Game – Turkey

“Yag Satarim Bal Satarim Ustam Olmus Ben Satarim”

“I sell butter I sell honey my boss is dead so I sell everything”

“You sit around in a circle and one person has a tissue in their hand behind their back.  They go around saying the phrase over and over and drop the tissue behind someone’s back.  You can’t turn around to see the tissue, but you can feel for it with your hand on the ground.  Once the person drops it, the person sitting has to realize it and chase them.  If you don’t realize it within one turn, that person gets to keep hitting you in the head.”

Hande told me that this is one of the most common games in Turkey, and one she used to play frequently in her childhood after she learned it in elementary school from other kids on the playground.  Similar to an American version, the children’s game called “Duck Duck Goose,” this Turkish version contains a few differences.  Rather than patting the heads of the players sitting in a circle and announcing whether they are chosen to be a “duck” or the “goose,” the player moving about has to maintain a sense of slyness and secrecy.  Instead, they try to silently drop a tissue in hopes of fooling their victim.  On the other hand, in the American version, the “goose” must chase the chooser and try to tag him or her before the chooser runs around the circle and replaces the goose in his former spot.

Another difference lies in the concept of punishment or consequence in the game.  While the unsuccessful chaser or unlucky runner must sit in the middle of the circle (the “Mush Pot”) or continue to be the chaser, in the Turkish version there is a physical consequence of hitting the loser.  While this may seem cruel or out of hand, Hande said that in Turkish schools, especially public ones, it is common and even accepted for teachers to slap the students as punishment.  Though her personal experience with this was different because she attended a private school and only had to deal with one teacher about this, Hande explained that the reason why physical punishment is so accepted is because her parents’ generation and that of her teachers was already used to much worse treatment.  She told me that she had heard stories of “how they would just line up kids and start slapping the back of their hands with rulers.”  Though she said that schools today are much better concerning such behavior, it is certainly intriguing to hear about a cultural perspective and social norm that is so different from that of most of America.

Interestingly enough, the English translation of the saying is supposedly insignificant.  Hande explained that, when recited in Turkish, the phrase is just a rhyme, but in English it makes no sense.  She said that when she asked her parents if they knew about the saying’s meaning, they said no as well.  This Turkish children’s game is an example of folklore’s multiplicity and variation.  Although the origins of the game’s concept are unknown, the game has certainly spread to regions all over the world.