Twenty Questions

Twenty Questions

"Twenty Questions" is a spoken parlor game which encourages deductive reasoning and creativity.

In the traditional game, one player is chosen to be the "answerer". That person chooses a subject but does not reveal this to the others. All other players are "questioners". They each take turns asking a question which can be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No." In variants of the game (see below), multiple state answers may be included such as the answer "Maybe." The answerer answers each question in turn. Sample questions could be: "Is it in this room?" or "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" Lying is not allowed, as it would ruin the game. If a questioner guesses the correct answer, that questioner wins and becomes the "answerer" for the next round. If 20 questions are asked without a correct guess, then the answerer has stumped the questioners and gets to be the answerer for another round.

Popular variants

The most popular variant is called "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral". This is taken from the "Major-General's Song," a piece from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Pirates of Penzance". :I am the very model of a modern Major-General. I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical.This is further taken from the old, possibly Renaissance idea that all life was animal or plant (vegetable), and that non-living (which is to say, never-living) matter must be mineral. In this version, the "answerer" tells the "questioners" at the start of the game whether the subject is an animal, vegetable or mineral. These categories can produce odd technicalities, such as a wooden table being classified as a vegetable (since wood comes from trees). Other versions specify that the item to be guessed should be in a given category, such as actions, occupations, famous people, etc. In Hungary, a similar game is named after Simon bar Kokhba. A version of Twenty Questions called Yes and No is played as a parlor game by characters of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". A children's version is played with the categories, "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Candy."

Computers and 20 Questions

The game suggests that the information (as measured by Shannon's entropy statistic) required to identify an arbitrary object is about 20 bits. The game is often used as an example when teaching people about information theory. Mathematically, if each question is structured to eliminate half the objects, 20 questions will allow the questioner to distinguish between 220 or 1,048,576 subjects. Accordingly, the most effective strategy for Twenty Questions is to ask questions that will split the field of remaining possibilities roughly in half each time. The process is analogous to a binary search algorithm in computer science.


In the 1940s the game became a popular radio panel quiz show, "Twenty Questions", first broadcast at 8pm, Saturday, February 2, 1946, on the Mutual Broadcasting System from New York's Longacre Theatre on West 48th Street. Radio listeners sent in subjects for the panelists to guess in 20 questions; Winston Churchill's cigar was the subject most frequently submitted. On the early shows, listeners who stumped the panel won a lifetime subscription to "Pageant". From 1946 to 1951, the program was sponsored by Ronson Lighters. In 1952-53, Wildroot Cream Oil was the sponsor.

The show was the creation of Fred Van Deventer, who was born December 5, 1903 in Tipton, Indiana, and died December 2, 1971. Van Deventer was a WOR Radio newscaster with New York's highest-rated news show, "Van Deventer and the News". Van Deventer was on the program's panel with his wife, Florence Van Deventer, who used her maiden name, appearing on the show as Florence Rinard. Their 14-year-old son, Robert Van Deventer (known on the show as Bobby McGuire) and the program's producer, Herb Polesie, completed the regular panel with daughter Nancy Van Deventer joining the group on occasions. Celebrity guests rarely (though sometimes) contributed to identifying the subject at hand.

The Van Deventer family had played the game for years at their home, long before they brought the game to radio, and they were so expert at it that they could often nail the answer after only six or seven questions. On one memorable show, Maguire succeeded in giving the correct answer (Brooklyn) without asking a single question. The studio audience was shown the answer in advance and Maguire based his answer on the audience's reaction; during the 1940s, New York radio studio audiences included many Brooklynites, and they cheered wildly whenever Brooklyn was mentioned in any context.

The moderator was sportscaster Bill Slater who opened each session by giving the clue as animal, vegetable or mineral. He then answered each query from panel members. This cast remained largely intact throughout the decade-long run of the show. Slater was succeeded at the beginning of 1953 by Jay Jackson, who remained through the final broadcast, and there were two changes in the panel's juvenile chair. When McGuire graduated from high school, his decision to go to Duke University meant he could no longer remain on the program, so he asked his high school friend Johnny McPhee to replace him. Since McPhee was attending Princeton University, he was thus geographically available for the production in New York. McPhee continued until he graduated and was himself succeeded by Dick Harrison (real name John Beebe) in September 1953. Harrison continued until early 1954, when he was replaced by Bobby McGuire, then 22 years old. McGuire appeared as the "oldest living teenager" until the end of the run.


