Author Archives: Queenique Dinh

Euchre – A Michigan Game

Item:

R: Euchre, in fact, uses a subset of a deck of cards.  It only uses cards 9 through Ace, or I guess Ace then 9 through King.  But ah, you play.. by.. ah, it’s like- it’s like Hearts or Spades where there’s the trump suit.  But uh, when you play, oh and everybody, uh uh, there’s- has five cards in their hand, and you do five different tricks where everybody plays down one card.  I’m sure it’s similar to Peaknuckle, and Hearts, Spades, other ones.  One of the suits is trump, and the way that that suit becomes trump is very Euchre way of making it, I think.  Maybe it’s similar to Peaknuckle.  One of the weird things about Euchre is that the Jacks, are the highest cards in the game.  Usually, in a game of cards, either the Aces are the lowest or the Aces are the highest and then Kings are the highest or the second highest.  But in Euchre, the Jack of trump is the highest card and the Jack of the same color off suit of trump is the second highest card, so there’s that extra thing to remember.  Ah, and thereafter all the other cards of the trump follow as you would expect: Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9.  Then you keep track of your score on the five cards.  First team to get ten points wins.  You get one point if you take a majority of tricks in a hand.  Two points if you take all the tricks in the hand, or you take the majority of tricks in the hand but the other team called trump.  You get, ah, four points if you go alone and you let your partner not do anything at all.  You get eight points if you go alone when the, ah, other team called trump. And you win still, because you Euchre’d them.  To “Euchre” someone means to beat them when they called trump.  But.. ‘cause when they call trump, they get the advantage of being able to pick up an extra trump card, or they get the advantage of knowing what’s in their hand should be better toward that trump.  If they called trump, and you still beat them, they were fools!  They made a terrible mistake and misread their hands.

Q: Sorry, could you explain trump again?

R: Trump is a system in cards where that suit mysteriously beats the other suits for no particular reason.  It’s like, it’s like white supremacy, there’s no real good reason for it, but for some reason white people beat other people at things.  In Euchre, every time you play a new hand, ah, you.. every hand, the trump gets redecided.  The trump is a suit of cards.  So, in one hand it might be spades, the next hand it might be hearts, and somebody who’s brave and thinks they could do well with that trump calls that trump.  Usually what happens is the dealer deals out cards, and then the dealer flips over one of the remaining four cards, ‘cause you don’t deal out four of the cards, otherwise people would be able to count cards and you don’t want that.  So, flip over one of the cards, that card is up for grabs as the trump suit.  The person to the left of the dealer goes first and says either they want to pass, or they ask the dealer to pick up that card.  If they ask the dealer to pick up that card, that suit become trump, the dealer puts that card in their hand and puts a different card down on the table, face down and puts those and the other cards to the side.  That’s how trump is decided. But if nobody tells the dealer to pick it up including the dealer doesn’t want the card they flipped over, they don’t want that card to be trump, the dealer flips that card over and then you go in the circle, and from the left of the dealer around, you can choose any suit as trump, except for the one you flipped over.  If nobody picks it, then the dealer is screwed.  It’s a move called screw the dealer, and the dealer has to pick the trump.   Even if they have no chance of winning with anything.  You play in pairs, the dealer is one member of the pair.  It’s a four-person game, and uh, the dealer rotates around.  You rotate the dealer around in the circle.

 

Context:

I picked up Euchre while hanging out with a group of friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about games from our childhoods or where we grew up.  Two members of this group were from Michigan, but one of them did not know the game, explaining how she’s had people assume she knew the game because she was from Michigan.  She talked about how if someone knows the game Euchre, and knows that someone else is from Michigan, it’s a good possibility that the person knows how to play it.  She also explained that you would pick the game up from family or friends in a social setting.  The other informant did not entirely grow up in Michigan, but did know how to play and explained the game in great detail above.

