Some people still play parlor games -- the kind that don't require quarters or television screens, just a low-tech pencil and paper.
One of the less-known but best of these anachronistic amusements is Dictionary, or "Fictionary" as some call it.
I don't know who invented the game, but it's ideal for evenings when your guests have exhausted their stores of Washington political apparatchickchat and are casting about for even more frivolous entertainments.
In the interests of spreading a little philological cheer, here's how: THE PLAY
Five to eight players are needed. One player flips through the dictionary until he finds a word whose meaning the other players admit to not knowing. He then jots down the correct definition (usually just the first, if there are multiple meanings) and spells out the word for the others. They then take a few minutes to compose their own definitions, which they pass to the person who's "it."
He then reads all the definitions aloud and objectively, without giving away their authorship, and each other player votes for the definition he or she believes is correct. SCORING
(It helps scorekeeping if each player keeps tabs on the number of votes cast for his or her definition.) One point is given for guessing the correct definition; one to "it" and one to the author for each choice of a false definition; and one extra to "it" if the true definition stumped all the players.
The dictionary then passes to the next player on the left.
Following are a couple of examples of how the game can be played: 1. HAPAXLEGOMENA
a. spatial disorientation resulting from inner ear disorders.
b. words appearing only once in a document.
c. rapid dehydration of the human body resulting from excessive consumption of alcohol, followed by prolonged urination, often leading to disorientation and death.
d. vitamin deficiency causing blurred vision and dizziness.
e. paralysis of the legs.
f. the dizzy sensation a pilot feels as he breaks the sound barrier. 2. LOXODONT
a. dental surgeon specializing in the treatment of tetanus.
b. the rear molar of a smoked salmon.
c. an Israeli toothpaste.
d. a Kosher dental aid.
e. (medical) a double chin.
f. having teeth with shallow and open intervals between the crests, as certain elephants. ANSWERS:
1. b, 2. f.