Chin, Elbow, Knee

Informant: My informant is a close friend who I have known for many years. He is a 23-year-old college student and has lived his whole life in Orange County, California. He currently resides in Los Angeles where he attends the University of Southern California and comes from a prominently Scottish heritage.

I asked my informant if he could tell me about any Scottish games that he knew about as a kid. I asked him if he learned any while at family events or any gatherings with other Scottish people. He told me that he learned a game, but it had nothing to do with his Scottish heritage. He had only learned the game from his uncle and his uncle never specified where he had learned it.

Informant: “The game is called chin, elbow, knee. It is basically just rock, paper scissors but with different rule. Knee beats elbow, elbow beats chin, and chin beats knee. If knee beats elbow or elbow beats chin it is one point. But, for some reason if chin beats knee it is two points. It adds an extra element to the game because you want the two point play so people will go for chin a lot, making it easy to guess to play elbow, and win on point. It is kind of weird cuz if you play a lot I swear you can almost start guessing what people will do. You play to 11 and there are over times if you play the same thing, like if both people do knee, it goes to over time, then if it happens again, double over time, then triple over time, but triple is the highest and when you win you get triple the usual points. We always play this game at family events now so in a way it is kind of special for me. I will probably show my kids how to play in the future.”

Analysis: The first thing that stands out to me is the variation of rock, paper, scissors. I have come across a lot of different variations of this game but this was the first time I heard about chin, elbow, knee. I have seen ridiculous stuff like t-rex, laser, and grenade, or other ridiculous variations that people have made up. I think this style of game is a really good example of variants of games. In the same way that a popular song’s tune creates an outline for other lyrics to be replaced, the outline of rock, paper, scissors is simple enough to allow other elements of the game to be replaced so that theoretically anything can be put into these three spots and you can make up whatever rules you like as to which element beats the other.