 

Analysis:

Euchre is a prominent example of how a particular piece of knowledge is tied to a certain locale, in this case, the state of Michigan.  It is also an example of how something like a game shared from person to person amongst a group creates or reinforces a certain identity.  Euchre serves as a very obvious identifier of who comes from Michigan.  The significance of the relationship between Euchre and Michigan is evidenced by how the female informant explained that everyone assumes she knows the game because she’s from Michigan.  She does, in fact, know of the game, but she does not know how to play.  To some others from the state, it may seem like she is not truly a Michiganian.  Since Euchre is primarily a Michigan thing, learning it may also be a method of assimilating into the state culture.  In the case of the male informant, he actually lived in Maryland before moving to Michigan.  As such, he turned from an outsider to an insider by learning how to play, becoming a Michiganian himself.  There appear to be no rules about sharing Euchre outside of Michigan, alluding towards openness in the state culture because there is not any exclusivity.  In this particular case, the informant’s willingness to share the game with others outside of Michigan allowed them to partake in the state’s culture when they otherwise would not have had a chance to.

 

Additional Informant Information:

The data of the male informant, ‘R’, who explained the gameplay of Euchre is in the section above the item.  The same information is provided for the other informant below.

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age 29; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew

Chicken Games – Proving Personal Vigor in American Childhood

Item:

M: Most of the games I had, like, heard about and observed were all the, like, chicken games where it’s like, “ah yeah, take an eraser over your knuckles. Whoever wimps out first loses.”

R: Well of course they- did you play quarters**?

M: Yeah, or um, slaps.  This is where people would like, hold the other person’s hand, slap each other as hard as they can

E: Until someone gave up.

M: Until someone gave out.

E: It’s so stupid I hated it.

A: A version I played was when you did the middle finger thing to their forearm until they gave out.  And you’d end up with these giant red spots.

 

Context:

**Quarters was understood by all as a game where each player places his fist knuckles down on the table and shoots quarters at the other until someone gave out.

I collected this piece about chicken games while hanging out with friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about the games from our childhoods.  One of the participants in the conversation, denoted as ‘M’ , brought up chicken games from his elementary and middle school days, prompting others to contribute the variations they knew of and demonstrating on themselves when necessary.  Each interlocutor is denoted by a different letter.  The interlocutors were students of the University of Southern California, but of different class standings and two had already graduated.  The first informant, ‘M’, is a sophomore who went to elementary school on a military base in Japan but middle and high school in Texas; ‘R’ is a Ph.D. student who grew up in Maryland and Michigan; ‘E’ graduated in 2018 and grew up in Lompoc, CA; and ‘A’ graduated in 2018 and grew up in San Diego, CA.  They all brought up these games as something they had either observed or participated in during either middle or elementary school years, saying they viewed it as something either funny (a common opinion amongst the males) or stupid (as said by the only other female in the conversation aside from myself) at the time, but particularly viewing it as stupid nowadays.  There was also a general consensus that most kids would abandon these games by late middle school (8th grade) at the latest.

 

Analysis:

The wide range in age of the interlocutors is very indicative of how long these chicken games perpetuated, particularly with how the oldest interlocuter is ten years older than the youngest interlocuter.  Since you would pick these games up from other kids, it would make sense that as the older kids pass them down to the younger kids, they would continue through the years, particularly through neighborhood interactions where groups were not necessarily divided by age.  Another interesting point was the wide variety of locations in which each of the interlocuters grew up and/or attended elementary and middle school.  There were locations all over the United States, and even abroad in an American community overseas; I also knew of these games while growing up in Virginia.  As such, these chicken games are likely a part of greater American school-age children’s culture, especially amongst younger children because there was a general consensus that these games were abandoned once late middle school years came around.

What is more important, though, is why children would partake in these kinds of games, especially when they sometimes left physical marks on the body as mentioned by ‘A’ in the exchange above.  Particularly in the institutionalized schooling structure of the US, children are all brought up to think in particular ways and learn specific things and as such there can be a large sense of homogeneity among them.  These chicken games can establish another type of identity that is more counterhegemonic, considering these games were often strictly ruled against in schools and looked down upon by parents.  They can also establish a power dynamic amongst children who might otherwise be in an egalitarian environment.  If children can establish themselves as the strongest or the bravest in these games, it gives them something else to identify themselves with, which is why leaving marks may also be apart of why they take part in these games in the first place.  They become victorious signifiers of glory and pride, somewhat like battle scars; this also becomes significant when considering how children become increasingly aware of their bodies and their physical images as they get older.  These games were more popular among boys and with American culture so heavily centered around physical strength in men, these chicken games may be their attempts to embody these ideas from early on.  As for why they typically died out during middle and high school, partaking in certain subcultures becomes increasingly more significant during this time as children becoming adolescents begin to further explore who they want to be; these subculture identities begin to take more precedence moving out of elementary years.  This can correlate with why chicken games die out as students get older and more mature because they would no longer need these trivial markers of identity.

