USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Game’

Seven-Up Childhood Game

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: When I was in elementary school, my music teacher taught me a game called seven-up. Basically, she would pick seven people to stand at the front of the room, and the rest of the class would sit at their desks with their heads down and their thumbs up. The seven chosen would then walk around the room, and each would tap one seated person’s thumb. They would put their thumbs down once they were tapped. Then, when the seven people were done, they would return to the front of the room, and the seven whose thumbs were tapped would stand at their desks. Each would then choose whomever they thought tapped them, and if they were right, they would switch places and roles with them. If they were wrong, they’d sit back down. At the end of the guessing, the people a the front would admit whose thumbs they tapped. Then the process would happen all over again.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s a childhood game. It’s important to me because of my memories tied to it. My friends and I got so excited to play this game, and it was always the biggest deal to figure out who tapped your thumb! Also, everyone from other schools played something similar to seven-up growing up, usually just with slightly different rules or a different name, but it’s something to reminisce on not only with my classmates but really anyone my age.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing about this piece of folklore because I played the same game in elementary school and feel the same way about other people knowing a similar version. It’s very interesting to see how games in different schools compare and how they were a major part of our lives. We even go so far as to argue over which version is right.


“Red Light, Green Light” Childhood Game

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: Back in elementary school, my friends taught me a game called Red Light, Green Light. Essentially, one leader would stand facing the rest of the group of people, who would stand far away from him or her. Then, the leader would turn around and yell, “Red light, green light, 1, 2, 3!” While the leader said this phrase, the group would run toward him or her, but when the leader turned around, they would all have to freeze. If any of them moved while he leader was turned around, he or she would call them out and tell them to go back to the start line. Whoever reached the leader first while he or she was turned around saying the phrase would tap the leader and become the next leader. The game would continue with a new leader, and the old leader would join the group.

Interviewer: Why is this game important to you?

Informant: This game reminds me of my childhood and my days in elementary school. I remember thinking that it was so funny if someone tripped during the game or couldn’t stay frozen long enough, and I remember the suspense of trying to stay still in the group or waiting to be tapped on the shoulder as the leader. Also, this game reminds me of the end of the school year, which was the best time of year, because it started to get warm out, and we could play outside again. We would play during recess or, if we were lucky, our parents would let us stay and play after school. That was the best, especially if the Ice Cream Truck showed up.

Personal ThoughtsI played “Red Light, Green Light” when I was little as well. What I find interesting about this game, and other games that my friends and I played as children, is that it has to do with topics we would face as we got older. For example, this game is about red lights and green lights and stopping and going, so it pertains to driving. Children always long to grow up, and the games they play often highlight that.


Kill, Kiss, Marry

Informant is my 11 year old sister who goes to middle school in NJ. This game is called “Kill, Kiss, Marry” which is a familiar concept if not more PG than the “Kill, F**k, Marry” that I usually hear it called. But she’s 11, so I’ll gladly take “Kiss.”

“You probably know this game already. What you do is take three people and ask your friends to rank them in order of who they would want to Kill, Kiss, or get married to. Even if you like all three you have to kill one, so that makes it hard……….. also, it’s best to play it to make your friends awkward. So if the three people are in the room or if you know they like one of them, that’s a good time to play.”

I asked her if it was customary to give reasons for the ordering. “You can if you want, but you don’t have to,” she told me.

It’s interesting that this kind of game exists on the adult and kid levels. I wonder where she heard it from originally. I think at their age, these kids play the game as a way to rank their friends or make each other uncomfortable— not because they actually want to kill, kiss, or marry one another.


Raindrop, Drop Top Joke

Informant is my 11 year old sister who goes to middle school in NJ. The game is called “Raindrop, Drop Top” after a lyric in the song “Bad and Boujee” by the artist Migos. I had not heard of this game but apparently it is popular among kids in her grade.

“The game is basically, well, ok. It’s just a word game. Somebody types “Raindrop,” and then somebody else types “Droptop,” and then the third person has to come up with a funny rhyme.
She opens her phone and shows me a conversation.

Kid #1: “Raindrop

Kid #2: “Droptop

Kid #3: “Spongebob never made it to the bus stop*.”

“So basically somebody just has to come up with some kind of rhyme. That’s how it works.”

She shows me another one:

Kid #1: “Raindrop

Kid #2: “Droptop

Kid #3: “I think my dog is allergic to tater tots.”

