USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Hand-game’
Folk speech
Game
Gestures
Kinesthetic

French hand game

The informant is my 19-year-old friend from my French high school. Though she currently lives in New York, she grew up in Germany, and her family is Moroccan. I asked her what games, songs, or rhymes she remembered from growing up, and she volunteered this hand game that is commonly played in French elementary schools. My friend did not know the name of this game, nor does she remember being taught it or teaching it to anyone, but she played it with her friends and most of the kids she grew up with also knew it.

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“Okay, you start by saying, “Si tu perds t’auras un gage,” which means “if you lose, you’ll have a dare,” and then you start the game. Although, to be honest, I don’t think I ever actually did a dare after playing. So … [demonstrating with hand gestures] you clap your hands one time, then you clap once with the other person … diagonally, and then you clap your hands again. Then the same on the other side [demonstrating], then your hands again, then both of your hands with the other person’s hands. And you just do it faster and faster until someone messes up.”

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Though my friend and I both went to french-language schools growing up, she grew up in Germany, and I lived in New York, which made it interesting to me that we both had played this game as children. This was another place I observed Dundes’s stipulation that folklore must have multiplicity. I also thought it was interesting that the game never really had a name; an interesting aspect of folklore is that things can be spread, reproduced, and taught to other people without having a specific name for what that thing is. I also thought that might have to do with the fact that it one of the things children teach each other, which might be it is so simple (no name, very easy to learn). Another thing I found interesting was that neither she nor I ever actually had to perform a dare after losing the game, because the fact that the song starts off with that line suggests that there was a time where that was a legitimate part of the game, and that over time it was eventually lost. I thought it was an interesting example of the fact that folklore is never static, because the game is so simple and has so few parts, and yet it has still changed over time.

Game

Lemonade Hand Clapping Game

Main Text:

JM: Lemonade (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Iced Tea (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Coca-Cola (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Pepsi (Up Down Clap)
(Triple Clap)
Lemonade (Up Down Clap)
Crunchy Ice (Up Down Clap)
Sip it once (Up Down Clap)
Sip it twice (Up Down Clap)
Turn around (Turn around)
Touch the ground (Touch the ground)
Kick your boyfriend out of town!
Pick your nose
Strike a pose
and freeze!

Instructions to play this game:

This game is played with two people who have to face each other. In order to play this game you have to know the two main clapping motions that are employed, the “Up Down Clap” and the “Triple Clap”.

The “Up Down Clap” is done while reciting each line of the song. Players raise their left hands, with their palms down, and lowering their right hands, with their palms up. They clap by bringing down their left hands and bringing up their right hands, until each one of the players’ hands meet those of their partner’s moving in the opposite direction. They then continue in to reverse their hands and clap the other way. For this part the players being with their right hands high and left hands low.

The “Triple Clap” is done between each line of the first verse only. In order to do this, all that the players have to do is clap their own hands together three times consecutively.

At the end of the game is when many forms of variations come in, where you would perform whatever action the song tells you to do. For this variation specifically you would turn around, touch the ground, kick the air, pretend to pick your nose, strike whatever model pose you feel like and freeze for a few seconds.

Context:

This game is played with another person while you are facing each other and it is usually played amongst or with children. I collected this piece from my younger sister who said she learned this game and song at school. She said that she remembers it because at recess there is not much to do so her and her friends use it as a way to occupy themselves.

Analysis:

This game is unique in the sense that is has so many  variations that I have encountered over my 21 years of life and this piece that I collected is vastly different from the one I used to play as a kid. I believe that this variation of the game has formed from combinations of multiple variations of the game. Although the gestures, hand movement and mains structure of the song has stayed the same there are many variations to the words of the song. I think these variations occur over time because people from different regions who move and go to different schools share their variation of the game and then this variation gets adopted by some individuals while the ‘original’ variation continues to be told by others. I think at that point, it is the person who decides which variation they like better and whichever one it is will be continued to be sung and played by them with other people who like the same variations.

