Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Charades: Rhyming Riddles from Jane Austen's Time

This blog is about charades, a kind of rhyming riddle that was popular during the Regency period, roughly from 1776 through the 1830s and afterwards (after about 1840, the term started referring to the acting game we are familiar with today). These appeared in magazines, books, and on the fans the ladies carried during this period. Charades started in France, and spread to Great Britain and the United States. They play a role in Jane Austen’s novel Emma.

Here is how they work: each charade is about a word. It gives clues to each part of the word (usually a syllable that is also a word), and a clue about the word itself. Here is an example:

My first is a preposition (for)
My next a composition (tune)
My whole is an acquisition (fortune).

Ready to try one?

My second’s a weapon of war,
My first a vibration.
My whole’s the delight and the pride of the nation.

Remember to set your mind back 200 years as you guess.