 

Additional Interlocuter Information:

The informant description for ‘M’ is in the section above the item, and the same information for each of the other informants is included below.

‘R’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 29; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles; Primary Language: English

‘E’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 22; Occupation: Non-Profit Arts Administrator; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Language(s): Italian

‘A’ – Nationality: American-born Taiwanese; Age: 22; Occupation: Digital Marketing/Entrepreneur; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Language(s): Mandarin, Japanese

The Passover Plate and Matzah – Symbolic Food at the Passover Seder

Item:

L: This is gonna explain the Passover plate in the middle, not all things are on it ‘cause we have a big bowl of charoset and um, and we don’t have a lamb’s shank bone because yenno, where you gonna find those?  Not really, so we’ll just break something else and uh..

S: For reference, my, uh, my family uses the same lamb shank bone every year.

L: That’s terrifying.

E: Do you actually break it or is it just symbolic?

S: No, it’s just symbolic.

L: So there’s the egg, symbolizes, uh, new life, uh, new beginnings, that sort of thing.  A little bit of the karpas which is the vegetables, spring new life, that sort of thing. Uh, the egg is more of a new life for you as person and the culture, spring is the vegetable.  There’s the charoset, um, and the maror, that’s the herbs and the bitterness.  Um, and the salt water, which is supposed to represent the tears of our ancestors and how much they suffered! Yaaay! Um, it’s all- this is all pretty much about remembrance.  Um, and being- welcome to Judaism, pretty much everything is remembering the troubles you went through in the past so that you, uh you know, remembering your past.  Don’t, you know, take things for granted.  Uh, think about how fortunate you are now that you’re not building pyramids

S: Be afraid of Egyptians and Christians and everyone.

L: But it’s also like, you know, new birth, rememb- like you know, it’s not all bleh.  Um, which comes across in the charoset, which is the mortar between the bricks that we built.  Um, yeah, why is mortar made out of apples and walnuts? I don’t know, it tastes good though.  And we’ll get to that later with the Hillel sandwich.  But that’s what the plate in the middle is supposed to represent.  Um, so karpas! Which is the herbs, pretty much this is the parsley and the salt water.  The herbs, which is the little bitter, dip it into the salt water to remember the tears of our ancestors and the sweat of all the hard work they did when they were enslaved in Egypt. Hahum, once again. Tha- this is gonna be a reoccurring theme guys!

L: So um, we all take a little bit of the parsley… [distributes parsley] and do you typically say the prayer before or after you eat it?

S: Before.

L: Before? Okay, I did- somebody did it after, and I was like [makes a confused face].  I know, I was confused as well. Alright so, um, this is to remember the tears of our ancestors and all the hardships they went through.

All: Blessed are You Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

L: And then we dip it in the salt water.

L: Yachatz.  Matzah! What is matzah? It’s unleavened bread, because when we left Egypt, we didn’t have time to let our bread rise, um, ‘cause we were in such a hurry.  So we left Egypt in a hurry and the bread baked on the backs of the Jews who were walking through the desert, um, on their long journey.  So that’s what matzah is, we don’t eat any bread with wheat, or basically leavened bread this night, um, to signify that.. um, and we will break it in half.  So what we do is we break it in half, and hide the smaller piece, uh, and this is the Afikomen which is our “dessert” for the Passover uh, but yenno real dessert, it’s- it’s a modern thing. But what we do is we hide this somewhere in the area and then all the children go and find it and a lot of the time if you find it, you get a prize or something like that, um, I was thinking the people who could find it are the people who have not participated in Passover before.

S: In case you were wondering, as the oldest cousin, I did find the Afikomen every year.

L: I never found the Afikomen!

S: My grandma got dollar coins.  So it was a dollar, but it was a special dollar.

[Continuation of the Seder dinner, primarily the telling of the Story of Passover]

L: The pesach, which is the lamb bone that we don’t have.  No one actually uses roasted beets

S: That’s true

L: So that’s why I didn’t even think about it.  It’s the sacrifice that God passed over the Israelites’ houses with the tenth plague, um, what they did is they painted lamb’s blood on their doorways so that God would pass over their doorway and not kill their firstborn. So that’s what the shank bone is for, the blood of the- the sacrifice of both the firstborns of the Egyptians also the lambs that we painted blood with.

