-word quote, I moved my hands like a boxer instead of acting any individual words, and that sufficed for somebody to guess the entry (“Float
like a butterfly, sting like a bee”).
As another example, you might invent a nonstandard category and act it, instead of acting the category that the writer wrote.
However, you must act the actual entry exactly as it is written,
unless the writer gives you permission to change it or you make a change that preserves the original pronunciation,
like splitting the word “$200” into two words (“200” and “dollars”).
Relax and have fun! ☺
Here are tips for
thinking of entries to write
Remember to write your name on the entry.
Think of a song, play, TV show, movie, book, or poem.
Use either the title or a quote from that work.
Use the category of quote by thinking of a quote from a person, proverb, slogan, advertisement, joke,
or (if you are at a convention) convention's printed program.
Think of the name of a well-known person, event, or location.
If you are desperate, ask a person next to you to suggest an entry.
In this case, write both people's names on the entry form, because neither one should guess.
Very few entries contain foreign words.
I recommend considering the use of a foreign word
if it is likely to be known
even by people who have not studied the foreign language.
For example, a quote from a play
(“Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!”)
and the Spanish word “señor”
are likely to be known.
If a word is
to be known, then the actor and the guessers
might not know its meaning or pronunciation,
so I recommend against using it.
When in doubt, stay with English (or a language of the country where you are playing charades).
Make sure that the entry is no more than 10 words long, and make sure that you know how to act it, because
might be the person who acts it!
If you have arrived at this section
because you want to see the signals and tips, you can ignore the rest of this Charades section of my web site.
If you are more deeply interested in charades (or the other leisure topics), continue reading.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR HOSTING CHARADES:
Here are my suggestions:
When printing the entry form that I mentioned above,
use two-sided printing or photocopying; the back says “PLEASE USE OTHER SIDE.”
I used a blank back when I first hosted charades, and one person apparently assumed that this was scrap paper,
wrote on the blank side, and forgot to include his/her name.
Therefore, I added the warning on the back; the front has a space for the writer's name.
Experience is the best teacher.
If all the players arrive around the same time,
and you are confident that they will all remember your spoken information about the form, you can leave the back blank.
Remind the players to include their names on the entries that they write.
Feel free to use a different set of signals if the players don't like my set.
There's no central authority on charades; certainly not this web site!
The important thing is for the group to agree on some set of signals.
Bring copies of the form for entries (described above), pencils, a bag to hold the entries,
and copies of the set of signals.
My experience has been that if the players are mostly adults, then teenagers can participate successfully,
but I suggest excluding pre-teens, who would have problems (perhaps because of smaller vocabularies).
Demonstrate all the signals briefly at the beginning of the party.
Either you prepare entries in advance, or all the players write entries at the beginning of the party.
The advantage of preparing entries in advance is saving of time at the party.
The advantage of having all the players write entries is that you (the host) can participate in the guessing,
because you don't know what entries the other players wrote.
When I host charades, all the players write entries.
When you invite players to the party, you can suggest that they think of entries in advance, to save time at the beginning.
My two pages of signals mention that if a picked entry is too hard, the picker can force the writer to act that entry.
The purpose of this rule is to discourage the writing of entries that are ridiculously difficult to act.
Some charades parties randomly divide the players into two teams for competitive play
(after the entries have gone into the bag), and some play charades noncompetitively:
With two teams for competitive play, the teams alternate play,
where a person acts an entry for his/her teammates to guess, although the writer cannot guess.
The first person from team 1 acts, then the first person from team 2 acts, then the second person from team 1 acts, etc.
The team that is not currently acting and guessing
the play, so have a stopwatch available.
If a team takes 3 minutes, then the team's time is recorded as 3 minutes, even if they have not yet guessed the entry.
The team that has the lower total of the times of all the entries is the winner.
With noncompetitive charades, everybody (except the writer) can guess, and there is no timing.
One person acts, then the next person acts, etc.
Some people prefer competitive charades.
I think that novices would feel more comfortable with noncompetitive charades.
If your charades group is just beginning, I suggest noncompetitive charades for the first few parties,
and then (after gaining experience) you can try competitive play if the players want it.
When I played competitive charades, all the entries went into one bag,
and the two teams alternated in picking an entry from the bag.
Therefore, for each entry, the writer's team might act it, or the other team might act it.
In some charades groups, each team writes entries
for the other team; there are separate bags.
I have never used the latter approach, but I can imagine a possible problem with it:
Since every writer of an entry knows that the
team will act the entry, there is a motivation to write an entry that is very hard to act.