The format of the game is interesting but reminds me of something I might have done when I was her age. I was also surprised that she was referencing the Migos song because Migos is not necessarily a kid-friendly artist. I asked her how the game gets started. She replied “Somebody just starts it. I don’t know, it depends if somebody wants to play or not.”

*This reference to “Spongebob never made it to the bus stop” can be seen in this clip, from the Nickelodeon show:


5 Gods of Smash

Informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He thoroughly enjoys playing video games, specifically the Nintendo series Super Smash Brothers.

In this piece, the informant tells me about the “5 Gods of Smash” who are known as by far the 5 best players in competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee tournaments. They are aptly known as Gods because these five players are so much better than the rest of the competition that one of these players always wins the competitive tournaments. For more context, the competitive gaming scene around Super Smash Brothers Melee has grown substantially over the last decade. Although the game released nearly 15 years ago, the game is still being played competitively today.

DP: A God of Smash is considered someone who loses to no one else in tournament, other than other gods. Currently there are only 5 in the history of Smash. So I wanna say Mew2King or M2K was considered the first god of Smash. The reason he does so well in tournaments is because before computers were coded to count frame data for melee, Mew2King developed his own methods for counting the frames for moves. And he was able to precisely determine the lengths for which moves were out for. He memorized this data and he was able to play optimally and back then if you played optimally there’s no way you could lose. So he began to be known as a robot because he had so much data memorized. The way he learned all this data is by doing certain moves with a character and he’d keep pausing the game in between the move. If he could draw out the moves into 9 distinct pictures, then he knew that move took exactly 9 frames.

Moving on to the next god, Mango, he came out from SoCal and at an extremely young age he was very good at the game. He was known for using a very gimmicky character, jigglypuff. Even though he performed very well, people were chalking up his wins to gimmicks or not playing a fair game. So for a while, he got actually banned from playing in Southern California all together which kind of pissed him off but didn’t stop him from playing the game. Eventually, he decided to just change his appearance by growing a beard. He adopted a new tag called Scorpion Master so he would be unrecognizable.  His whole purpose of this was just to play a joke on Southern California because he was so upset that he was banned. He actually ended up winning with a lesser character, like a D-tier character. People eventually found out it was him, so he picked up two of the hardest characters in the game, Fox and Falco, and since then has remained a God of the game.

Now it makes the most logical sense to talk about HungryBox. HungryBox saw the way Mango used jigglypuff, and even though he knew jigglypuff was gimmicky, he adopted him as his new character. So HungryBox looked at all of Mango’s weaknesses, he actually corrected for this and made jigglypuff tournament viable. Hungrybox is also another God of melee.

Now we can talk about PPMD, he was the 4th god to come around. He noticed that HungryBox was kind of on a tear in the South Eastern part of the US. In Florida and Georgia and those states. And HungryBox would win everyone of those tournaments if he entered them. So PPMD picked up two characters, Falco and Marth, both were considered to have highly losing matchups to Jigglypuff at the time. He ended up creating the modern metagames for Falco and Marth as they are played today just to combat HungryBox’s jigglypuff. Even though it took 4 tournaments of them meeting in grand finals, once PPMD started to win with both falco and marth, HungryBox wasn’t able to win with the frequency he could before PPMD came around.

The last God is Armada. I guess all I have to say about him is that Armada. Let’s put it this way, Melee didn’t just arise in AMerica. Europe was also interested in Melee, but it wasn’t until Armada until a unified European champion was coined. Once Armada started playing, he almost never lost a set. He might have lost just 1 set in his 4 years of playing in Europe. He was undoubtedly the best in Europe so he decided to play in America. In America he got beat pretty frequently using what Americans thought was an inferior character. So in order to combat this, he picked up a better character. So he ended up developing the European style for playing Fox, which every other Fox player in Europe adopted the strategy for. Now not only is he the best in Europe, he’s also the best in the world by a fair margin. He hasn’t been knocked to the losers bracket in 3 years!

It was really interesting to hear about the folklore of a video game. My informant was clearly very knowledgeable about the folklore surrounding Super Smash Brothers, and it appears as though the community is actively creating its own folklore. It was really interesting to see that these 5 players had risen to god status within the game’s community for their incredible skill. In the gaming community, the word god is thrown around a lot, but it appears as though there is a significant meaning behind coining someone a god in this particular game.



