Author Archives: Ryan Kindel



My informant shared this piece of folklore during a JEP folklore lesson, after my partner and I asked the first- and second-grade class whether they knew any games. My informant said later that the game can be played at school during recess or lunch, or at home. She told me that she had learned the game from her mother, who learned it from a friend when she (i.e., my informant’s mother) was in high school. The version she performed was an alternate version of what my informant had learned: that “real” version had other words in place of this version’s “iced tea,” but my informant could not remember that version. When I asked her why she likes the game, she said, “It’s fun.”


Lemonade is a game with two players, who clap their hands together and chant. Each player slaps her right hand against the other’s upturned left and vice versa, and then pushes both palms against the other’s palms (a la “patty-cake”), and then claps her hands together three times. These actions are repeated. Meanwhile the players chant, “Lemonade, iced tea, Coca Cola, Pepsi,” to the rhythm of the claps and slaps: “Lemon” (slap) “ade” (push), (clap clap clap), “iced” (slap) “tea” (push), (clap clap clap), et cetera. This clapping/slapping and chanting pattern is repeated one time, without the three-clap punctuations, and then each player says (and mimes): “Turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend outta town, freeze!”

Here is a video example of “Lemonade,” performed by my informant and her friend:



This piece shows how thoroughly corporate messages permeate children’s culture. The chant places brands like “Coca Cola” and “Pepsi” alongside generic beverages like “iced tea” and “lemonade,” thereby breaking down the barrier between institutional and colloquial forms. We see that corporate messages have invaded children’s folklore, but in turn, children are remixing corporate symbols for playful purposes. As my informant explained, “It’s fun.”

The chant also suggests a romantic norm, by assuming that the female players have a “boyfriend,” implying a monogamous heterosexual relationship. But in its specific advice about how to navigate that relationship—to take a hardline approach; to “kick [her] boyfriend outta town”—the chant is more unconventional, suggesting an opposition between the sexes, with females having more power. “Lemonade” empowers girls.

Cooties Lore: Hand Signals


My informant shared this piece of folklore during a JEP Folklore class. I asked a group of first- and second-grade students, including my informant, whether they knew about cooties, and she immediately volunteered her knowledge about the hand gestures. Everyone at the table, boys and girls alike, knew about these gestures, but my informant was especially outspoken. Like most folklore about cooties these gestures are usually performed at school, inside the classroom or outside. My informant told me during a later interview, “I learned everything about cooties from my mom and my friend.”


There are two hand gestures, one particular to each sex. These gestures are sex specific, e.g. a boy should only perform the male hand signal, and the gesture has two uses: (1) as a charm defending the gesturer against the opposite sex’s cooties and (2) as a “cooties shot” which can cure someone of the gesturer’s sex who has been infected with cooties.

Boys extend their middle and index fingers, pressed together in one rectangle shape, as demonstrated by my female informant:

Girls cross their fingers so that the middle finger wraps around the index finger, as shown here:


The gestures themselves are interesting because each implies the sex for whom it is intended: the boys’ signal looks phallic or like the Mars (i.e., male) gender symbol; the girls’ symbol looks like the Venus (i.e., female) gender symbol. First- and second-graders would presumably be unaware of the symbols’ connotations (my informant, for example, could not explain why the girl symbol was for girls), but they do know they are performing their respective sexes.

The cooties game is predicated upon distinction between sexes, e.g. teaching a female participant that she is not a boy because boys will give her cooties, and so it is important that in this oicotype each sex actually performs itself (rather than merely being unlike the other sex) with sex-specific signals. This demonstrates how dramatically gender constructs pervade children’s lives, how early in life people begin to perform gender.