As a television program, "Twenty Questions" first appeared on WWOR-TV, Channel 9, November 2, 1949, then nationwide on the DuMont Television Network and finally on ABC. The last radio show was broadcast on March 27, 1954, followed by the last TV episode shown on May 3, 1955.

Rights were sold in several other countries, including BBC in the UK, where the subject to be guessed was revealed to the audience by a "mystery voice" (Norman Hackforth). That format was briefly used again on BBC Radio 4 in the 1990s for a single season hosted by Jeremy Beadle. A TV version was also made by Associated-Rediffusion in the early 1960s. The "mystery voice" gimmick gave rise to a running gag on the radio series "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue". A Canadian version, also called "Twenty Questions" aired on CTV in 1961; its host, Stewart Macpherson, went on to host the Associated-Rediffusion adaptation.

In 1975, a pilot for an American revival "20 Questions" was made with host Jack Clark. At Norway's NRK, a version of "20 Questions" ran continuously from 1947 to early 1980s. In 2004, this radio show was resurrected and regained its popularity, leading to a 2006 TV version. The Norwegian "20 spørsmål" continues on NRK radio and TV, and a web-based game is available at A 2006 board game currently is the prize sent to listeners who beat the panel. [ [ NRK] ]


ee also

*20Q artificial intelligence
*Guess Who? board game

Listen to

* [ The Glowing Dial: "Twenty Questions" (March 24, 1946)]

External links

* [ "Akinator"] can figure out any real/fictional character in 20 questions
* [ "Twenty Questions" at IMDb]
* [] - Play 20 Questions against the computer with this artificial intelligence version of Twenty Questions. Everything that it knows and all questions that it asks were entered by people playing the game.
* [ Barelybad Web Site] Detailed rules of the game.
* [ "One:" the movie] Independent filmmaker Ward Powers presents interviews employing 20 ultimate questions on the meaning of life. (Is the correct guess "one"?)
* [ Zoo Keeper: The animal guessing game] Version of Twenty Questions restricted to animals.
* [ 20 Questions Game with Haptek avatar]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • twenty questions — noun plural but singular in construction Usage: often capitalized T&Q : a game in which one player or team tries to determine from yes and no answers to not more than 20 questions what word or object the others have chosen to be guessed * * * an… …   Useful english dictionary

  • twenty questions — an oral game in which one player selects a word or object whose identity the other players attempt to guess by asking up to twenty questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. * * * …   Universalium

  • Twenty Questions (Canadian TV series) — Twenty Questions was a Canadian television game show, which aired on CTV in the 1961 62 television season. Produced by CJAY TV in Winnipeg and hosted by Stewart Macpherson, the show was an adaptation of the earlier American game show Twenty… …   Wikipedia

  • twenty — O.E. twentig group of twenty, from twegen two (see TWO (Cf. two)) + tig group of ten (see TY (Cf. ty) (1)). Cognate with O.Fris. twintich, Du. twintig, O.H.G. zweinzug, Ger. zwanzig. Goth …   Etymology dictionary

  • Twenty One (game show) — infobox television show name = Twenty One caption = Logo of the Maury Povich version format = Quiz Show runtime = 60 minutes country = USA starring = Jack Barry (1956 version) Monty Hall (temporary replacement; summer 1958) Jim Lange (1982… …   Wikipedia

  • Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill, 2001 — The Twenty fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2001 was a proposal to allow the state to ratify the Treaty of Nice. The proposal was rejected.Proposed changes to the text*Proposed insertion of new Article 29.4.7::The State may ratify the… …   Wikipedia

  • Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland Bill, 2008 — The Twenty eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2008 was a bill introduced by the Government of Ireland in 2008 to amend the Constitution of Ireland in order to enable ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon (also known as the Reform Treaty)… …   Wikipedia

  • Twenty Four Candles — Infobox Television episode | Title = Twenty Four Candles Series = Ugly Betty Season = 2 Episode = 14 Airdate = April 24, 2008 Production = 214 Writer = Veronica Becker Sarah Kuscerka Director = Michael Spiller Episode list = Episode chronology… …   Wikipedia

  • Don't Ask Me No Questions — Single by Lynyrd Skynyrd from the album Second Helping Released April, 1974 Recorded Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, January 1974 …   Wikipedia

  • Burning Questions (Ugly Betty) — Infobox Television episode | Title = Burning Questions Series = Ugly Betty Season = 2 Episode = 15 Airdate = May 1, 2008 Production = 215 Writer = Henry Alonso Myers Director = Matt Shakman Episode list = Episode chronology Caption = Prev =… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”