USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘mash’
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MASH Game

“So, during class when I was younger, my friends and I would play this game called MASH. It’s called MASH because the first category of MASH is “Where will I live?” and MASH stands for “Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House.” But there are a ton of other categories, too. It’s basically just trying to predict your future. So we would write things like, “Who will I marry?” and “What will my job be?” For each category, there are four or five options. Then, once you’ve written it all down, whoever is making the chart draws a spiral until the person being MASHed tells them to stop. And then they count the number of vertical lines that the spiral makes. Then, you use that number and start crossing out options. So, if you have six lines, you cross out every sixth option until you have one option left in each category. Usually, you get to choose one option for each category, and the person making the chart can choose the other ones. So you end up with some really weird results. Also, the biggest category was definitely “Who will I marry?” because we usually put boys in our class as options and it was a huge secret. We would be super embarrassed if any of the boys saw what we were doing. And it would also be really disappointing if you got a boy who you didn’t like.”

Context: The informant went to school on a military base in Weisbaden, Germany. She played this game with exclusively female classmates.

Interpretation: This can easily be viewed as an activity to groom young girls for a stereotypical life and a nuclear family. It also illustrates which lifestyle choices are desirable and acceptable, and which are not. It teaches young girls that a nuclear family with a successful job and a nice house are the best things to hope for in the future, whereas ending up with a less-than-ideal romantic partner and occupation are like losing the game of life. For another example of how MASH can be played, see the submission “M A S H = Mansion Apartment Shack House” by user ronniyoon in the USC Digital Folklore Archive.

 

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M A S H = Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House

M A S H = Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House

This is a grid for the children's game, MASH

 

My informant first learned how to play this fortune-telling game in her middle school in Downey, CA from one of her girlfriends during lunch time.  In MASH, on each side and corner of the square, you write a list up to four items you desire or absolutely hate.  For example, one side of the square can have four names of potential husbands.  On another side, there could be four names of the cars you may have in the future.  MASH is at the top of the square indicating if you will live in a mansion, apartment, shack, or a house.  The girl whose fortune is being told must close her eyes and at any time says, “Stop!” while the fortune teller would be drawing sticks.  When the fortune teller stops, she counts how many sticks she has drawn.  Then she counts from the “M” on the square around the square counting to however many sticks she had drawn.  Whenever her count ends, she crosses out whatever item she lands on, and continues with her count again until only one item from each category is left.  In the end, the girl will discover who she will marry, what kind of compartment she would reside in, what her job would be, how many kids she’ll have, what the color of her car will be, what her car will be, and where she will live.

I have also played this game several times as the fortune teller and as the person whose fortune is being told.  It can take up a lot of time when needed and is quite entertaining.  It is especially fun for girls because most girls typically like to daydream about who their husbands will be or where they will live in the next ten years and so on.  Favorable results can be exciting and unfavorable results can be funny.

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