USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘playground games’
Childhood
Game
Riddle

Cinderella Jumping Rope Rhyme

The informant is 20-years old and finishing her sophomore year at USC. She is a Business and Music Industry Major, is involved in several on-campus organizations such as Concerts Committees. When she’s not doing her school work or work for clubs, she enjoys running, taking hikes, and going to concerts. She grew up in Washington with her mom, dad, and two younger sisters.

 

Informant: “I guess something I learned from other people would be jump roping rhymes. I was super into jump roping with my friends when I was in elementary school. Even into middle school we would play Double Dutch. It’s just an easy thing to play—jump-roping. Like all we needed to have with us was the rope.”

 

Interviewer: “Do you have a favorite rhyme you want to share?”

 

Informant: “I wouldn’t say I have a favorite…But one I think is really weird. Haha. Probably the most bizarre rhyme that circulated around is one about Cinderella. We would sing:

‘Cinderella dressed in yellow

Went downstairs to kiss her fellow

On the way her girdle busted,

How many people were disgusted?’

And then you’d count off 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Until whoever was jumping rope tripped. And then the song would start all over again.

 

Thoughts: It’s funny that my informant learned this Cinderella rhyme for jumping rope in Washington because I learned the same one in the suburb of Chicago where I grew up. I remember seeing some kids recite it while jump roping, but where I heard it the most was in the figure skating community. I figure skated for ten years and when we had shows, all of the younger kids would convene in a sort of backstage/holding area when we weren’t on the ice. We used to play all sorts of games to pass the time and one game was a one where everyone sat in a circle with their hands touching and we would go around the circle as we sang this song slapping the person’s hand next to us, and when we got to 10, the person whose hand was slapped got out. This seems like a good example of how folklore travels, or of polygenesis, and how it attains different uses and practices as it is spread.

Game
Humor
Kinesthetic

“This is Buggy”

Context: The informant is an 11-year-old resident of Southern California, of Indo-Pakistani descent. She lives with two older siblings, parents, and grandparents and attends a public middle school in the South Bay area. She has close friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and the following narrative sequence is one she learned from one of these friends while she was still in elementary school.

Transcript of video:

“This is Buggy!

Buggy says hi!

Buggy can fly!

Yay for Buggy!

Oops, Buggy died.”

Analysis: The informant says she learned it only a couple years ago and remembered it because she “thought it was cool” and “kind of funny”. The informant relates that she enjoys many types of art, including drawing and painting, and often is in charge of making signs for events among her friend group, like yard sales and party invitations. So the personal appeal to a young artist or craftsperson is obvious.

I think the general appeal here is similar: the fact that with a few simple drawings and letters, an entire story can be told with little effort. The idea that there are just enough fingers on a person’s hand to write “T-H-I-S” on the knuckles, and then fold different fingers to show different words, must be appealing to kids who are just starting to appreciate the difficulties of both language and tactile crafts such as beading, painting, or cursive handwriting. The simple story is also humorous and a common enough occurrence: trying to save a little bug only to find that you unfortunately don’t know your own strength; or simply the humor of seeing something that causes many small children, especially girls, some anxiety–“creepy crawlies”–being put out in such a messy and unceremonious manner helps them cope with those anxieties indirectly while not being called out as a “scaredy cat” or a “sissy”.

Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is a Pakistani-American 11-year-old girl and a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread

She asked me what my name was

And this is what i said, said, said

My name is

L-I-L-I, Pickle-eye pickle-eye

pom-pom beauty, sleeping beauty

Then she told me to freeze freeze freeze

And whoever moves, loses.”

The word “freeze” may be said either once or three times, and at that moment the players must both freeze. The informant also showed me the two kinds of clapping sequence that are used for the two parts of the game, one for the first four lines, and the other for lines 6-8.

Analysis: At first glance, the rhyme seems like complete nonsense; but upon further examination, the rhyme could conceal casual racism. “Li” could be an East Asian name. Rhyming it with “pickle-eye” (which itself could be referring to culturally unfamiliar food which is automatically dismissed as unnatural or revolting–for instance recall the urban legend where neighborhood cats/dogs were disappearing after immigrants from [insert Asian country here] moved in), which is essentially a nonsense word, could be meant to show disrespect towards all people with similarly “Asian” names. Then referring to oneself as a “pom-pom beauty” (perhaps referring to a cheerleader’s pom-poms) and “sleeping beauty” (the classic western fairy tale) as a contrast to the “Li” lady is like proclaiming, I am an all-American girl, like a cheerleader or Sleeping Beauty, and you are not.

Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

Lemonade,

iced tea

Coca-cola,

Pepsi

Lemonade, iced tea, Coca-cola, Pepsi,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

Another version from the same informant begins with the same line:

Lemonade,

crunchy ice

Beat it once,

beat it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

In the last line of both versions, the players may perform the actions sung: they turn in a circle, drop to a crouch to touch the ground, and may even stand up and make a kicking motion. At the word “freeze,” both players must stop moving, and the first to move loses.