[Second Glass of Wine]

[The Second Urchatz – Washing of Hands]

L: Blessing over matzah, so now we get to eat the matzah.  This is eating the unleavened bread so you can crack off a little piece.

All: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to eat matzah.

S: Whenever you make matzah at home, it’s circular.

L: It’s supposed to look like this ‘cause that’s how they made it back in the day.  However, you know, factory processed matzah.

S: This is in fact why you have matzah that’s not Kosher for Passover ‘cause they were too lazy to get a rabbi in there.  Or too cheap.

L: The maror, okay the bitter herbs. Here’s the horseradish.  This is the bitter herbs, um, remembering the bitterness and pain, again, of our ancestors.  Yep.  It sucked being slave so what you do is take a little bit of the horseradish.  If you’re feeling the pain of your ancestors, you get a big ol’ glob on there but if you’re not really feeling the pain of the ancestors. This- this would also be a competition.  Whoever could eat the most bitter- the most maror, would be the most remember-y Jew.

S: What my family does is we’d chop up the horseradish and take a teeny tiny little bite.

All: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to eat bitter herbs.

L: Yaay, the best part, the charoset. So charoset, anyone remember?

Participant: It’s the spackle and the mortar!

L: Yeah! Cool. So what we do is that we make a Hillel sandwich.  Hillel was a famous, ah, um.. is he a rabbi?

S: He was a rabbi, they’re all rabbis.

L: Yeah, he was a famous religious figure in Judaism who made the- who would- this is what we name after, Hillel.

L: So what we do is we take the mortar, there’s no prayer for this funny enough, you take – if you want, you don’t have to – a little bit of the radish, the bitter.

S: You kinda have to.

L: You do.

S: You kinda have to, but you drown it out with the charoset.

L: Now the charoset, oh so we take it ‘cause we still remember the bitterness, but we put in the charoset ‘cause we- because it’s also the hope of the future and the- the taste of the joys of life.  So there’s the sweetness outweighs the bitter, but you still need the bitter to remember.

S: In case you were wondering, for this and the previous thing, most people take like a teeny teeny little bite.

L: Oh yeah, no- no one ever really goes super hard.  That was just the first time ‘cause someti- it’s always a competition, especially if there are kids.

 

Context:

This recorded excerpt is only parts of the Seder dinner I attended that reveal the symbolism of food at Passover.  I collected this piece as the leader of the Seder, denoted by ‘L’ in the excerpts above, was going through the ritual agenda.  That being said, it should be noted that these excerpts were not consecutive in the procession.  In some locations there are brackets with the rituals that came in between certain sections.

The primary informants of the Seder dinner were two students from the University of Southern California.  They are both Jewish and both grew up celebrating Passover and attending Seders with their families.  As such, throughout the transcription, there are places where one of the informants may have an additional comment regarding something their family did specifically or what their family may have changed from the a more traditional Seder as prescribed by a guide book called the Haggadah.  For example, typically three days of Seder are observed, on Friday, Saturday, then Sunday, but both informants mentioned how their families typically only did one.  Both the informants also talked about the Haggadah they used in their families, but the guide book was not a means of learning the rituals or the traditions by far.  It served as amore of a refresher and catalog of knowledge on the stories that are told through the night.  People would actually learn about the rich symbolism and reasoning behind Seder as they experience it and partake in it.

 

Analysis:

The Passover Seder is very rich in food symbolism, as seen in the excerpt of the dinner I attended above.  The food itself does not inherently hold meaning, but it is the context in which it is presented and consumed in which the meaning arises.  The choice of a particular food to hold meaning may have different origins as well.  Whereas matzah is a literal representation of the unleavened bread that baked on the backs of the Jewish people as they traveled through the desert, some of the other items on the plate have physical connections to their intended meaning.  For example, the bitterness of the horseradish, or the maror, was meant to parallel the bitterness and pain of suffering in Egypt.  The charoset, though, a delicious mixture of apples and walnuts, is supposed to represent the mortar and spackle between the bricks of the pyramids.  There is not quite any apparent connection here as opposed to the other items whose taste or appearance is the basis of their symbolism.  On the other hand, though, later on one the informants mentioned how the charoset also represents the joys from life and hopes of the future, and this has more of a direct connection because delicious food can be a joy of life.  Children or non-Jewish participants in Seder are able to very quickly identify the symbolism of foods during Seder because some of the spoken rituals are about explaining them as well.

