Vo­cab

Friday - - Mind Games -

A par­lour game is sim­ply a group game played in­doors. Many popular present-day par­lour games are guess­ing games such as cha­rades, and re­quire con­tes­tants to pos­sess knowl­edge of movies, TV shows, songs, and so on.

But there were par­lours be­fore ra­dio, TV and cin­ema. The themes for Vic­to­rian-era par­lour games were words and vo­cab­u­lary. Many of th­ese sur­vived in­tact (chil­dren still play hang­man in schools), and new ones emerged, smart phones not­with­stand­ing. Some ex­am­ples: 20 Ques­tions: A game in which the con­tes­tants (ques­tion­ers) ask ques­tions and the set­ter (an­swerer) an­swers. The an­swerer has cho­sen a word, and the ques­tion­ers ask ques­tions that call for a sin­gle-word re­sponse (“Yes”, “No” in the tra­di­tional game, and “Maybe” in one vari­a­tion). Another ver­sion has the sub­ject – an­i­mal, veg­etable or min­eral king­dom – stated at the start. It be­came a TV show un­der that name, with some spin-offs like What’s My Line.

Con­se­quences: In one of many vari­a­tions, con­tes­tants write down in turn a word or phrase for one of 11 ques­tions, in this or­der: Ad­jec­tive for man, Man’s name, Ad­jec­tive for woman, Woman’s name, Where they met, He wore, She wore, He said to her, She said to him, The con­se­quence was, and What the world said. The catch: the pa­per is folded over be­fore the next player writes, lead­ing to a hi­lar­i­ous and ab­surdly il­log­i­cal ‘story’. A school ver­sion has the first per­son be­gin a story with one line that spills over to a sec­ond; he then folds over the pa­per so that the next per­son com­pletes the sec­ond line but spills over to the third line; and so on.

Balder­dash: One of the more en­joy­able word games that does not re­quire a player to have a large vo­cab­u­lary (though it helps). A box con­tains hun­dreds of cards, each of which lists five ob­scure words on one side and their mean­ings on the other. A des­ig­nated player for a round (the ‘dasher’) picks a card, and reads out a word, and then faith­fully copies down the cor­rect an­swer as his ‘en­try’. The rest must bluff con­vinc­ingly to gar­ner votes as theirs be­ing the cor­rect def­i­ni­tion.

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