Counting Out Rhyme

Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum in a dish, How many pieces do you wish?

The Informant, Tyler, says that this is a method he and his friends use to select the person to be “it” for games like hide and go seek and tag. The children about to participate in the game gather together into a circle and put up two fists. The person saying the rhyme goes around the circle tapping a different fist for each syllable of the rhyme. Tyler reports that the person who’s fist the rhyme stops on, puts that fist down and then a picks a number. The child who said the rhyme then counts to that number, tapping a different fist for each number. Whoever’s fist is being tapped when the number is reached, puts that fist down. The rhyme is then said again starting with the next fist in the group. This process continues until only one person has a fist up; this person is designated as “it”.

Tyler said he learned this from friends at school, but couldn’t specifically remember when. He said the only time this would be used was before games where there was a specific person who is it. He would not use this sort of game to determine who plays videogames first, for example. He likes the rhyme and thinks it is a fair way to determine who is “it”. According to Tyler his friends enjoy the game, but arguments do arise from it every so often.

Count out rhymes are a very common part of a children’s games. This count out game is very elaborate, which suggests that for the children using it, it is almost a game unto itself. The game is impractical because of the amount of time it takes to select someone who is it, but this didn’t seem to bother the informant. In this counting out rhyme, the person selecting a number has an opportunity to cheat by counting fists and picking a number that will land on their own fist. The fact that this way to cheat exists suggests that either this game is used exclusively by younger children who do not realize this flaw to the rhyme or it is used by older children as a way to cheat younger children without causing any strife.