Not only is the symbolism of the food important at Seder, but the ritual interactions with these foods are significant as well.  The most prominent example of this would be having to eat the maror, or the bitter herbs.  As ‘L’ mentioned, those who really strive to experience the bitterness and pain of the Jewish ancestors would go for a large amount of it (though on the flip side, it may just be a competition).  If the foods hold the essence of some state of being, then eating the food could nurture that same essence within an individual by means of contagion.  I think this is part of the reason why such emphasis is placed on food symbolism during Seder.  Whether the resulting state of being is negative or positive, it provides a means to remember the events of the past.  By continuing to ritually reenact Seder dinner, during which the suffering of the Jewish ancestors is remembered and God is thanked for freeing the Jewish people of their slavery, the story of Passover for the Jewish people will continue to perpetuate and thus preserving this aspect of Jewish culture.

 

Annotation:

For additional examples of familial variations in celebrating the Passover Seder, please refer to  Sharon R. Sherman’s essay titled “The Passover Seder: Ritual Dynamics, Foodways, and Family Folklore” in Chapter 14 (pages 193 – 204) of Food in the USA: A Reader.

Sherman, Sharon R. “The Passover Seder: Ritual Dynamics, Foodways, and Family Folklore.” Food in the USA: A Reader, edited by Carole M. Counihan, Routledge, 2002, pp. 193-204.

 

Additional Informant Data:

The informant data for the leader of the Seder is included in the section above the item.  The same information is included for the other informant below:

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 26; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew

The Game

Item:

E: So basically The Game is, once you know about The Game, you’re playing The Game and if you think about The Game, you lose The Game and that’s it.

S: Yeah.

E: So once you think about The Game, you lose The Game and then you say “I just lost The Game” and then everyone around you now hates you.

S: It’s beautiful in its simplicity.

Q: So.. you guys would learn about this from, like, your classmates?

E: Yeah, so someone would just be like “I just lost The Game” and then you would ask

S: (simultaneously with ‘E’) “What’s The Game?”

E: And they were like “you just lost The Game” and you kinda just pick it up.

 

Context:

I collected the following piece while hanging out with friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to share games from our childhood and school days.  On the way back from practice, one of the informants (‘S’ in the exchange below) announced that she had just lost The Game, prompting ‘E’ to express disgruntlement and me to inquire after what ‘The Game’ was.  I am ‘Q’ in the conversation, and there were three participants in the conversation, denoted by ‘E’, ‘S’, and ‘M’.  For two of the informants, the time period in which they learned about The Game approximately matched up, with ‘M’ being in elementary school, ‘E’ being in middle school and ‘S’ being in high school.  The informant denoted by ‘M’ also did say that he has seen The Game on the internet.  It should be noted that all of the informants were in different locations when they learned of The Game, ‘M’ stated that he attended elementary in Okinawa on an American military base, ‘E’ attended middle school in California, and ‘S’ attended high school in Michigan.  None of the informants seemed to know of the origin of The Game.

 

Analysis:

The Game is a particularly interesting piece of folklore in a number of ways.  For starters, it is a purely psychological game where you have to avoid thinking about The Game in order not to lose The Game. That being said, there also seems to be no apparent method of winning, so some of the motivation to continue must derive from making others lose The Game instead. Also, there is really no physical evidence of The Game at all.  Although there is digital evidence as referenced to by ‘M’ online, otherwise you would only learn about The Game if someone around you loses they game because they are technically supposed to announce it.  The only clue to the origins of The Game would be that the staple saying, “I just lost The Game” is in English, but I am not sure if there are versions of this in other languages or if this game may have originated in another language before being translated for English speakers.  The Game also very clearly dichotomizes the world into those who are playing The Game and those who are not.  Furthermore, The Game is not restricted to a particular time and place.  In fact, its spontaneous nature is what allows it to be passed along for so long.   Also, because of its simplicity and the universality of human thought, The Game spreads easily across cultures as well, particularly on the internet where the space is incredibly global.  Regardless of the fact that there seems to be no apparent motive or winning strategy to The Game besides not thinking about it (which is much harder than it sounds), people continue to play it.  It may be because it is fun to introduce people to the game, or entertaining to see the people around you express disgruntlement when you made them lose, but it may be because it can serve as a reminder of the fact that our brains work between the subconscious and conscious in response to the world around us.  Trying to figure out how thought works brings about the psychology questions of whether we can “un-think” something, and if we cannot, whether we can and how to avoid thinking about it.

