Tag Archives: childhood games

Tripas de Pollo

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican-American
Age: 44
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-19-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Background: Informant is a Mexican American who was originally born in Mexico, but came to the United States when he was young. Since he stayed in Mexico for a bit of his childhood he learned a lot of games.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: What are some childhood games you remember playing?

Informant: I remember a game I use to play called Tripas de pollo. It translates to chicken guts in english.

Interviewer: How do you play that?

Informant: To play Tripas de pollo, you just need a pen and a paper. You write down numbers, up to whatever number you want for example 1-13. You write them scattered around the page, and you have to write each number twice. You have to connect each number to its matching number with a line. You do this for every number without touching lines from other numbers. The more numbers you have the harder this is. At the end when all the lines have been connected it looks like tripas de pollo, which is the name of the game.

Context: Interview with a family member on games from his birthplace.

Thoughts: The name of the game sounds weird and not fun but once it gets explained it seems interesting. It sounds like more of a self-challenging game rather than group game but still seems fun to play.

Pikachu

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation:
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 3-27-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: Informant is a 22 year old American who has lived in California his whole life.

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Do you remember any games you played during your childhood?

Informant: I remember a hand game I use to play with my sister. It was called Pikachu.

Interviewer: How do you play pikachu?

Informant: Pikachu is considered a hand game that goes along with a little song. You play with another person and you hold one of your hands against each other and the other hand would touch above and below, then side to side. Then you would play rock paper scissors and whoever won would pinch your cheek. You would do the song again and play rock paper scissors again. If the same person pinched both cheeks you get to slap them at the end. The song “Pikachu going up, going down. Pikachu going side to side” At the end of the pinching and slapping your cheeks would be red making you look similar to Pikachu.

Context: Interview with a family member, asking them about childhood games they remember

Thoughts: Pikachu sounds like a fun game. I like the fact that it incorporates more than one game, because it has rock paper scissors as well but the added twist of pinching and slapping seems mischievous enough for a children’s game.

The Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Boston, MA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 19 year old college student. He describes to me a game he played, and still plays, with his friends entitled “The Game.” In the transcription, he explains the very simple rules of “The Game” and the wide variety of people who play “The Game.” This game was brought about in a conversation about schoolyard games, in which the informant told me of one on-going game, seemingly life-long, known as “The Game”
  • Text:

A: “The Game is a game in which you lose when you think about The Game… and so…”

Me: “Who plays the game?”

A: “A lot of people started it in like 2010-2012 range… at least that’s when my friends started… and uh…”

Me: “How old were you?”

A: “I was 9 I think.”

Me: “And you play it where?”

A: “You play it all the time.”

Me: “But is it in person? Is it online?”

A: “It’s all of the above. It’s not… it’s not like one particular thing… it’s just The Game and you lose when you think about The Game.”

Me: “Just thinking about it? Or do you have to say it?”

A: “You lose and when you lose you have to say it and then…”

Me: “You have to say what?”

A: “You have to say ‘oh I lost The Game’ to whoever you’re with or whoever you’re talking to or whatever. But, the catch is when you say it like they think about it… so they lost too…”

Me: “So how do you know who’s playing The Game?”

A: “Um everyone… any… anyone who thinks they are playing or wants to play is playing. And people just sort of lose and then start over. And forget about it… ‘cus you have to forget about it. It’s sort of a thing that like continues. The other week… like I’m talking like last week… my friend and I we’re talking… I sent him an Instagram post like ‘I want you to win’ and he was like ‘damn… I just lost’ and I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ and he was like ‘I lost The Game’ and I was like ‘that wasn’t even about The Game’ and he was like ‘yeah, I know. But it made me think of it.'”

Me: “And then it made you think of it?”

A: “Yeah.”

Me: “So you also lost The Game.”

A: “Yeah, but I don’t really care to play so like, I don’t… I don’t really keep track… but yeah, people who play The Game swear by it.”

  • Analysis: I believe “The Game” is used as a short of practical joke to test who knows of the game and who does not. The game relies on another person losing the game themself and bringing the game up to another player. Once the player remembers the game, they then also lose. It is unclear who created the game, but it seems to be played in a wide range of communities, and I have seen it multiple places on my social media feeds. The game also relies on people restarting the game at unknown times, but in order to start the game you must think of the game, and thinking of the game is what makes you lose the game. It seems to be an endless cycle.

P.S. This post just made you lose The Game.