With one bag, there is a 50% chance that the
team will act the entry, so the motivation for extreme difficulty disappears.
The disadvantage of one bag (a disadvantage that also applies to noncompetitive charades)
is that the players must be reminded to include their names on the entries that they write,
because the actor always starts by announcing the name of the writer,
so that the writer will know that he/she should not participate in the guessing.
OTHER WEB SITES THAT DEAL WITH CHARADES:
Here are some other web sites that deal with charades:
REASONS FOR DESIGN DECISIONS:
Simplicity and ease of communication motivated many of my decisions.
Here are reasons for my decisions on some specific signals:
For name of person, some friends use pointing to where a name tag would be,
but several charades sites use hands on hips, so I decided to use hands on hips.
My friends use drawing a line on the forehead for a headline (☺),
and several charades sites use pointing to a watch for an event.
I decided to use headline to include event.
My friends have signals for opera, landmark, and picture, but I have never seen such entries,
so I omit them.
Some charades sites have a category of name of web site with a signal of moving a mouse,
but I omit that category, because many web site names (like “amazon.com”) seem hard to act.
My friends have a category modifier for by Shakespeare.
However, it's unnecessary, so I omitted it, despite the cute signal (shaking a spear over one shoulder ☺).
I included signals for act several words together and act several syllables together
because they are hard to communicate without their own signals.
For back up, moving the hands around each other might be confused with “keep going”;
backing up seems more obvious.
Several charades sites have signals for stop; you're on the wrong track,
but I think that simply shaking your head “no” suffices,
and I don't even list it in my set of signals, because it's obvious.
Some charades sites have a signal for synonym, but I think that motioning the guessers to continue will suffice.
For simplicity, I omitted a signal that means that two or more words are the same.
For sounds like, various sources use “cup hand behind ear,”
“point to ear,” or “tug earlobe.”
I use the simple, generic “put hand near ear.”
Sounds like almost always means “rhymes with.”
I added a way to signal that it does not mean rhyming, to avoid the actor's frustration in those rare cases.
For opposite, my friends hold the palms together horizontally and then flip the hands over.
Some web sites form each hand into a hitchhiker's thumb signal and then exchange the hands' positions.
I use the simple action that those two signals have in common:
the hands exchange positions.
for delete and the stretching for add are popular,
and I followed one charades site's practice of distinguishing between
doing those things at a word's beginning (palm of hand) and at its end (fingers).
This distinction avoids frustration that might occur if the actor wants a modification at the beginning
but the guessers repeatedly guess modifications at the end, or vice versa.
The signals for some specific words use modifications, so I listed the modifications
before the specific words.
I found that and this on the web; they are useful.
My friends use woman, man, and with; all of them are useful.
Will is common, and shall is added for free.
I omitted I, me, and you, because they have obvious signals (pointing to self or to guessers).
My friends use saluting for color (saluting the colors ☺)
and pointing to the tongue for foreign language.
Some charades sites use pointing to the tongue for color, but I keep my friends' signals.
I hesitated before adding the signal for a letter,
because some players might be tempted to spell a multi-letter syllable.
However, it's useful for entries like the name
“H. G. Wells,”
and it's popular among charades sites on the web. so I added it with a warning about that temptation.
My friends use an upside-down W for a question word
(“how,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “who,” or “why”),
but I omitted it for simplicity; each question word sounds like a word that's easy to act.
I invented very few signals: stepping backward (for back up)
and using the combination of past tense and opposite for will or shall.
is an international society that was founded in 1946 in the UK and that has groups in many countries;
I will concentrate on
The sole requirement for membership is a score in the top 2% of the general
population on any of various intelligence tests.
American Mensa's web site says that members range in age from 4 to 100.
I (and, I suspect, most members) view Mensa primarily as a social organization, but the official goals are broader:
“to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity,
to encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence,
and to promote stimulating intellectual and social opportunities for its members.”
American Mensa has many
There are some national activities, including a
(with speakers, games, and other activities), but most social activities are within the local groups.
The types of social activities vary among different local groups.
Here are examples of Mensa activities:
potluck dinners, games
Settlers of Catan
etc.), restaurant dining, videos in members' homes,
movies at movie theatres, sing-alongs, wine tasting, miscellaneous parties, discussions, speakers, hiking,
target shooting, self-defense classes, and annual local gatherings.
These are activities that many people (not just Mensans) would enjoy.
A few aspects of Mensa (e.g., some discussions,
do have a more cerebral tone, and there are some community service activities.
If you join Mensa, you can start an activity!
You might even attend an afternoon activity and an evening activity in the same day.