Main piece:

The mail man one, “Mailman mailman do your duty here comes a lady with an african booty she can do the pom pom she can do the twist most of all she can kiss kiss with her red hot lips k i s s i n g”

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

It was one of the rhymes the kids knew. It wasn’t a favorite but it sticks because it’s the most ridiculous one out of them all. Learned it in 1st grade from some female peer in her class. Informant thinks this one is ridiculous and doesn’t know why little kids sing it because it’s a little inappropriate.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It’s a hand clapping game for little kids to sing together.

Personal Analysis:

The “african booty part” is kind of racist. Even the informant said that it’s a weird song to think about. As a kid, she just went along with what the others were doing. I think it has a lot of strange connotations that kids don’t know about. I don’t think this has anything to do with Africa, but I wonder why American kids sing it. Why is it the mail man’s duty to kiss the lady? It’s actually really uncomfortable to think about. “do the pom pom” isn’t even proper grammar. I wonder who was the first person to start this song.

Folk speech

Pair of Chinese Number Riddles

“A riddle… This one, this one’s uhh, a good riddle, because it also translates to English. So it’s umm, there’s a fisherman, oh, umm…

So you know how there’s Chinese New Year, right? And fifteen days after Chinese New Year, because Chinese New Year is a two-week celebration, fifteen day celebration, and the last day is the lantern festival. And at a traditional lantern festival, you uhh, you have a parade with a bunch of lanterns, you eat, like, a specific food, which is called like… Literal translation is, like, ‘soup balls,’ but it’s like, uhh, kinda like mochi kinda thing, it’s rice, rice balls, and like, sugar water… and then, umm, you also do riddles, that’s like also part of the festival.

So I learned this riddle when I was participating in that holiday, we had like… something… umm… and the riddle is:

‘A fisherman went out one day, and, umm… so first he caught… 6 fish without the head, then 9 fish without the tail, then 8 fish except these fish were only half a fish each. How many fish did he catch in total?’ ”

Like… whole fish?

“It’s a riddle! [laughs]

Okay, the answer is zero. And you’re like, ‘What the, what the heck?’ Because umm, if you take the number 6, and write it in Arabic numerals, and you take off the top half, it becomes 0. Same with the 9, if you take the bottom half it becomes 0. If you take 8 and you cut it in half, then it’s 0. So you have 0+0+0! [laughs]

It’s some trickery! Yeah!”

Why Arabic numerals?

“Umm, well, this isn’t, this isn’t like a really old one, but like, I just learned this one in the context of this Chinese event. And like, Chinese people like numbers, too, you know? [laughs]

It’s part of it, So like, I dunno if this part is a trick. There’s a version where… Is there a version? No, I don’t remember any other specific riddles, but I know there were a lot that had to deal with, like, what the actual Chinese numbers were written as in Chinese. I don’t remember any of those riddles. But I remember there was like a series of them…

Oh! There’s one… umm… it’s uhh… what is… you take half of six and round down, what is it. And you need to know how six is written in Chinese. It’s written like… dot on top, straight line, and then two dashes that are like kinda sloped into each other on the bottom. And you take half of six and round down, the actual meaning of the riddle is: You look at the bottom half of six, and that’s what eight is written as.

So then the question would be like half of six, round down. And all the little kids would be like ‘three!’ And you’d be like ‘no!!! It’s eight!’ And then they circle it on the board, and you go ‘wooooooow!’ [laughs]

Yeah, so that was like, basic level riddles.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Picigin”-Croatian Water Sport

Informant FV is my grandfather who was born and raised in Split, Croatia. Picigin is a Croatian water sport that my grandfather played as a young boy and continues to play. It is a traditional ball game that is played in very shallow waters on the beaches of Croatia:


“Cold splash”

What kind of sport is Picigin?

FV: “Picigin is a typical water sport on the very shallow water up to 6 inches maximum. Usually 5 men get together in a circle formation. The goal is to keep the small ball up in the air and out of the water for as long as possible. Back in the day, people used to peel off the skin of tennis balls and use them in the game. In this game, the players never catch the ball. They only let the ball bounce off of the palm of their hand. You have to run and dive to save the ball from hitting the water. The longer you keep the ball up in the air, the more points you get.”

Is Picigin a competitive sport?

FV: “It can definitely get competitive depending who you are playing with, but typically it’s meant to be a fun and relaxing activity played on the beach.”

Where did Picigin originate?

FV: “Picigin originated on the beach of Bačvice in Split, Croatia back in the 1920’s. It was originally a sport played by only males, but over recent years, women have become part of the game.”

Do other regions of Croatia play Picigin?

