Game

Tic-Tac-Toe Children’s Game and Song

My informant showed me this game in the context of our Forms of Folklore JEP class. She claims to have learned it from her friend, a fellow second grader. She calls it “tic-tac-toe” and usually plays it at school, on the playground at recess and lunch and after school. She says it is played with two people. My informant says she likes and does it because it is fun. She especially likes to be tickled, during the “spider” portion. She also says she likes being able to push someone else around, though her teacher disproves. She says she tries not to hurt others, though, because it is not a good thing to do.

Material:

Each participant has both hands together, palms touching. Then, they sing “tic” and swipe the back of their hands against each other. They repeat this motion in the opposite direction and sing “tac,” and do so again while saying “toe.” They then clap their hands, and say “hit me.” Then, they move their right hands above their left, and clap their partner’s hand, saying “high.” They clap their own hand again, again saying “hit me.” They then move their right hand below their left to clap their partner’s hand and say “low.” They then interlace their fingers and turn their palms to their partners. They then touch their palms to those of their partners three times, saying “hit me three times in a row.” They then put their left hands in front of them, palms up, with their right hands curled into fists. They bring their right fists down upon their left hands three times (much like rock, paper, scissors) and say “tic,” “tac,” and “toe” for each downward swipe. They then each choose a symbol to represent with their hands (again, like rock, paper scissors), a fist for “rock,” a flat hand for “paper,” and the index and middle fingers pointed with the rest curled in for “scissors.” They do this until one person has accumulated three “wins.” (To win one must trump the other’s symbol with the winning symbol–paper beats rock, scissors beats paper and rock beats scissors). The person who accumulates these wins, has won all around. He or she turns the other person around, make’s a cross on the other person’s back, juts his or her elbow into their spine three times and then interlaces his or her fingers, and shoves the person from behind. There is also an optional “spider” move that would go between the elbow move and the shove, which consists of tickling the back of the other person’s neck. You can see the game here: TIc-Tac-Toe: Game And the winning ceremony here: TIc-Tac-Toe: Winning Ceremony

Analysis:

”Tic-tac-toe” seems pretty typical—it is a variation on rock paper scissors that has an introductory game. However, this introduction mirrors the conclusion, the winning ceremony. In the introduction the players ask one another to “hit me high/hit me low/hit me three times in a row.” This is a precursor to the end of the game. Once one person wins he/she makes a cross on the other’s back and hits the other “three times in a row.” Then, the hand motion of interlacing fingers occurs again, as the winner shoves the loser from behind. These repeated elements bring forth the most important part of the game: the violence.

Considering the neighborhood in which this piece of folklore was collected and in which my informant lives (the USC surrounding area), it is not terribly surprising to note the prevalence of violence. Even at this young age, my informant and those that play this game with her are aware of the violence surrounding them. Simultaneously, this is a school setting and so violence is strongly discouraged. The way my informant negotiates between these aspects of her environment is interesting. She says she likes being able to shove her fellow students, but also tries not to push them too hard because she believes that hurting others is not a good thing to do (reinforced by her teacher’s disapproval of the game). Furthermore, she also enjoys being on the receiving or losing end. She says that she enjoys having the “spider” crawl up her back. Though this is intended to be scary, she finds it enjoyable. This could indicate that she is in some way playing with fear—that she knows that she will be shoved, elbowed in the back and that a pretend spider will crawl up her back, but she will not be afraid. This mindset takes the fear away from the game and from those things that are intended to incite fear. This could indicate some need or desire to control one’s own fear–a need or desire to deal with surrounding violence by asserting one’s own control over it.

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