One of the reasons that children lore is constantly adapted and formed according to Jay Mechling is as the child’s primary strategy for being antitethical in the world. Although adults play sometimes play is an especially legitimate activity for children which is why they have categorized and created folklore around play and games. Since this play is not for real and not taken seriously by adults most of the time, children are able to explore themes and ideas that they usually are not able to. For example, in this version if you analyze the lyrics carefully there is the mention of one “kicking their boyfriend out of town”. I believe this version was created as a way to address the relationships and bonds with the opposite gender forming and that they may not be able to talk about with their parents. I also believe that this adaptation was spread between children and continued to be spread between children of an older age because with the boyfriend line it deals with undertones of puberty, sexuality and sex which are all things that are epic children are usually forbidden to talk or thing about. Variations in these games and songs also play with this idea because usually a variation would be created as a way to address issues that children may be having to deal with at one point in time that children a century ago never had to think about.

The fact that most children want to be at the center of knowledge with adults also affects the sharing, creation and variation fo children’s lore. When performing children’s lore, children violate the rules that were imposed upon them by adults acting as authority figures as a way to learn say rules. They explore the idea and concept of innocence by creating lore that can be analyzed as having some of the most uncomfortable and even disturbing topics that children are faces with in their daily lives.

To summarize, certain variations of children’s lore like this Lemonade Hand game song are created as a way of addressing the oppression that adults put onto kids at such a young age. Children understand that this is all play and know that adults assume the same, so they feel safe when broaching the “no-go zones” and issues that they would not feel comfortable talking about in daily life or are not allowed to talk about. By also creating folklore and breaking the rules that are not supposed to be broken, children show violation of rules as a way to learn and understand them. All of these reasons can be used to explain why  children’s folklore and games continue to be passed along with each other and why variations of the fames continue to be found over the years of them being played.

For another children folk song that has been adapted into a game (jumprope), see “Children’s Folklore” Folk groups and Folklore Genres An Introduction, by Jay Mechling, 1986, pp. 101–102.

Childhood
Folk speech
Gestures
Musical

Handgame: Miss Suzy

Main Piece: (sung) “Miss Suzy had a baby/ she named him Tiny Tim/ she put him in the bathtub/ to see if he could swim/ he drank up all the water/ he ate up all the soap/ he tried to eat the bathtub/ but it wouldn’t go down his throat (giggles)/ miss Suzy called the doctor/ miss Suzy called the nurse/ miss Suzy called the lady/ with the alligator purse….uhhhh…..oh yeah ok….measles said the doctor/ mumps said the nurse… haha that’s terrible… pizza said the lady/ with the alligator purse.”

Background: The informant initially learned this handgame on the playground in elementary school from her friends. The piece would be performed on the playground during recess or occasionally in the hallway. The informant finds the piece entertaining and humorous. She remembers learning the song and finding it all so random, making little sense. This piece is sung while playing a handgame, a repetitive motion between partners clapping their hands together. The informant says this is usually performed between two young girls. She says it was a popular song among the group of girls she atteneded elementary school with. The game would become more advanced as it would speed up and test who could keep up.

Performance Context: I sat across the informant in my living room as she told me the piece.

My Thoughts: This handgame seems to be utilized as a way of defining in-group versus out-group members (i.e. as the game advances, less and less participants are included). The rhyme itself, as the informant contends, does not completely make sense. Its lyrics are a bit morbid, but is sung in a child-like tune, and is best known in the context of an elementary school playground. The informant alludes to the ways in which childhood folklore can be somewhat explicit, exploring themes of adulthood (i.e. morbidity, illness, death). Although the lyrics of the handgame are somehwat grave, the informant was an innocent receiver and teller and enjoyed participating in the folklore.

Childhood
Game

007

In this childrens hand game the goal is to “kill the other player”  Similar to rock paper scissors the game begins with a lead in, (the two players clapping their hands with each other three times) after the third clap the players than make one of three moves.

  1. Sheild – denotated by crossing your arms over your chest
  2. Gun – denotated with both hands in a hand gun gesture with thumbs up and pointers extended with the other fingers not extended
  3. Power up – denotated by making a thumbs up sign with both hands and bringing them above your shoulders.

Rules

  1. Sheild protects against gun
  2. Gun can only be used after it has been powered up once per use
  3. In order to win you must shoot on a turn where your opponent is not protecting themselves.

My friend called this game Zero – Zero – Seven (007) which seems to be a direct reference to James Bond.  I played it too as a kid but not with any specific name.   She said she played this game as a kid and when she was in india she taught it to a girl there.

