Children’s Game – Turkey

Children’s Games: Hide and Seek rhyme- Turkey

Önüm, arkam, sa?am, solum, saklanmayan sobe!

“My front, my back, my right, my left, whoever isn’t hiding is out.”

Ahmet lived in western Turkey until he moved to boarding school in Canada in 8th grade. He is 100% Turkish and his parents and family all still live in Turkey, where he resides during the summer. He said this saying is used when children are playing hide and seek. The seeker must countdown with his eyes closed from 10, and when he reaches 1, he must say the above verse. After saying this, he is free to open his eyes and look around for people who aren’t hiding. If he spots a person in the open, they are out.

Ahmet said he learned this verse from his parents, and it’s something that every kid knows in western Turkey. He doesn’t know how it originated, and was unable to provide the transliteration, as he doesn’t know how it exactly translates into English but knows what it generally means. He said that it was important that this phrase was said after the seeker is done counting down, as it alerts the people who are hiding that he is about to finish and come look for them. If the phrase isn’t said, and the seeker finds someone in the open, argument ensues amongst the kids over whether that person is really out, since the seeker didn’t say the final phrase.

I find this similar to American phrases of the same game. When I was little, the seeker would countdown from a predetermined number, and at the end he must shout, “ready or not, here I come!” I find it interesting that halfway across the world, kids play the same game with very similar rules and employ a warning phrase at the end of the countdown.

The fact that this phrase alludes to all four directions is very important. By saying “my front, my back, my right, my left”, it demonstrates that the seeker is very aware of his surroundings and will look anywhere to find someone hiding. While my American phrase is more personal (“here I come (to look for you)”), this phrase speaks to the people who are hiding as a whole. It shows that the seeker has no single person he wants to find, but rather is looking for everybody equally. It makes a clear statement by saying “whoever isn’t hiding is out”. This is important with kids, as it is black and white and there are no gray areas. If a person is caught in the open after this phrase is said, there is no chance for an argument; that person is out.

It is interesting that children have warning sayings such as this one at the end of the countdown. I think that this shows fairness within the children. It evens the playing field. If the seeker counts too fast, this will at least give the people who are hiding a crucial few extra seconds to hide. It makes sure that the seeker can’t get away with cheating to a large extent. By giving the hiders a warning and thus, that extra few seconds, it promotes fairness as it shows mercy to hiders who couldn’t find a hiding spot right away.