Ms. Lucy Nursery Rhyme

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19 and 15
Occupation: Students
Residence: Boston, MA and Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informants are brothers A, 19, and B, 15. This transcription was taken from an argument between the brothers over the “correct” words to the nursery rhyme about “Ms. Lucy.” The nursery rhyme is used mostly as a schoolyard game, sometimes accompanied by a hand-game the brothers tell me, but in their argument they were only debating the words of the rhyme itself. 
  • Text:

B: It starts off ‘Ms. Lucy has a baby, his name was tiny Tim…’

A: No it doesn’t, it goes ‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a…”

B: No that’s not what I’m talking about!

A: Well, what are you talking about? 

B: I’m talking about the one mom taught us.

A: Okay, fine, what one?

B: ‘Ms. Lucy had a baby, his name was Tiny Tim

She put him in the bathtub, to see if he could swim

He drank up all the water, he ate up all the soap

He tried to eat the bath tub, but it wouldn’t go down his throat

Ms. Lucy called the doctor, Ms. Lucy called the nurse,

Ms. Lucy called the baby with the alligator purse 

Mumps said the doctor, Measles said the nurse, 

Nonsense said the lady with the alligator purse 

Penicillin said the doctor, castor oil said the nurse,

Pizza said the lady with the alligator purse

Out went the doctor, out went the nurse, out went the lady with the allegator purse’

A: Okay. Yeah, but I was talking about the other version.

B: What’s your version?

A (B starts singing along): 

‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell (ding ding)

Ms. Lucy went to heaven and the steamboat went to 

Hello operator, give me number 9, if you disconnect me I’ll chop off your 

Behind the ‘fridgerator, there was a piece of glass 

Ms. Lucy sat upon it and cut her big fat 

Ask me no more questions, tell me no more lies

The boys are in the bathroom zipping up their 

Flies are in the meadow, bees are in the park

Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the D-A-R-K D-A-R-K 

Dark dark dark’

B: I know that one.

A: Is that where you stop?

B: What do you mean?

A: Mine keeps going. It goes… 

‘Darker than the ocean, darker than the sea 

Darker than the underwear my Mommy puts on me’ 

  • Analysis: I had also learned the Ms. Lucy version that informant B was singing from my mother and many of my friends would play it with me as a hand game on the play ground in elementary school. Once I entered middle-school, the version that informant A sang became popular at school. But at my school, we continued the rhyme even further. We would sing… 

‘Me is very special, Me is very great’ 

And then we would have different variations after those lyrics. Usually ending with… 

‘I kicked him over London, I kicked him over France

I kicked him over the USA and saw his underpants’

I think the reason the versions change is because of the intended audience. The first version, presented by informant B, is much more suitable for children. It is funny because of the motif of the alligator purse and the fact that she wants the baby to eat pizza, which is a food often enjoyed by children. The version presented by informant A is much more rich with “inappropriate” lingo. At the end of each verse, it leads into the next by using near rhyme with a swear word. For example “hell” goes to “hello” and “ass” goes to “ask.” In addition, there are sexual references, both to male genitalia and to Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the dark. I asked the meaning of the “dark underwear that mommy puts on me,” and there was a consensus that it was referring to underwear stained by period blood. This version of the nursery rhyme often occurs when children are in middle school, which makes sense because that’s often when you start using swear words, have your first kiss, and begin menstruating.

For other versions, visit https://www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat

“Miss Lucy Had a Steam Boat: Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs.” Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs | BusSongs.com, 9 July 2008, www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat.

Four Square

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 15
Occupation: Student
Residence: Salt Lake City Utah
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 15 year old high school student in Utah. He explains the rules of the game Four Square to me and the various rules that can be added to the game. He notes that the game can be played with any ball as long as it bounces (though the ball typically must be the size of a basketball or soccer ball). The game is usually played on a designated court, though you can play it anywhere the ground is divided into 4 equal squares serving as the court. The game is also typically played at school, usually in elementary or middle school during recess. This conversation took place as the informant and I were trying to remember all of the rules of four square together, although he remembered them all, while I did not. 
  • Text:

A: “There’s so many types of four square”

Me: “What types?”

A: “Black magic… um… pac man, double-touch, single-touch, um… cherry bomb… um”

Me: “Are those different types of…”

A: “They’re different rules… those are different rules”

Me: “What is four square?”

A: “So four square you have this big square divided into four labeled A, B, C, D. A get’s to decide which rule is played with and starts out with the ball and you hit it to…”

Me: “What kind of ball?”

A: “It doesn’t matter you can play with a basketball, soccer ball, volleyball, um kickball… it just has to bounce. And then they hit it to the square and if it bounces twice in your square… um… then you’re out and then you’re sent back to the line… and then… then you’re sent back to the line. And then say you’re in C, the person who was in C goes to D and the person who was in the front of the line goes to… uh… D.”

Me: “Where do you play?”

A: “On the four square court.”

Me: “But where are the four square courts? Just in your neighborhood?”

A: “No… you play it at school.”

