Rattlin’ Bog

Text: SW explained his favorite drinking game, “Rattlin’ Bog” to me: A group of people gather in a circle, sitting around a table. Each person has a drink in their hand (and usually one or two more in case they finish their first one) and the song “The Rattlin’ Bog” is played, most commonly through a speaker connected to someone’s phone. This song has a chorus that repeats in between verses, and each successive verse adds another line to the last one, so that the verses get continuously longer as the song progresses. One member of the group drinks for the entire length of a verse, then after the chorus, the person sitting beside them in the circle drinks for the next verse, and this continues in a clockwise direction around the circle until the song’s completion. Thus, as the verses get continuously longer and build upon themselves, the successive people in the circle drink for longer. SW claimed that, by the last verse, it becomes a relatively difficult task. 

Minor Genre: Game

Context: SW is a 25 year old man who graduated from USC in 2021 and now lives in New York City. He told me that he first played this game when he was a senior at USC, and that he learned it from a friend who had known about the game for quite some time. This friend had told SW that the game supposedly originated in America, but that the song Rattlin’ Bog was a traditional Irish tune. 

Analysis: After hearing this, I thought of another drinking game called Thunder. The premise of Thunder is almost the same as Rattlin’ Bog, but it is set to the song Thunderstruck by AC/DC. Thunderstruck was released in 1990, while The Rattlin’ Bog is a traditional Irish folk song, in the Roud Folk Song Index as number 129. Thus, I wonder which game originated first, where each game originated, and finally, why SW’s friend postulates that Rattlin’ Bog the game was first invented in America – how could this be, and furthermore how could he know this? How one culture borrows from another and creates a new folk game out of an old folk song is fascinating. Generally speaking, this made me think of how drinking games tend to create their own cultures in the act of gathering, drinking, and playing a game with other people. Though there are two different national cultures supposedly concerned here (American and Irish), any drinking game also creates its own new folk group every time it is played, just with the people present. There are certainly variations between individual games (SW said that some people bang their fists on the table during the chorus, others clap for the drinker during the verses), and these small variations create folk groups of people who now play this specific way.