FV: “Since Picigin was born on Bačvice Beach in Split, it is tradition to play it on the beach where it was discovered, but people do play this sport on other beaches as well but it must be only on flat, sandy beaches like Bačvice. It cannot be played on rocky or pebbled beaches because you cannot dive or fall into the water to save the ball. You can seriously injure yourself by not playing on a sandy beach.”

What is the typical garment worn during Picigin?

FV: “Well, men wear either swim shorts or ‘mudantine,’ which is what we call a speedo. For women, they wear their ‘kostim,’ which is their regular swimsuits.

What context or time of year is this sport played?

FV: “Picigin is played year round on Bačvice. It is very popular to play it during the hot summer months, but also during the winter season. You will see more people playing it during summer time because the water is warm and it’s vacation time.”

What does Picigin mean to you?

FV: “Picigin is one of my favorite sports to play. I grew up playing it with my friends every summer in Split on Bačvice. It is a sport that was discovered in my hometown so it holds a special place in my heart and it’s an extremely fun sport that anyone can learn to play.”


Picigin is a fun sporting activity that brings true uniqueness to the city of Split. As a large part of Split’s heritage, it has been recognized as a monument and is protected under UNESCO. The game has grown to be very popular over the years that there is an annual World Championship competition that is held on Bačvice beach every June. People from all over the world come to participate in the competition. The game has grown popular in other countries in recent years. The World Championship is a great way to bring other cultures together to share in this experience through a fun sport. Whether it is winter or summer, rain or shine, you can be sure that there are dedicated players playing an exciting game of picigin on Bačvice Beach.





O Que É, O Que É?

Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.

Informant: So this is a game of riddle. It’s like a riddle, but it’s also a game. It’s called “O que é o que é,” which is “What is it What is it.” You come up with the riddles at school with friends. It’s something that you need to make people think and have fun. It’s our popular culture. It’s very used with kids, kids play with that a lot. You give clues to what a thing is by describing it, and then the other people have to guess what it is.

Collector: Can you maybe give me an example?

Informant: Ok, for example

O que é o que é

It is deaf and mute but tells everything?

Collector: I don’t know.

Informant: A book. (Laughs)

O que é o que é

That is always broken when it’s spoken?

Collector: Promises?

Informant: Secrets, but close. Last one,

O que é o que é

Is extremely thin, has teeth, but never eats, and even without having money gives food to whoever is hungry?

Collector: What?

Informant: The fork. These are just some examples. I remember a lot of them because they were a really big part of my childhood.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because we used to have a lot of fun we used to play with it all the time, everyone used to have one of these riddles and we used to play all the time, it makes you think and it’s funny. Everytime we were with friends and we were talking or even with family we used to play, but mainly with friends, we used to read books about this to tell friends. It’s just a happy time, we used to play a lot and it was funny.

I remember hearing these riddles when I was a kid. Every time I would go on a road trip, my parents would say these riddles to me about things that would pass by our windows, and it was a fun way to pass the time. It’s really cool to learn that this was also a part of my mother’s childhood, and that she would often play this riddle game with her friends – something I never did. Although it’s mostly a children’s thing, any Brazilian will recognize the famous phrase “o que é o que é” as a riddle. A lot of the riddles are actually quite silly, such as the ones that my mother told me, but it is because they are so silly that they make people laugh.


London Bridge

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: Do you know the London Bridge song?

Collector: Yes.

Informant: Ah, yes. Well, I guess it’s pretty popular over here too. But basically, it’s a song that goes like this:

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.

I think the actual song is longer than that, but that’s all that people really use. So what we do, it’s usually a kids game, but what we do is we get two people to stand together and hold their arms together like they’re making a bridge, and then people have to run under it, until the last line. And then the people drop their arms and trap whoever is under it, and like that person loses. It’s like a song, but it’s also a game, which is cool.

Collector: Do you have any idea where it might have come from?

Informant: I actually have no idea the history behind the song. I just know that it’s a really old game, and a lot of kids play it. It’s pretty popular. I don’t think the London Bridge has ever really fallen down. I hope it won’t.

I remember playing this game when I was a kid, and it’s interesting to hear that it’s popular all over the world too. Despite mentioning London in part of the lyrics, I didn’t actually know that this was a traditional English song. I thought that the Americans had made it up during the revolution to show patriotism and strength to beat the British. It’s funny to see that I was completely wrong my entire life, and that the song is nothing more than a mere game that people used to play in England, and passed on to the people in America and all over the world.