Thursday, September 2, 2010


When we have large numbers of family and friends gathered in the summer, we like to play games like Charades or Fictionary in the evening. Last night, although our numbers are dwindling as summer blazes to an end, we played Fictionary.

Fictionary requires scraps of paper, pencils or pens, and a large (or at least pretty comprehensive) dictionary. One person looks in the dictionary to find a word no one knows. We don't allow proper nouns or slang, although we argue about that last a lot. After we're certain nobody knows the word, everyone writes down a likely-sounding definition and turns it in to the dictionary holder. The dictionary holder writes down the correct definition.

Then the dictionary holder reads out all the definitions twice. My husband Leo always says incredulously, at the end of the definitions, "Is that all?" because he hasn't heard any definition he likes. On the third time through, we close our eyes and vote on the definition we think most likely. (One is not allowed to vote for one's own definition.)

Each player gets a point for every person who voted for his definition; he also gets a point if he chose the correct definition. The dictionary holder gets a point if no one guesses correctly. Then the dictionary is passed on to the next player.

A lot of the fun of the game comes at the end of a round as we all loudly guess who wrote each definition. We each have a characteristic style; Leo and I usually end up guessing each other's definitions, which we find very frustrating.

Fictionary sounds like a great way to build vocabulary. Unfortunately, though, players usually remember best either the definition they made up or the definition they voted for, even if both are wrong.

Last night was a banner night. Here are some of the words:

solera - My favorite definition was Damian's, which referred to the collection of stars just a bit smaller than our sun. The correct definition, though, had something to do with casks of brandy in a cellar. Not a word I'll use! "Oh, Jeeves, go down to the solera and select an appropriate sample, would you?"

gelada - I am fond of my own definition, about the layer of fine-grained soil that liquefies in an earthquake, but it turns out this is a large, maned, Ethiopian primate that lives on cliffs.

sheugh - Here the definition that will live on in our family was "NO!" as in, "Go to bed, dear." "Sheugh!" The true definition was "a ditch or trench."

nasute - Leo and I both made up definitions that contrasted "nasute" with "hirsute" or hairy. Mine was "scaly;" his was "having oily skin." Turns out "nasute" actually refers to a soldier termite with a long snout that shoots out a noxious substance. Now there's a word we'll use every day. (Maybe it will become a family insult.) My nephew Peter, who doesn't like Fictionary, wrote as his definition "devoid of pleasurable games," as in "So far, this evening has been nasute."

wudu - The stress is on the second syllable. I'll leave this one to you. Invent a great definition and post it below!

1 comment:

Damian Liu said...

Well, mine at the time was "a short sword carried by samurai".

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