Me: “So what are the different rules?”

A: “So I’ll just go with the top 5. So, pac man is you got the person in A runs around the square and if you get tagged with the ball you’re it, but they can’t throw it at you… I mean you’re out… but they can’t throw the ball at you. Double touch is where you have to hit it up, like you have to hit it up so it bounces to you… so you hit it up then hit it into someone else’s square. Single touch you can hit it once. Cherry bomb is you go really far apart and you throw it at each other.”

  • Analysis: Four square is a school yard game played by both girls and boys in middle school. I was surprised to hear all of the rules the informant knew were the same I had played with in middle school even though I am 6 years older than the informant. The rules, such as black magic or cherry bomb, give the person with the ball a sense of power over the rules of the game. In addition, the rotation of players between the squares establishes a sense of hierarchy between those who stay in and those who get out. I believe this game is played at school because that’s where there is access to bouncing balls, a quart, and a large amount of players. I think the game is usually played in elementary school and middle school because those are the years recess is granted, so there is free time to play, where as in high school there is no designated play time.

“Black and White” Chinese Children’s Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 78
Occupation: Retired
Residence: San Mateo
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/15/2019
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

[The subject is MW. Her words are bolded, mine are not.]

Context: MW is my grandmother, who was born in Shanghai and then lived in Hong Kong later on in her youth. She moved to San Francisco as a young adult and has lived in the Bay Area for the last six decades. She is a native Mandarin speaker, but is also fluent in English. I sat down with her and asked her to talk about some stories from her childhood. Before this, she had mentioned a “black and white” game that she played with the other kids, and I asked her to return to that subject and explain it to me.

ME: You mentioned a “black and white” game earlier that you play with your palm.

MW: Yeah, yeah.

ME: Could you explain to me what that is?

MW: Nothing. Oh this? [Holds out hand, palm facing up] Just, we play…

ME: How do you play it?

MW: So we say… and then it’s like, [holds hand behind back, then moves to hold it out in front of her, palm facing up]. You play, it’s the game, right? And then we play game like everybody go, [holds hand behind her back] and only you [holds out hand, palm facing up] is white, is good. Right?

It’s like, we always go like this [holds hand behind back], and then sometimes I go like this [holds hand out, palm up]. Right? That means… I won.

ME: Could you explain why that means you won?

MW: It’s like, we play, who will do okay? If the game, if you throw the ball. Who will be the first one to do it. So we don’t let them know [moves hand back behind her back], and ‘one, two, THREE!’[brings hand back out, palm facing up], right? And with three people, then it’s like we all white, and then this one, this [turns hand over so that palm is facing down], is black.

ME: So ‘white’ is your palm facing up and ‘black’ is your palm facing down?

MW: Yeah.

ME: So how many people do you play it with?

MW: You play it about three people.

ME: If everyone has their palm like this [I have my palm facing down], what does that mean?

MW: Then it’s nothing. But if it’s ‘one, two, three’ and one is out [puts out palm facing up], then he won.

ME: Then why can’t you do this [palm facing up] every time to win?

MW: Because one can start, and then the other ones can follow you, I don’t know. So it’s everybody, like this [palm facing up], then that’s fine, but it should be [flips palm, facing down].

Thoughts: This game stood out to me when MW first mentioned it in passing because I had never heard of a hand game like this, and she called it “Black and White,” which was interesting because the two opposing colors seem to appear a lot in folklore. From what I gathered by my grandma’s description/demonstration, three children play the game and they start with their hands behind their backs. Then, on the count of three, they all put out their hand with it either facing palm up (white), or palm down (black). This part I am the most unsure of, but I think that the goal of the game is to be the only person of the three to have the “white” hand or the “black” hand. Thus, neither “black” or “white” is better, instead, the winner would be the person who chooses how they place their hand uniquely. This is surprising to me, because typically in children’s stories with the colors black and white, one signifies good and the other evil, but in this game they are only meant to signify opposites.

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: student
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: 03/23/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

 

Text

Cinderella dressed in yella

Went downstairs to kiss a fella

By mistake she kissed a snake

How many doctors did it take

One!

Two!

Three!

(Etc.)

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song while playing double dutch jump rope with her girl friends at recess. She said she originally learned the song from her mother but her friends had already heard of it before she brought it up to them. They would sing the song and then count how many times the girl playing double dutch could jump over the rope.

 

Context

The informant is a student in Southern California and grew up Laguna Beach where she attended a public school in a nice area.

