Tag Archives: Hand-game

Slide

Background: Informant is a 22 year old male who has lived in California his whole life.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Did you play any hand games that were not based off of a musical riddle?

Informant: Yes, I remember playing a hand game called Slide. Well at least thats what we called it in school.

Interviewer: How do you play slide?

Informant: Slide is a game where you slide hands with whoever your playing with and then you clap, then clap your left hand to their right and and then your right hand to their left hand. You then clap again and then using your backsides of your hands clap against the backsides of their hands. You also count when you clap, so if you are at 2 then you clap each hand twice before clapping the backsides. You also clap the backsides the same amount of times as the number you’ve counted up to. It seems really easy but when you go at a fast pace it gets really hard.

Interviewer: How do you win?

Informant: Whoever messes up first loses.

Context: Interview with a family member, asking him about any childhood games he played with friends or family.

Thoughts: It is interesting to see how clapping can be such a fun game for kids. It is funny that it is also competitive. I think the game Slide has a proper name. I find it fascinating that the game requires you to multi-task, counting and clapping. Kids get really creative with games.

“Shame Shame Shame” Hand-clap Game

Main Piece:

“Shame Shame Shame,

I don’t want to go to Mexico no more more more,

There’s a big fat policeman at the door door door,

He grabbed me by the collar,

Made me pay a dollar,

I don’t want to go to Mexico no more more more,

Shame!”

Background:

This piece was recited to me by my informant in reference to their childhood and elementary school memories. The informant is now a junior in high-school but for their K-8 education, she attended a Spanish immersion public school with a large Mexican population. Kansas City, where the informant lives, has a substantial Spanish-speaking population.

Context:

This piece was shared with me several times throughout my life but was recently brought up by her when asking about memories from her childhood. The exact conversation was conducted via cellphone

Thoughts:

This piece is very interesting to me, mostly because it seems to be another version of a pretty recognizable childhood game. My informant told me that she learned this hand-clap game from friends while attending a Spanish immersion school. However, as she grew up, she learned that this is just a variant of a more traditionally accepted version of the game. Mostly, the policeman in this version is usually replaced with a bully. In my opinion, this is a reflection of the fear of authority and programs like ICE, for Spanish-speaking immigrants. The school my informant attended had a substantial population of Spanish-speaking students who were first generation United States citizens, if that. As such, when assimilating into United States culture, they adopted childhood games like hand-clap. However, they changed it to replace the classic bully figure with that of police, maybe because they would realistically have grown up being told that they were to be wary of police officers, as it could mean deportation or harsh punishments on account of their status as first generation immigrants. It also seems to place Mexico as an bad place, which further reflects the goal of moving forward and becoming part of the culture there. In this respect, the game is almost pushing one to abandon their original culture in order to adapt, as many of these students were the children of Mexican immigrants who were attempting to make ends meet in a new culture. 

Miss Mary Mack Hand Game

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

CB: So what was it?

PB: It was a hand clapping song. There were specific hand claps that went with it, and it was for two persons, or three persons. And it was called Miss Mary Mack”

CB: “How did it go?”

PB: “Old Mary Mack Mack Mack

All dressed in black black black

With silver buttons buttons buttons

All down her back back back 

She asked her mother mother mother

For fifty cents cents cents

To the animals animal animals

Jump over the fence fence fence

They jumped so high high high 

They touched the sky sky sky

And they never came back back back

To Mary Mack Mack Mack”

CB: “So what do you think is the meaning of the song?”

PB: “The meaning of the song? I just… I think it was mostly nonsense to be honest. I think it was just rhymy, and she had to ask her mother for the money to go to the zoo basically, and then she fantasizes about the animals who can fly over the fence.”

CB: “Why do you think its important and people do it?”

PB: “I think it connects them with all the people in the group that they’re doing it with. And it can help improve their skill and memory”

CB: “Where and in what context would people do it?”

PB: “Um, gosh you know sometimes, if you’re at like a sporting a event for one of your relatives. Like your sister plays softball and you don’t, or if your brother plays football and you’re bored, then like a bunch of the younger kids would get together to pass the time. They would kind see how fast they could do it, and do it faster and faster each time or in line at school the kids would do it.”

Background:

Miss Mary Mack is just one of many hand games that children grow up playing. My informant actually taught me this game and many others like it. Because the games are so popular and widespread, they are able to connect kids who might have very different experiences.