 

Additional Informant Data:

The data for the informant denoted by ‘E’ is included above the item.  The same data for the other two informants is included below:

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age; 26; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew

‘M’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 19; Occupation: University Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Mandarin

 

MASH – A Game to Predict Your Future

Item:

E: MASH is- is a game, um, where it stands- it stands for mansion, apartment,

S: (simultaneously with ‘E’) shack, and house

E: and then there were different categories.  And how I played it you could always customize your categories, but it was usually always something along the lines of the pet you’re gonna have, the car you’re gonna have, your job, your husband, or wife, blah blah blah blah

S: Who’s gonna be your husband, or wife.

E: How many kids you have, that was a popular one. And then you would, um…

S: Salary!

E: You played with salary? That’s terrifying

Q: That’s a little too high stakes!

S: We were really hardcore middle schoolers man

E: And then you would write it all down.  And then you would, um, you would say start and go and you would draw lines until you said stop and that would be the amount of times the person would just go down the list counting and crossing things out, and then whatever was left was, uh, your prediction for your future life.

 

Context:

This piece was collecting while hanging out with friends from the University of Southern California and we all began to talk about the games from our childhoods or school days.  Some of us even played them again now as college students, including but not limited to MASH as described above.  After this exchange, we proceeded to play a few rounds of MASH choosing the following categories: husband/wife, occupation, husband’s/wife’s occupation, salary, husband’s/wife’s salary, car, number of children, place, and pet.  The person whose future was being predicted chose three things to place in each category and the others in the room chose the last, usually an unfavorable choice, for a total of four items.  We also restricted the husband/wife options to those who were in the room at the time.  The counting number was determined by me drawing lines until the person said stop, then I counted through the categories back-to-back, crossing out the one I landed on each time.  Once I finished the categories, I counted through MASH at the top and then we read out the person’s future to the room.

The two informants were both females, and a majority of those who chose to play were female as well, but the person whose future was predicted was male.  The two informants grew up in different places and we have age differences of a few years between each of us.  ‘S’ in the exchange above grew up in Michigan and primarily played this game during middle school.  ‘E’ in the exchange above grew up in California, and mentioned how she would play the game with her friends at “every sleepover ever.”  There was a general consensus that primarily it was girls that would play MASH.

 

Analysis:

I played MASH quite a bit as well while going to middle school in Virginia.  It was mainly just a fun way to pass the time at that age.  The fact that it was so widespread and so popular for a period of time may be because it is an easy pen and paper activity that is simple to learn, customize, and pass on, but I believe there is another reason why it was so popular, especially during middle school years.  At its core, MASH is a game about predicting the future, and this practice existed long before the game existed.  People have a desire to predict the future so that they have more control over it and can decrease their anxiety about what may come.  Especially for middle schoolers, when most children are now going through puberty and beginning a transition into adolescence and eventually adulthood, there can be great uncertainty about the future.   MASH, then, becomes an unconscious way to plan out and/or predict the future in a completely low risk, zero consequence, and even humorous environment.  There may be even a hint of belief in its prediction power for some, indicated by how you would primarily put choices you wanted under each category.  Furthermore, the particular anxieties can be extrapolated from the categories chosen.  These categories may be completely trivial and entertaining (e.g. Type of Pet) or they can reveal desires regarding social class (e.g. Salary, MASH) and gender roles, particularly for females (e.g. Number of Children, Occupation).  Even the common addition of an undesirable choice to each of the categories, when it is known that there is a possibility it may be picked, indicates an awareness that the future may not always be in their favor.  On the surface, MASH may seem like just a funny way to pass the time and be entertained due to the improbable nature of the results, but all things considered, it seems to be a way for middle-school age children to overcome their anxieties about the future in a time where they are going through a number of changes, both physical and psychological.

 

Additional Informant Data:

The informant data for the interlocuter denoted by ‘E’ is included in the section above the item.  The same data for the other informant is included below.

‘S’ – Nationality: USA; Age: 26; Occupation: Ph.D. Student; Residence: Los Angeles, CA; Primary Language: English; Other Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew