USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Game’


  1. The main piece: Pickle

“This is a game that happened in my neighborhood every summer growing up. We called it ‘Pickle.’ All the kids get together, you need a tennis ball and a group of people. Two people are selected…it’s kinda like monkey in the middle but more violent. So the two chosen people are playing catch with tennis ball in air. Everyone else starts running and the throwers try to hit them. A tennis ball doesn’t hurt that much, so it’s fine. No need to be worried.

“Actually, you know what, it’s the opposite of monkey in the middle. Hmm, interesting. Yeah cuz you’re not trying to be in the middle, you wanna be running. We would play for hours and there’s no score, no winners, losers, anything like that, just a fun thing to do. We only played it during the summer, I don’t know why. Kinda had all the kids in our neighborhood, all the different age groups, genders. You’d see a 4 year old playing with a 15 year old.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Etc.

“No origin, just something I played growing up. I guess the kids in the neighborhood were already playing it when I was born. It was just happening, no person whose idea it was. It already existed. Happened in Tiburon, CA. It’s a city near San Fran.”

  1. The context of the performance

“Well, I guess it’s kind of like controlled violent outbursts. It’s a way to blow off steam for kids bored during the summer.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This game sounds like a friendly neighborhood tradition that ends up arising in many closer communities. It provides a way for children of the neighborhood to build relationships independent of age, background, or gender because everyone learns it from the vernacular tradition. Just like siblings often have physical games and altercations when they are young, a violent game like pickle naturally draws the players together and gives everyone a sense of belonging when they are all running from the ball.

  1. Informant Details

The informant is a 22 year old American male and grew up in Tiburon, where he spent lots of time with his father and grandfather, as well as the other kids in his tight-knit neighborhood. His primary language is English, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.


Swing Attack

Main piece:

Swing Attack” is a game played using a two swings and a volleyball. “Throwers” and “Shaggers” are competing for spots on the swings, which are occupied by “Swingers”.

Swingers kick a lobbed volleyball, then compete as many laps of the swingset as possible before the ball is used to peg them while not in the seat of their swings. Scoring is individual. Leaving the game (even for a bathroom break) results in an automatic reset of a player’s points. Therefore, it is common to dash for the bathroom during a particularly long kick.

A player may circle the swing set to score points on either his own, or his partner’s kick.

A short kick is a “low ameoba”. A high but short kick is a “high ameoba”. Medium-length kicks are “high” and “low squirtles” respectively. A long kick is a “T-bomb”, “T-bone”, or “T-stone” which lands in the “T-zone”. A kick over the swingset backwards can be caught by the “ass-stop”, and is called a “rodeo”.

Swingers are tagged by either a tap or a peg. The game concludes upon mutual agreement of players.


Game described by Jake Handley, born and raised in Decatur, IL.


Unlike many neighborhood games, Swing Attack is not proprietary in any way. It can be played on any swing set and with a variety of balls. It was invented through iteration, and can be enjoyably played by both children and adults. Swing Attack is uniquely scalable, and can be played by any number of players between three and ten.


Swing Attack relies on many elements of games like Matball which are played in Decatur’s physical education classes.



My informant is a twenty-three year old man who is half-Japanese, half-Mexican. He grew up more with Japanese culture, and was very eager to share the folklore he knew from this culture. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village.  


Peter: “My mother and grandmother would do this thing during walks. We would yell ‘Banzai!’ and they would pull my arms in the air while I jumped.”


Me: “What does ‘banzai’ mean?”


Peter: “I’m pretty sure ‘banzai’ is a war cry. Warriors would yell it while bayonet charging… so it’s kinda funny that we would use it for something so lighthearted and playful. It literally means ‘May you live ten-thousand years.’ Actually, the ‘may you live’ is inferred because ‘banzai’ just translates to ‘ten-thousand years.’”


My informant then helped my find the Japanese script and translation with my computer so I could add it to my entry:

~Original script: 万歳

~Roman script: Ban-zai

~Translation: (May you live) ten-thousand years


I then asked my informant if he had any other thoughts to add or any other meaning ‘banzai’ has to them.


Peter: “I was taught that this is something to yell when jumping into a pool or body of water. It’s basically the Japanese version of ‘cannonball.’ [He chuckles]



While I have heard ‘banzai’ being used on the playground as a child, I have never seen it used in a structured play format. In Peter’s account, ‘banzai’ is somewhat like a game: his maternal figures shout it and lift him to assist him in jumping high. It’s also amusing that ‘banzai’ translated later in his life to something fun to yell while jumping in a pool. To me, ‘banzai’ denotes daring in able to have some fun.



Hand Clapping Game

I interviewed Audrey when I met her in Everybody’s Kitchen, a USC dining hall. I asked if she had any folklore she wanted to share. She was very eager to share details about a schoolyard game she used to play in elementary school. The following is lifted from the interview:

Audrey: “There was this hand game-thing kids would play in elementary school. And it’s so weird because me, Brianna, and Caroline [Brianna and Caroline were not present at the time of the interview, they were just referenced by the speaker] had a different version of the same thing! Like, it sounded vaguely similar. They all started the same and the devolved into chaos.


I then asked my informant to perform her version of the piece for me, which I then asked her to write down for me so I could accurately document it:


Down by the banks of the hanky panky,

where the bullfrogs jump from bank to bank,

with an eep, ay-p, ope, oop,

oop-flop-a-dilly and an oop-flop-flop.

Pepsi Cola Ginger Ale, 7-Up, 7-Up, 7-Up, you’re out.


Audrey: “Brianna’s version also mentioned sodas, but Caroline’s didn’t! So weird!”


Me: “Where did you learn this?


Audrey: “I learned it from a third grade classmate. Like a bunch of third grade classmates did it. It somehow became… knowledge.”


Me: “When would you play this hand clapping game?”


Audrey: :Elementary school recess or field trips — anytime third graders are put in a room together with nothing else to do.”



I personally played a lot of hand clapping/patty cake games in elementary school, but I’m not familiar with this one. I found another website that documented many versions of this same game: All the versions are slightly different, but fit the same cadence as my informant’s version. It makes sense that it would vary so much because of how children’s folklore is taught and spread.

Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Thanksgiving game

I asked, do you do anything specific with your family for holidays?:


“I have a really big family so Thanksgiving dinner is always 20 people or so. Every year at Thanksgiving dinner we each write down one “-ing” verb and one noun and put them all in two separate hats. Everyone picks one of each out of the hats and the combination of the two is your ‘Thanksgiving name’ with my grandfather acting as the chief.

When you pick your name you say it our loud and everyone else responds: ‘And the crowd says “ahhhhh”’

For example:

Person 1: I am… whispering three toed sloth

Family response: and the crowd says Ahhhh“


Background: Mae is a 19 year old girl raised in Westwood, CA and currently living in Los Angeles, CA. Her parents are originally from Chicago and Little Rock, and she lived in Princeton, NJ briefly as a young girl.

Context: Mae shared this story with me when she came to my house to celebrate Easter.

Analysis: Holiday traditions are incredibly personal to each family, and even people who celebrate the same holidays can have an entirely different way of doing so. My family, for example, doesn’t play any particular games like this at Thanksgiving, and our Thanksgiving dinner is usually one of our more formal holiday celebrations though it is always light-hearted and fun. Our Christmas dinner, as a matter of fact, is always extremely casual and we typically order Chinese food or have left overs, which you would think would be a more formal holiday. This further exemplifies how much variation there is in celebrations depending on specific family traditions. Similarly, however, my family always has Thanksgiving-themed hats that everyone receives on their place settings. It is really cool to hear what the unique ways that my friends celebrate different holidays with their families.