Context:

I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard and played the hand game many times beforehand.


Thoughts:

I grew up with hand games being a very gendered activity. Only girls would play the games at school, and as my informant described, girls would often use them as entertainment while boys played the more stereotypically masculine games such as sports. I learned Miss Mary Mack from my mother, but learned other hand games from siblings, cousins, aunts, and my grandma. It often followed the pattern where older women would teach young girls the games. Like Miss Mary Mack, the songs often had no clear meaning but were repeated for amusement. The songs did often have connections to common aspects of childhood, as is seen when Mary asks her mother for permission and money to go to the zoo. I think that these games represent the way that gender roles are passed down through society. While it was never explicitly stated, the older generation’s involvement in sharing these games clearly state that they approve of them. The girls who learn them then learn that these are more acceptable methods of entertainment than other forms of play.

For another version of the Miss Mary Mack hand game see YouTube video “Miss Mary Mack hand clap” uploaded by Tom Cecil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP9V0S51GVo

Ms. Lucy Nursery Rhyme

  • Context: The informants are brothers A, 19, and B, 15. This transcription was taken from an argument between the brothers over the “correct” words to the nursery rhyme about “Ms. Lucy.” The nursery rhyme is used mostly as a schoolyard game, sometimes accompanied by a hand-game the brothers tell me, but in their argument they were only debating the words of the rhyme itself. 
  • Text:

B: It starts off ‘Ms. Lucy has a baby, his name was tiny Tim…’

A: No it doesn’t, it goes ‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a…”

B: No that’s not what I’m talking about!

A: Well, what are you talking about? 

B: I’m talking about the one mom taught us.

A: Okay, fine, what one?

B: ‘Ms. Lucy had a baby, his name was 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 bath tub, but it wouldn’t go down his throat

Ms. Lucy called the doctor, Ms. Lucy called the nurse,

Ms. Lucy called the baby with the alligator purse 

Mumps said the doctor, Measles said the nurse, 

Nonsense said the lady with the alligator purse 

Penicillin said the doctor, castor oil said the nurse,

Pizza said the lady with the alligator purse

Out went the doctor, out went the nurse, out went the lady with the allegator purse’

A: Okay. Yeah, but I was talking about the other version.

B: What’s your version?

A (B starts singing along): 

‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell (ding ding)

Ms. Lucy went to heaven and the steamboat went to 

Hello operator, give me number 9, if you disconnect me I’ll chop off your 

Behind the ‘fridgerator, there was a piece of glass 

Ms. Lucy sat upon it and cut her big fat 

Ask me no more questions, tell me no more lies

The boys are in the bathroom zipping up their 

Flies are in the meadow, bees are in the park

Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the D-A-R-K D-A-R-K 

Dark dark dark’

B: I know that one.

A: Is that where you stop?

B: What do you mean?

A: Mine keeps going. It goes… 

‘Darker than the ocean, darker than the sea 

Darker than the underwear my Mommy puts on me’ 

  • Analysis: I had also learned the Ms. Lucy version that informant B was singing from my mother and many of my friends would play it with me as a hand game on the play ground in elementary school. Once I entered middle-school, the version that informant A sang became popular at school. But at my school, we continued the rhyme even further. We would sing… 

‘Me is very special, Me is very great’ 

And then we would have different variations after those lyrics. Usually ending with… 

‘I kicked him over London, I kicked him over France

I kicked him over the USA and saw his underpants’

I think the reason the versions change is because of the intended audience. The first version, presented by informant B, is much more suitable for children. It is funny because of the motif of the alligator purse and the fact that she wants the baby to eat pizza, which is a food often enjoyed by children. The version presented by informant A is much more rich with “inappropriate” lingo. At the end of each verse, it leads into the next by using near rhyme with a swear word. For example “hell” goes to “hello” and “ass” goes to “ask.” In addition, there are sexual references, both to male genitalia and to Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the dark. I asked the meaning of the “dark underwear that mommy puts on me,” and there was a consensus that it was referring to underwear stained by period blood. This version of the nursery rhyme often occurs when children are in middle school, which makes sense because that’s often when you start using swear words, have your first kiss, and begin menstruating.

For other versions, visit https://www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat

“Miss Lucy Had a Steam Boat: Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs.” Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs | BusSongs.com, 9 July 2008, www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat.

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.

——————–

“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.”

——————–

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.