USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘recess’
Folk Beliefs
Game
general
Humor

Cheese Touch

Text

“Cheese touch” a game of tag

 

Background

The informant told me that she learned this game while in elementary school and that she’s noticed that most people played this game when they were younger, even if they did not go to her school. The game originally came from the popular book “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” when a character touched a piece of moldy cheese and was diagnosed with “the cheese touch.” This game quickly caught on with elementary school children across the nation, even with kids who did not read the book. The game was essentially tag, but instead of “being it” it was called having the cheese touch. The informant notes that it was occasionally used to bully other children (popular kids would sometimes give the touch to a kid they thought was weird so that they would have an excuse to run away from or ignore said kid). She said that boys would mostly give it to other boys unless a boy had a crush on a girl, in which case he would give it to her. She confessed that she never really believed in the cheese touch but that it was just a fun game to play on the black top.

 

Context

The informant goes to a school in Southern California and grew up in Newport beach where she attended a nice public school.

 

Thoughts

While this game was just something that the kids used to entertain themselves during recess, it gives insight on how young children socialize with one another. I find it interesting that the children would use the same strategy on a kid they were bullying and the kid they “had a crush on.” Because children have no prior relationship experience, they don’t know how to handle romantic feelings and may resort to this tactic in order to express their emotions.

 

Game
Gestures
Humor
Musical

Happy Llama

Text

Happy llama

Sad llama

Mentally disturbed llama

Super llama

Drama llama

Big fat mama llama

Llama llama llama llama

Duck

Coyote

Giraffe

Elephant

 

Background

The informant learned this song while attending an elementary school in the orange county area. She said that she and her friends would sing the song to a handshake similar to patty cake followed by hand gestures that represented the animals they chanted at the end. They would also occasionally sing it while playing jump rope.

 

Context

The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in Orange County. She attended a reputable public school in the orange county area.

 

Thoughts

The song itself is not particularly significant and was most likely just used as a form of entertainment on the playground. However, as the informant was sharing the song with me, several of her friends who were in the room chimed in, saying that they also knew the song but knew different versions of it. All of the girls grew up in very different areas across the country, so it is interesting that this song was able to be passed along such vast distances. Additionally, the version of the song that a  person knows might be a way of indicating what school he or she went to or where he or she grew up. In this way, the version song is a representation of the specific culture it is performed at. Upon doing further research, I found a version that replaced “mentally disturbed llama” with “totally rad llama.” The concept of being “mentally disturbed” is a little dark for a children’s rhyme and it could have been edited out of other cultures’ versions for this reason. If this is true, it would say something about what that culture deems acceptable and unacceptable for children.

 

For another version of the song, please go to: https://campsongs.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/llama-song-the-one-with-actions/

Other version:

Happy llama / upright llama

Sad llama / point llama down

Totally rad llama / turn llamas on their side towards each other and shake up and down

Super llama / scoop llamas upward

Drama llama / make llamas kiss

Big fat momma llama / join llamas together by by putting two pointer fingers down

Baby llama / place llamas on dimples

Crazy llama / circle llamas around your ears

Don’t forget Barack Ollama / scoop llamas upward

Fish, fish, more fish / place right hand out, palm down, then left hand on top, roll hands around each other on “more” and return them to original position on last “fish”

Turtle / Hands together, palms down

UH! / pull turtle into stomach

Unicorn / make horn on head

Peacock! / put arms out to side with fingers spread like feathers

 

Game
Gestures
Musical

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

 

Text

Cinderella dressed in yella

Went downstairs to kiss a fella

By mistake she kissed a snake

How many doctors did it take

One!

Two!

Three!

(Etc.)

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song while playing double dutch jump rope with her girl friends at recess. She said she originally learned the song from her mother but her friends had already heard of it before she brought it up to them. They would sing the song and then count how many times the girl playing double dutch could jump over the rope.

 

Context

The informant is a student in Southern California and grew up Laguna Beach where she attended a public school in a nice area.

 

Thoughts

At first glance, this song seems like a catchy jingle to play jump rope to, but this rhyme has  much deeper historical, misogynistic roots. The jingle was originally created to discourage young girls from being sexually promiscuous. Because Cinderella “kissed a fella,” she was attacked by a snake. Additionally, the song embodies this underlying concept that people may not always be what they seem. When Cinderella thought she was kissing a man, she was actually kissing a snake. Snakes are typically representative of a deceptive trickster in folklore. In the Judeo-Christian faith, for example, the snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.