 

Thoughts

At first glance, this song seems like a catchy jingle to play jump rope to, but this rhyme has  much deeper historical, misogynistic roots. The jingle was originally created to discourage young girls from being sexually promiscuous. Because Cinderella “kissed a fella,” she was attacked by a snake. Additionally, the song embodies this underlying concept that people may not always be what they seem. When Cinderella thought she was kissing a man, she was actually kissing a snake. Snakes are typically representative of a deceptive trickster in folklore. In the Judeo-Christian faith, for example, the snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.

 

Soda tab games

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA / Denver, CO
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, originally from Denver, CO.

DK shared stories with me about folklore at her school in Denver:

“I remember the biggest thing in middle school was getting to drink soda at lunch. They sold cans in the cafeteria of like, Sprite and Coke, and sometimes Dr. Pepper, and we’d all get soda to drink at lunch. Once we were done, we’d all go in a circle and wiggle the tabs back and forth while going through the alphabet…when the soda tab fell off, whatever letter you landed on was the first initial of your crush. And then we’d all flip out trying to decide who everyone’s crush was.”

My analysis:

This ritual is found all over schools everywhere, with kids of all ages. At a time when they are changing the ways they socially interact with one another, in more romantic or sexual means, it’s a cute and interesting way of sharing those feelings with your friends. Other variations I’ve heard of include twisting an apple stem until it breaks, or reciting the alphabet while jump-roping. Most importantly this seems to be a group ritual – if you were drinking soda or eating an apple alone, you wouldn’t necessarily do this to see you your crush was.

Burlap Jump Rope- Colombia

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Colombian
Age: 52
Occupation: Spanish Teacher
Residence: Davenport, FL
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/4/2015
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”.

 

Transcript:

“M:  We had a game that, I don’t know como se dice en ingles, it’s with the rope. Rope?

S: Yeah, like a jump rope?

M: Yeah. We played at recess every single day when I was in third grade, yeah. I remember very specific.

S: What sort of rules did the game have?

M: The rules is that you jump, and when you jump if you get stuck in the rope, you are out.

S: Did they use two ropes or one rope, was there a song that you sang?

M: You only used one rope, there was one person on one side, and someone on another, and you was moving the rope around.

S: You didn’t sing anything?

M: We count, either the person that was in the middle had to count, even if it made them tired.

M: Yeah the person who can jump for the more long time would win. But sometimes we moved the rope very fast, it was one way we made the person lose, because there was no way the person in the middle could jump that fast. But Colombia we used a specific rope, not the plastics or synthetics. It’s made with wheat, what is the name of that plant, the thing that they make of those bags that they store coffee. Very famous in Colombia. Let me look….

(Uses search engine to find name)

M: Burlap, that used to hurt a lot when it hit your legs. YEAH, it was very painful. Burns and it gave you marks in the legs, because we had a school uniform, skirts, and they hit you in the legs.

S: Just one more question, was the person in the middle usually a girl or guy, or both?

M: Doesn’t matter boy or girl, it was a mix, a mixed game.“

 

Analysis:

The game seems like a very standard version of jump rope, similar to ‘Double-Dutch’ played in the United States. The use of Burlap was emphasized by  ‘M’ because of how painful it had made the game, resulting in pain when the jumper lost, possibility attaching an extra ‘cost’ to losing the game. The moving the rope ‘extra fast’ combined with the pain generated by the sort of rope may have acted as a form of teasing among students.

The use of burlap is very common in Colombia, notably used on coffee bags (as the speaker noted), which is a hallmark of Colombian identity.

Cooties!

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Sara is a very gossipy, religious, fun girl. Sophomore at USC, she’s in the Helene’s and a sorority. She’s from Anaheim, California. And she has an incredibly interesting memory and past.

We all know and remember this one from grade school. Boys and girls at their toddler age played with each other like it was nothing. Being a boy or being a girl did not impact the way they played with each other. They may have played with their given toys (dolls versus the fire truck), but overall gender had no role in a child’s fun. Once children get to that age where they start getting curious about what’s different between me and him, it’s time to scheme up some evil plan that will keep them from playing too much with each other. There is an appropriate time in society for boys and girls to start messing around with each other physically or sexually. Society isn’t ready to see their 5 year old girls sexualized. The idea of cooties makes it seem gross and almost wrong to touch the other sex. All in playful fun, it works in a way that doesn’t damage or influence there hormonal nature at about 8th grade.

Informant:

I remember when I was little, my parents freaked out. Me and my brother…[laugh], we were playing house in our little…house kitchen play thing. And at some point, my little brother pretended to get sick. So I played doctor. But my parents didn’t really like how I was trying to heal him.” Out of context that sounds awful. But she goes to explain that she was holding a magnifying glass looking at her siblings buttox. But nothing out of the ordinary. We all get curious to understand why we were made. It’s that time in the child’s life where all they can manage to do is get in their father’s ear and pester them with millions and millions of “why’s”.