Analysis: I learned a version of this game, similar to the second version recorded, from cousins who went to the same school district as the informant. Instead of the words “beat it,” however, the words “pour it” were used, and the last line was completely omitted. The rhyme ended with the players crying “Statue!” and the first person to move, lost. Somehow, however, a player was allowed to tickle the other person to get them to move, even though tickling would seemingly count as moving. 

The incorporation of Coca-cola and Pepsi, both globally-recognizable drink names, into the rhyme is evidence of how popular the drink is worldwide and how it has been incorporated into “American” or “Southern California” culture, that children are mentioning it in their songs along with the ever-popular summer drink of lemonade.

The last line “Turn around, touch the ground” seems to be echoing some long-dead magic ritual, especially when followed by a mention of the singer’s boyfriend (keeping in mind that 11 years old, the majority of children likely have nothing close to a romantic partner yet). Also, the pouring of the drink–once, then twice–would seem to recall the adult practice of pouring drinks for oneself and one’s partner after a long day or at a party. This shows this age-group’s (perhaps unconscious) desire to  mimic the adult relationships they see with their own peers.

Game

Call of Duty

Amari Broadnax was born in Fontana, CA in 2006.  He has lived in Rialto, CA all of his life.  He is a six year old first grader at Lena M. Preston Elementary School.   Amari practices Tae Kwon Do at the Tiger Lee Karate Schools in Rialto.  He is the eldest of two boys to his mother, Keesha Cuthbert, who is a full time student at the University of Southern California and Assistant Branch Manager at JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Me:                        Amari, what games do you play at recess?

Informant:          (looks at me nervously, fidgets with clothes) Why? Did Mrs. Dietz call you?

M:                          What?  Why would she call me?

I:                             … I don’t know …

M:                          Okay, Amari, I don’t know what is going on.  I just want to know what you play at recess.

I:                             Am I going to get in trouble?

M:                          What? No. Why would you get in trouble? Amari, I promise you won’t get in trouble.

I:                             (hesitates) Mom, we are not supposed to play it though.  It’s called Call of Duty. Like the video game. You know?

M:                          Yes, I know.  Continue …

I:                             Okay, so, Mom, the boys umm are the zombies and umm we like try to get the girls.  So the girls umm run away from us so that they don’t umm become like us …like the zombies.  … and then, we  like turn the girls into umm the zombies and then the last human wins! (smiles) Mom, what’s wrong?

M:                          I don’t get it.  So, if you touch the girl she becomes a zombie?   How are there and humans left to win?

I:                             Mom, when I umm touch the girl I turn into a human and she is a zombie.  Do you get it now?

M:                          I think so … It sounds like Freeze Tag.

I:                             What’s that?

M:                          Nothing. Nevermind.

I:                             Mom …

M:                          Amari?

I:                             I’m not in trouble, right.  Cause that’s what you said …

M:                          No, you are not in trouble.

___

This sounds like a variation of Freeze Tag, that I used to play as a kid.  Basically, you transfer the “freezing” from one person to another until there is one person that remains unfrozen.  The thing that I remember about this game is that the more people that were playing, the longer the game lasted.  So, with a playground full of elementary school kids, it seems the perfect game for recess because it would never end.

Game

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

Dione Surdez Oliver was born in Santa Ana, California in 1969.  She moved to Crooks, South Dakota when she was four years old.  She grew up on her family’s small dairy farm.  At the age of eighteen she moved back to Southern California.  She worked in the music industry for some time as well as a legal assistant for a number of years.  In 2003 Dione decided to pursue her educational endeavors and began studying at Santa Monica Community College.  She transferred to the University of Southern California in the fall of 2006 and was granted the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Scholarship.  In 2009 Dione graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative writing and a minor in Cultural Anthropology.  She graduated with honors and received the Order of Troy.  She currently resides in Manhattan Beach, California and where she is the director of CrossFit Zen and is working on entering the Masters of Professional Writing program at USC.

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

Catch a nigger by his toe

If he hollers, let him go

Inny, Minny, Miny, Moe

___

This is an oicotype of a very common childhood game.  Usually, it says “Catch a tiger by his toe.”  Dione informed me that this is the original version of the song.  Apparently, it was changed because of how derogatory it is towards African Americans.  As a native Californian, it would make sense that I have never heard this, as California is a little more tolerant state and a lot more diversified than most.  However, I bet that if I travelled to the South or the Midwest I would hear it more commonly.

Game

Shoemaker

Jayden Hamilton was born in San Bernardino, California in 2002.  He is a fifth grader at Preston Elementary School in Rialto, CA.  He currently runs track for the school.

Me:                        When you are playing games at recess, like tag, how do you know who is “it” first?

Informant:          We play Shoemaker.

M:                          What is that?

I:                             Everybody puts their feet in and we go around the circle singing the songs.  Whoever shoe we are on at the song takes their foot out.  The last foot in the circle is it.

M:                          Oh, okay.  I remember this when I was a kid.  Which one is your favorite song?

I:                             ummmm … Johnny.

M:                          How does it go?

I:                             Johnny ate a boogar and it taste like sugar.  Put it in a pot and it tastes like snot. (grins widely)

M:                          That sounds like something that any little boy would like. (smile)

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