The web sites for local groups list local officers to contact and (for many local groups) list calendars of events.
Some local groups list a “Mensa phone,” where you can leave a message to request information.
Many but not all events welcome prospective members who want to experience Mensa events before deciding whether
to join Mensa; contact the event's host if you are unsure whether an event welcomes people who are not yet members.
join through American Mensa
not through a local group.
If you move between local groups, your membership moves with you.
For example, if you scored at least 1300 on the
taken before September 30, 1974
or at least 1250 on the SAT taken from September 30, 1974 to January 31, 1994, you qualify;
scores on later SAT test dates are not accepted.
Local groups tend to
periodically, or you can go to a private psychologist for a test.
ENCORE, OTHER GAMES, AND PUZZLES
Encore is a board game for two teams that like to sing.
need to sing well; you only need to remember song lyrics.
Some people love Encore, and some have a
Each card in the deck has 6 colors, 5 of which have words and 1 of which has a category.
Each position on the board has 1 color, to indicate which word to use (or whether to use the category instead).
One team must sing at least 8 consecutive words of a song that includes the word or category,
then the other team must, then the first team must, etc.
For example, if the word is “life,” a team might sing
“I tell you life ain't easy for a boy named Sue” (from the song
“A Boy Named Sue
If the category is “musical instruments,” a team might sing
“just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze,” which is also from “A Boy Named Sue.”
A word in a song can match a category even if the word has a completely different meaning in the song's context;
the rules' example is the category of “automobile names”
and the song excerpt of “Climb every mountain,
every stream, follow every rainbow.”
Some people (e.g., the owner of this web site) enjoy such outrageous double meanings, and some do not.
There are two editions of Encore:
The original Encore, which you apparently can buy as a used copy on the web, is from Parker Brothers.
For the word or category that matches the board position's color,
each team in turn has 30 seconds (via a timer) to think of a song excerpt and start singing it.
A team that “times out” loses that round, and the other team rolls the die to advance.
is from Endless Games.
For the word or category, initially no timer is used, as each team in turn thinks of a song excerpt and sings it.
If one team appears to be stumped, the other team
starts the timer.
Then if the stumped team “times out,” it loses that round, as in the original edition.
But if, instead, the allegedly stumped team succeeds in thinking of a song excerpt and starting to
sing it before the timer runs out, that team
the round and rolls the die.
I have never played with the revised rules, but I can envision a potential disadvantage:
A team that can think of a song excerpt might
to be unable to think of one, to induce the other team to start the timer and thus end the round.
The other team might suspect that the first team is just pretending and thus refrain from starting the timer,
thus delaying the game because the first team continues to stall.
In either edition, a team that reaches the end of the board
has an opportunity to win the game via a special set of singing, described in the rules.
I consider it unsportsmanlike for the winning team to sing
“We are the Champions
at this point, and I have no control over what the losing team would do to the winning team!
Some other games that I enjoy are
I haven't played Monopoly in many years.
Apparently it has been brought up to date.
I saw a
in which one “Go to jail” card says that you have been arrested for insider trading.
Crossword, mathematical, and logic puzzles are good mental exercises that can be hard to put down.
National Park Service
has a great collection of parks.
You can save time on the day(s) of your visit by planning your visit in advance.
Information is available on the web,
and if you need more information, you can call the park to ask about obtaining additional information.
One good hiking trail, the
extends from Maine to Georgia.
In Massachusetts, the
Department of Conservation and Recreation
provides many hiking trails.
Also, here's a book:
C. W. G. Smith,
Massachusetts Trail Guide
Appalachian Mountain Club Books.
In Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County's
Department of Parks and Recreation
provides many hiking trails.
Also, here's a book:
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book
Oak Valley Press.
MUSIC AND ART
When using a search engine to find the lyrics of a song,
inclusion of some of the lyrics (not just the title) in your search criteria will concentrate the results
on sites that list the lyrics, as opposed to sites that just mention the song without listing the lyrics.
There are many web sites that include lyrics.
Some but not all also include guitar chords.
I make no promises about the accuracy of the lyrics or chords on the web sites.
You will find cases where two sites differ on the lyrics and/or differ on the guitar chords.
Buying the sheet music or photocopying it in a public library
can give you the melody, the harmony, the guitar chords, and probably the official lyrics.
The web sites of some (but apparently not most) singers and groups include lyrics.
articles on many singers and groups list their official web sites.
Here are some but not nearly all of the sites that include lyrics:
When I took a drawing class, I concluded that learning how to observe is a large part of learning how to draw.
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