 

Game
Musical

Lemonade Crunchy Ice

Text

Lemonade

Crunchy ice

Squeeze it once

Squeeze it twice

Lemonade

Crunchy ice

Squeeze it once

Squeeze it twice

Turn around

Touch the ground

Kick your boyfriend out of town

Freeze

 

Background

When the informant was younger she would do it with her close friends as an activity to do at church. She first learned it from her friend when she was about 8 years old. This version is specific to her region (San Diego) and has found that her friends who grew up in different cities do it differently. She says that it kept her entertained enough to want to go back to church and that she may have found church boring otherwise. It also made her interact with other kids at church- formed a little community. She says that the adults at church encouraged the song even though it had nothing to do with religion. She later shared this song with her friends at school.

 

Context

The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in the San Diego area where she attended both a Christian private school and church every sunday. She also attended weekly bible study where she learned this song.

 

Thoughts

This song was definitely used as a form of entertainment but it was also used as a way to socialize and form new relationships. The informant used this song as an icebreaker to make new friends. Additionally, knowing this song gave her some sense of being apart of a group because all of her friends also knew the song, and if she wanted to be friends with someone new, she would teach her the song. She also noted that she refused to ever teach the song to boys because she was still at an age when she didn’t like boys. Having a secret song with her girl friends made her feel like she was apart of the superior gender, in a way.

 

For another version of this song, go to: http://funclapping.com/song-list/lemonade-crunchy-ice/

 

Alternate version:

Lemonade, crunchy ice

Beat it once, beat it twice.

Lemonade, crunchy ice

Beat it once, beat it twice.

Turn around, touch the ground, FREEZE.”Lemonade” is a clapping game that can be played traditionally with 2 children or with several kids all together. To play in a group the children will clap three times after these words – lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice. After that the lines are repeated except you don’t need to clap three times at the end. The game ends by turning around, touching the ground and then freezing. The first one to move is out.

 

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
Game

Wallball

One of the games my informant used to play back in elementary school was a game called Wallball.  According to him, Wallball is played against the wall of a building or structure with a playground ball or tennis ball.  The object of the game was to hit the ball with your hand and have it hit the wall without first touching the ground.  If the ball hits the ground first instead, you must run to the wall before someone else is able to successfully hit the ball at the wall, or else you are “out.”  However, my informant says that usually a player could receive 3 or 5 outs before actually being forced out of the game.  Games were played with a large number of students.  There were a few additional rules in his version of Wallball.  Players were not allowed to bobble the ball, any player bobbling the ball was forced to drop it and run for the wall just as if they had failed to make a proper hit.  If a player was able to catch another player’s ball after it had hit the wall but before touching the ground, the player who hit the ball received an out.  A player was also allowed to peg another player with the ball, thus forcing both players to run for the wall.  This was only to be performed if teachers were not watching because teachers would usually stop the game if they saw this.  Players were also forbidden from having “Tea parties” which is where a player hits the ball back to his or herself 3 or more times in a row.  Also at any time, one player could challenge another player by throwing over his or her shoulder.  Both players then had to run to the wall before someone else hit it there.  Perhaps this challenge rule was instigated to replace pegging in the presence of teachers, but never left the game even when teachers weren’t present.  This version of Wallball is very similar to the version of Wallball that I played in elementary school, except without the challenge rule.

Childhood
Game

Wallball variant – Ledgeball

My informant played a game similar to what is now known today as Wallball.  His version of the game was called Ledgeball due to the ledge against which it was played.  Ledgeball does not have the same free-for-all nature that Wallball does, and is played for points instead of for staying power.  However, it still involves throwing a ball against a flat surface and catching it.

According to my informant, the game was played by a group of throwers and one or two defenders.  Throwers would take turns throwing the ball against the ledge and trying to get it to land inside a marked area.  The defenders would attempt to catch the ball before it hit the ground.  If it hit the ground the throwers got a point.  If the defenders caught it or if it landed outside the marked area, then the defenders got a point.  One of the strategies that throwers could use was aiming very low on the ledge, so that the ball would only go a little bit before hitting the ground.  Another strategy was to throw it so that it would bounce over the heads of the defenders.   People who frequently defended would get really fast and develop good reflexes.  Ledgeball was played with either a tennis ball or a rubber playground ball, with tennis balls being preferred.