The game is interesting cause it seems to be a more violent variant of rock paper scissors.  The James Bond reference is interesting as well because it is unclear if that name came later or the popularization of James bond is a terminus post quem.

Game

“Fives/Fists”–Folk Game

This game is played between four or more people. Everyone stands in a circle  and starts with their fists extended towards to the center. One person takes the first turn and indicates by making a throwing motion with their fist. When this happens, the person whose turn it is tries to guess how many fingers will be extended. During this turn, every other player has the choice of either keeping their fist closed or extending five fingers. This makes the number of fingers in the circle somewhat random. If the person whose turn took the turn is right, they are out of the game. So, the last one in the game loses. An extra rule that is occasionally instated involves celebrating after getting out. If you high five someone else or obviously celebrate in any other way, you are back in the game. This can lead to loud, intense games where people go from very happy about getting out to very upset about getting put back in.

Game
general
Kinesthetic
Musical

Kit Kat Bar Hand-Game

Kit Kat Bar Hand-Game

^^^KIT KAT BAR HAND-GAME VIDEO LINK

Lyrics to the jingle:

Verse 1:
Gimme a break
Gimme a break
Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar

Verse 2:
The chocolate-y taste
Makes my day
Walkin down the street
Hear the people say

“I probably learned that in middle school with all the other hand game things, like waiting in line for recess or something. I originally played it cuz it wasted time, and even now if you’re like waiting around for something or there’s literally nothing else to do. Whoever did it the fastest was the coolest, you know. It became like a competition or whatever. (laughs) The boys probably thought we were so stupid. I mean, the first verse, isn’t that the real jingle? I dunno about the second verse, some girl probably made it up.”

My informant was laughing the entire time she showed me how to play this hand-game. We have two classes together that are back to back twice a week, and one day we got out very early in the first class and sat in the hallway with nothing to do, just waiting for our next class to start. Because we were together, the dumb games on her smartphone got boring quickly and we found ourselves talking about how we’d play hand-games in middle school and high school to pass the time. A hand-game that I knew about McDonald’s prompted her to teach me the Kit Kat Bar hand-game which I had never heard of. She then taught me and we tried to get faster and faster at it, and it prompted a lot of laughs and the time passed very quickly. Two college students, playing hand-games in our University hallway. Our teacher even passed by us and asked us what we were doing, but she thought it was funny and we clearly were having fun with it, singing about a chocolate candy bar and playing a game typically played by kids 10 years younger than us. That we did this reflects not just our absolute boredom, but the integration of consumer products into everyday lives. After so many years I still remembered the song to a number of hand games, many of which refer to food and restaurants, and my informant obviously remembered the jingle from the Kit Kat Bar commercial. It’s very American, and we probably will never forget these games, those that sucked us into the world of advertising and friendly competition, but also promoted camaraderie 10 years later. The power of boredom and nostalgia should not be underestimated.

Childhood
general
Humor
Narrative

Children’s Chinese Restaurant Chant

Ruchika Tanna

Los Angeles, California

April 25, 2012

Folklore Type: Childhood Chant

Informant Bio: Ruchika is my friend and fellow Archaeology major. Ruchika is a Sophomore at the University of Southern California. She has moved around her whole life. She is Indian.

Context: We were both in Intro to Folklore and decided to meet before Maya Civilization, the other class we have together, and discuss some.

 

Item:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant to buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread,

He asked me what my name was, and this is what I said, said, said,

My name is eli pickleby, pickleby eli,

Wallah wallah whiskers

Chinese, Japanese, Indian chief!”

 

Informant Analysis: I think this is just nonsense that’s fun to say, no particular meaning, as far as I can see. Learned it from my sister when I was in elementary school. She learned it from her friends. We used to sing it all the time, not so much anymore. Only when we go to Chinese restaurants. Like we did last weekend!

Analysis: This is a variation of a hand game chant that I have also heard. It is slightly shorter, and Ruchika never did the hand game part. At first it was probably just funny for her, but now it is a connection specific to her sister and her. What is also interesting is that my version has more ethnicities than these three from Asia. Either one of us could have the adapted version, or both our versions are adaptations. This could childhood chant could be an example of how specific ethnicities change certain things unconsciously to be more relatable to their culture.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

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