Picture puzzles A rebus is a representation of a word or phrase by pictures or symbols that suggest that word or phrase. Each clue usually represents a syllable of the answer.
Long before the rebus became a favourite among word puzzlers, it was used in heraldic expressions in the Middle Ages to denote surnames. Also known as canting arms, they have been increasingly used in the 20th Century among the British royal family.
A famous example of canting arms are those of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Her arms contain the bows and blue lions that make up the arms of the Bowes and Lyon families.
The word ‘rebus’ itself comes from the Latin expression “Non verbis, sed rebus”, which means “Not by words, but by things”.
In word games a simple but venerable example would be GSEG, deciphered as ‘scrambled eggs’. One with economy and elegance is ‘B’, which is a rebus for ‘abalone’ – ‘a B alone’. And SR would be ‘rafters’ – from ‘R after S’.
Making frequent appearances in puzzle books are two others: HIJKLMNO, which means ‘water’ (‘H to O’, phonetic for ‘H2O’), and the entire length of the alphabet without ‘L’, which reads as the festival NOEL (‘no L’).
A more contrived puzzle asks you to identify what holiday is obtained by solving ‘infdayant’, ‘toddaydler’ and ‘pre-scdayhooler; the answer is ‘Independence Day’ (infants, toddlers and preschoolers are dependants, so the clue reads “In dependants, ‘day’).
A famous rebus is that of Abbot Islip, in stained glass at Westminster Abbey; it pictures a man in a tree, holding a small branch (called a “slip”), and a human eye: “eye slip”.
And Rebuses even spread to the world of cartoons:
The name of the author of Tintin, Hergé, is a rebus. His real name was Georges Remi, whose initials he reversed as ‘RG’, ergo, Hergé.
Also, EC Segar, who created Popeye, always signed the last frame under the drawing of a small cigar to rhyme with his name.
If you want to have fun and make a rebus of your own name (or any word or phrase) take a look at the amazing website myRebus.com,