While this is markedly different from the Wallball that I played in my youth, this has many of the same traits.  Players throw a ball against a wall, other players attempt to catch it.  And most importantly it is played with either a tennis ball or a playground ball, both of which are still used in Wallball today.  Granted, this version of Wallball was played back in the 30’s so it will understandably be very different from what we know today, although it could be an ancestor or cousin of modern Wallball.

Childhood
Game

Wallball variant – Handball

According to my informant, he and his classmates would play a game they called Handball during recess.  The ‘court’ was a specific area in the school between a set of stairs one one side and a railing on the other.  Games were played with a rubber playground ball.  If a player hit the ball at either of these points, that player was out.  Also there was a small hole in the court, and hitting the ball there also merited an out.  Additionally, there was a grey line partway up the wall, and if a player hit the ball above this line, that player would be out.

In a way, this game seems to be similar to regular handball,  where the player must hit the ball against a wall in between a lower and upper line.  However, my informant’s version of the game involved a large number of players, usually 15 to 20 at the start, and had more specific boundaries that can be attributed to the nature of the court they used.  Overall, this appears to be a mix of regular handball and playground wallball.

Game
Kinesthetic

Freeze Tag

Additional informant data: My informant is a 2nd-grader in South Los Angeles. He has lived in LA his entire life. He is Latino and speaks both Spanish and English. My informant attends a public, coeducational elementary school, which has students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Several times during the day, the children at his school have a recess period, when they’re given access to balls, jump ropes, etc., and are allowed to play outside.

Contextual data: My informant and I sat down outside his classroom after two months of my teaching his class the fundamentals of folklore through USC’s Joint Educational Program. After I began asking him about games he knows and plays often, he came up with freeze tag–a popular children’s game–and began explaining it to me. The following is an exact record of our conversation:

Jackson (me): Can you tell me about freeze tag?

I (my informant): Freeze tag is a game where you have to tag a person and they . . .  they stay there for . . . uhh . . . as long as they . . . uhh . . . forever, or if somebody stays, or if somebody tags them, somebody else, they . . . they . . . they’re unfroze, umm . . . if they’re all froze at the same time, the person who . . . the person who tagged them wins freeze tag and . . . if they don’t get all tagged . . . if they don’t get all tagged, then the person loses and the other people win, and that’s it.

J: And it ends when recess ends? Do you just keep playing until the bell?

I: Yeah.

J: Who do you usually play it with?

I: My bro— uhh . . . my friends, and my sister, and my brother, and my other sister, and my other brother.

J: Ok. How many people play, usually?

I: Five or six.

J: Ok. Do you remember who taught it to you, or did you kind of just learn it from people at school?

I: Umm . . . my . . . my . . . the one who taught it to me was my grandpa.

J: All right. Do you have anything else you want to say about freeze tag?

I: Nope.

I suppose few students in the United States–and probably in many other parts of the world–haven’t played tag at some point in their lives, and freeze tag is one of the most common versions. Whoever is “it” has the goal of “tagging” all the other players by chasing them down and touching them. When someone is tagged, they must freeze in place, and they can’t move until another player touches them.

While my informant didn’t have any ideas about the underlying significance of freeze tag, I have a few. The notion of one person being “it” and tagging others–rendering them physically immobile–seems to me like a sick person infecting others. If this is the case, it makes sense that someone else must “un-tag” them; that’s like being healed by somebody else. I discussed this with my roommate and he told me at his school they used to play this same exact game, but there they called it “germ tag,” and whoever was “it” had the germ. This reinforced my idea of freeze tag being modeled after some kind of fear of viruses or infection, as everyone is trying to run away from someone who has suddenly become dangerous, in a sense. In addition, this person is (or was) one of their close friends, which makes the chasing and tagging process a lot more disturbing. The person who is “it” is singled out and has the task of subduing all their friends, and the intentional quality of their behavior might reflect on the pervasive feelings against people who infect others with diseases.

Beyond this, freeze tag (or any kind of tag) could just be another schoolyard attempt at labeling “the Other,” or maybe it’s just a simple, fun game. It’s extremely common, but rather than discard it as commonplace because of it, I think we ought to pay special attention to the game precisely because it’s so widespread.