Family Tradition: Guess the Number of Previews at Each Movie

“My family has a game we play when we go to movie theaters.  When we go see a movie, we always guessed the amount of commercials or previews there are going to be and then how many of this video’s we actually want to go watch. So, before the movie starts off, I’ll be like, ‘4:2’, and my mom would be like, ‘6:3’ and that’s like the number of previews you think are going to happen before the show and then the amount of those previews that happened that we would actually go see.”

Background Information and Context:

“I have no idea why we do that or when it started, but as far as I know we’ve done it as long as we’ve gone to see movies. I just know that my family does it, and that Reed [my boyfriend] and I do it. It’s a tradition, and it’s fun, and it’s really dumb.”

Collector’s Notes:

This is a great example of how sharing traditions help continue the tradition and improve one’s connections with others. The game that the informant plays with her family before each movie is fun and has positive associations, but by sharing the game with her boyfriend, she is not only continuing the tradition away from home but also allowing someone else to become a part of a well-loved tradition. More than simply telling someone about a tradition, allowing someone to engage in a personal tradition is a sign of trust and closeness, a sign that you deem them worthy of being a part of something that means a lot to you.


Stick Games

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as DG.

DG: Over the summer, I learned the stick game. Basically how it works is that you’ll have sticks, and you play with a group of friends around you in a circle. You tell them you’ll put the sticks out to signify a number, but you start putting them out in a random order, and what you’re actually doing is tapping the number out on your leg. So, they’ll try to guess it, but they’ll keep getting it wrong because it’s not actually a number from the sticks. You keep telling them that they’re focusing on the wrong thing or looking at the wrong thing, while you keep tapping out a different number. Usually people won’t get it for a good fifteen minutes, and so it’s something you do when you’re bored, or if you want to irritate your family and your friends. So usually, it’s people you know, because if it’s people you don’t know, it’s not that fun.

BD: Where’d you learn this game from?

DG: I learned this over the summer from my supervisor.

BD: Do you know where your supervisor learned this from?

DG: I have no clue.


This is the first time I have heard of this game, and searching for it on the internet yielded close to no results, because of the vague nature of a game with sticks. However, it is very similar to game played by children that are meant to trick each other. It is likely that there are variations of this game with different objects, but seeing as the informant does not know the origin of this game, that would be a poor inference to make.



Sardines Game

“There’s this game called sardines, how it is is the hider is the person that everyone is trying to find, so it’s not like hide and seek, and so once you find the hider, you have to hide with them in the same spot. As people keep finding you, you keep getting larger in your group. So as the first hider, you have to find a spot that’s really good, so that people can’t find you, but then also good enough that if people start clumping in, they won’t be seen.”

While listening to my informant tell me how “sardines” is played, I began to think of how similar it is to hide-and-seek, despite her insistence it is not. I have also heard of this folk game, and it must be quite common across different communities in California, at least, if not the rest of America.
Huffington Post groups both hide-and-seek and sardines together as the same kind of hiding game, in the following article:

Folk Dance


“I learned this probably when I was about ten, in Florida, from other kids. There’s this thing called a cakewalk. I’ve only seen it in the south, never ever heard about it here [in California]. Basically, usually within religious functions, you would go to an event and they would have cake. And they would play music, and you would literally just walk around and they turn off the music and there are chairs. It’s like musical chairs. So you sit down as fast as you can, and whatever number you sit on on the chair, you got the cake. I don’t understand it at all—you’re getting free cake for doing nothing. I first saw it when I was like ten, first at a 4H function, and later at a church function. And it’s like everywhere in the South, but only there.”


I have heard of the cakewalk, despite never having lived in the South. Upon doing further research into this game, this game has very deep roots into American culture. It was first performed by slaves, pre-Civil War, and these dances were judged by the plantation owners. The winners of the dance would receive a cake. Now when we use the term “cakewalk,” referring to a task, we mean it to be something that is easy to accomplish. But winning these cakewalks were very hard—the idea they were easy came across because of how skilled the dancers were.

NPR covers the background of cakewalks in the following article:

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people