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Charades is a word game in which one player acts out a word or phrase, often by pantomiming similar-sounding words, and the other players guess the word or phrase.

The rules of charades used vary widely and informally, but in its most common form the players divide into two teams. One team member is selected to be the pantomime, is provided with a randomly selected word of phrase in secret (usually on a slip of paper drawn from a container), and then has a limited period of time in which to convey this to his teammates. The teams alternate until each team member has had an opportunity to pantomime.

A number of standard signals have come into common usage in charades. To indicate the general category of a word or phrase:

  • Book title: Unfold your hands as if they were a book.
  • Movie title: Pretend to crank an old-fashioned movie camera.
  • Play title: Pretend to pull the rope that opens a theater curtain.
  • Song title: Pretend to sing.
  • TV show: Draw a rectangle to outline the TV screen.
  • Quote or Phrase: Make quotation marks in the air with your fingers.

To indicate other characteristics of the word or phrase:

  • Number of words in the title: Hold up the number of fingers.
  • Which word you're working on: Hold up the number of fingers again.
  • Number of syllables in the word: Lay the number of fingers on your arm.
  • Which syllable you're working on: Lay the number of fingers on your arm again.
  • Length of word: Make a "little" or "big" sign as if you were measuring a fish.
  • "The entire concept:" sweep your arms through the air.
  • "On the nose" (i.e., someone has made a correct guess): point at your nose with one hand, while pointing at the person with your other hand.
  • "Sounds like": Cup one hand behind an ear.
  • "Longer version of:" Pretend to stretch a piece of elastic.
  • "Shorter version of:" Do a "karate chop" with your hand
  • "Plural": link your little fingers.
  • "Past tense": wave your hand over your shoulder toward your back.
  • A letter of the alphabet: move your hand in a chopping motion toward your arm (near the top of your forearm if the letter is near the beginning of the alphabet, and near the bottom of your arm if the letter is near the end of the alphabet).
  • "close, keep guessing!": frantically wave your hands about to keep the guesses coming.

Note that these signals are standardized by general consensus only, and may vary somewhat from place to place.

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