Annotation: Seen in the title and plot of Caroline B. Cooney’s 2004 novel Freeze Tag. Here is the Amazon.com synopsis of the book:

From best-selling author Caroline Cooney comes this suspenseful story of Meghan, whose relationship with her perfect boyfriend is destroyed by a girl who can freeze people with a touch of her finger.

When Meghan and West first played Freeze Tag with Lannie, it was no ordinary game. Because when Lannie tagged someone, they really froze. Icy blue and cold. Like death.

Now Meghan, West, and Lannie are in high school, and Meghan and West are in love. They’re the perfect couple. But Lannie is determined to have West for her very own… and if she doesn’t get her way, she’ll freeze Meghan… to death.

http://www.amazon.com/Freeze-Tag-Point-Caroline-Cooney/dp/0590456814

Game
Kinesthetic

Handball

Additional informant data: My informant is a 2nd-grader in South Los Angeles. He has lived in LA his entire life. He is Latino and speaks both Spanish and English. He attends a public, coeducational elementary school, which has students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Several times during the day, the children at my informant’s school have a recess period, when they’re given access to balls, jump ropes, etc., and are allowed to play outside.

Contextual data: My informant and I sat down outside his classroom after two months of my teaching his class the fundamentals of folklore through USC’s Joint Educational Program. When asked about games he and his friends play at recess, he immediately thought of handball–a game he learned from his father. The following is an exact record of our conversation:

Jackson (me): Why don’t you tell me about handball?

I (my informant): Well, you hit the ball, you can bounce it, you can catch it, you can . . . you can’t scratch the ball and then you can’t hit the ball like straight, or else you’re gonna be out, uhh . . . you can do, you sometimes you can do rainbows, uhh you can do treetops sometimes, umm . . . that’s it, that’s all I know.

J: So those are different moves you can do with the ball?

I: [Nods]

J: What’s a “scratch”? What does “scratch” mean?

I: When you scratch it, it goes, like, on the wall, you scratch it, and then it goes like down, and then you’re . . . you’re out because you can’t scratch it.

J: Oh, ok. What’s a “rainbow”?

I: A rainbow is when it goes over the wall . . . umm . . . that’s it.

J: And, uhh, what’s a . . . what’s the last one? A “treetop”? What’s a “treetop”?

I: It’s when you get the ball on the . . . on top of the . . . the roof of the wall and it stays there and then it falls and that’s it.

J: Do you remember who taught you handball?

I: My . . . my dad.

J: Your dad?”

I: [Nods]

J: Was it a long time ago, or was it pretty soon? [sic "recent"]

I: Long.

J: Ok. And you guys play this at recess?

I: [Nods]

J: You play with your . . . with your friends from your class? Or do you play it with kids from other classes, too?

I: Kids from other classes and my friends from my class.

What my informant described for me is a common game played in elementary schools and middle schools, which I’ve also heard go by the name of “wallball.” While he had some difficulty explaining the technicalities of the game, for the most part, I understood what he was trying to convey–especially having played a very similar game growing up in the state of Washington. The point of handball is to take turns bouncing the ball against a wall, not letting it bounce twice on the ground in front of you before you hit it back. There is a strict set of rules that must be obeyed. If one is broken, the guilty player is “out.” For example, as my informant explains, “you can’t hit the ball like straight”–meaning you have to bounce the ball off the ground and then against the wall. If, when it’s your turn, the ball bounces twice before you can get to it, you’re out, and you generally go to the end of a line of waiting players.

The boy’s description of the game was particularly interesting for me because of its unique terminology. Unfortunately, I had a hard time visualizing what he was trying to explain, and I was unable to watch him play, but what we see is a complex system of etiquette and jargon all associated with the recess game of handball. I’m unsure about whether the game has some kind of underlying social significance, but, as far as I know, there is no canonized style of play, and it’s usually played by children without adults having to teach them. The game changes, in terms of specific rules and terminologies, and it remains popular across the United States.

Annotation: Seen in Louis Sachar’s 2011 children’s novel A Magic Crystal? (beginning of Chapter 5, no page numbers) (called “wall-ball”)

http://books.google.com/books?id=BDTfiYKVRxoC&pg=PT27&dq=wallball&hl=en&sa=X&ei=KvaZT6SxLaTe2QXB-cDbDg&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=wallball&f=false

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