Tag Archives: Game

Elementary School Rhyme 

M is a 19 year old college student. She grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and shares a rhyme she learned in elementary school when she was in the cafeteria at lunch.

“Like elementary school on the playground you and your friends would draw a little teddy bear on one hand and scribble on the other and you’d say “This is Teddy. Teddy says hi” then you’d SMACK the other hand and say “this is Teddy when a car goes by.””

I’ve heard the same rhyme, except in California we drew a stick figure and would say “This is Steve.” This and other childhood games actually reveals a morbid fascination kids seemed to have. A lot of childhood rhymes are actually very violent in nature and play on really dark humor. I think this may be a way for kids to feel like they’re rebelling, to feel more mature. They joke about taboo things that their parents and teachers might not like them talking about because it makes them feel more adult. Maybe it also helps them make light of real topics that are actually quite frightening for children. They know death is a real thing, but they don’t want to think about it, so they make light of it.

Hand Slap Game


Two people face each other. Their hands are connected palms together with fingers together and thumbs upward. They extend their arms to connect their middle fingertips together lightly.  (see image below)

One person will try to take one of their hands away from the other and slap their partner’s hand. The partner with try to pull their hands away before they can be hit. 

(Though the informant assigned no such roles, I will refer to the partner aiming to slap as the offensive partner and the partner pulling back as the defending partner for ease of communication.)

If the defensive partner succeeds in avoiding the hit, both players will reset their hands to the starting position and the offensive partner will try again to hit the hand. This repeats until the offensive partner wins. If the offensive partner succeeds in hitting their partner’s hand they win, and the defensive partner loses. The original hand position is taken up again and this time the partner who lost will take on the offensive role (trying to slap their partner’s hand before they pull away.) and the partner who won will take up the defensive role (trying to pull away). Play proceeds like this for as long as is desired.


The informant learned this game at a young age from her father who is from Murcia, Spain.


This game reminds me of many other hand games primarily children will play. specifically, it reminded me of a very similar game I learned as a child. The game I know features the same goal of trying to slap the partner’s hands before they pull away, and also the same system for switching roles. The difference is the starting position. As I learned the game, the offensive partner would place their hands out palms up and the defender would lightly rest their hands over the partner’s hands palms down.

These hand games indicate resourcefulness among people and children especially. This game is a way to have fun without the need for any materials. it is also very quick to learn.


Text: (the drinking game known as “quarters”).

Context: My informant learned the game “quarters” from the older members of his fraternity at UCI about 30 years ago. He and his fellow pledges played the game very often before social gatherings. In the game, players try to bounce a quarter off of a table and into a short glass of hard liquor; if a player succeeds, the next player must drink the contents of the glass. My informant now has passed the game onto younger generations of drinkers.

Analysis: The game of quarters hails from the ancient Greek game of “Kottabos,” in which players would toss sediment remaining in their wine glasses onto a plate in order to make other players drink. After years of evolution in European pubs, my informant played the modern game. The game stems from a tradition of drinking, which is also prevalent in the Greek Life system at universities in America. I interpret the game as a method by which one gets drunk quickly in a social setting, and it is more typical in pregames than in the main social event or afterparties.  

Tumbang Preso

M is 54, and grew up in Manila, Philippines, and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

M described to me a game that was played among the children in his neighborhood called tumbang preso. The rules as he recalled them were, that someone “guards the can” while the other kids take turns ‘“trying to hit the can with their slipper.” And that the object of the game was the “knock down the can” and avoid getting tagged by the “can guardian.” This game was corroborated by M (50) who said that she also grew up playing the game. I asked them both why slippers were utilized specifically. M replied that it was the “only thing they had” and that it was easier to play games with household objects.

Upon further research, I learned that the game name, tumbang preso, is also known as Kick the Can. It has a lot of similarities in its rules and the way that it is structured, compared to other tag-based games, like capture the flag. I find it interesting that most countries have some sort of variation of tag, albeit with different items used, according to where the children grow up.

Thumb War Masturbation Joke


“One, two, three, four,

I declare a thumb war.

Five, six, seven, eight,

I use this hand to masturbate.”

The joke is performed in the context of a traditional “thumb war,” in which two opponents hold hands and attempt to press down the other person’s thumb.


AD is a college student from New Jersey. He first heard this joke in middle school, around sixth or seventh grade. “It was right in the beginning of puberty,” he explained. “So nobody really knew what was going on.”

Thumb war tournaments at recess and lunchtime were already a big thing at AD’s school, and there was one boy who would perform the joke. “He was always the kid that would say that kind of stuff… Everybody was scared to say that word, but he would say it,” AD explained. “Everybody would get around him and wait for him to get somebody new. We would go up to the younger kids and do it, too.”

“If you didn’t know, you would freak out the first time you heard it.” The trick is that you are holding hands when the ‘punchline’ drops. “That’s the fun part,” AD said.

AD noted that the joke was exclusively performed among boys.

“It’s stupid now, but back then it was the funniest thing.”


AD’s joke stood out to me largely because I had never heard of it before. Another male-identifying friend of mine from California had an experience almost identical to that of AD, even from across the country. As someone who has been socially conditioned as a woman, it made me curious about the differences between boys’ and girls’ experience of the social construction of their sexuality.

It is not surprising that such a joke was popular as AD and his peers entered puberty. Jokes have a normalizing function, providing a safe space for pubescent boys to explore their sexuality.

However, the boys’ self-policing contained the joke within their gender, and I am unaware of an equivalent masturbation joke for girls at this age. I see this discrepancy as deeply reflective of the differences in the social construction of boys’ and girls’ sexuality during puberty. Masturbation is an action — an act of agency over one’s body and sexuality. That the normalization of this action is denied to girls of the same age thus denies them a form of agency over their sexuality.

In a larger context, the deficit of sexual jokes of any nature among pubescent girls may contribute to a lack of knowledge about their sexuality, and feelings of shame due to missing out on the normalizing function of such jokes. This can lead to misinformation or shame about sex and sexual development, rendering teenage girls vulnerable to sexual abuse. 

I would argue that folklore in the form of sexual jokes can function as a form of sex education and that pubescent girls may benefit from sharing this folklore amongst each other — especially with relatively harmful jokes, such as this one. (Note how AD now finds the joke “stupid.”)

Lastly I would comment on the adult policing of pubescent sexuality. It really stood out to me that only one boy was bold enough to say the word ‘masturbation’ in a public context, under the potential surveillance of teachers. Such jokes are seen as taboo and ‘dirty’ even as they can have a positive function. I am curious how the awareness of adult policing of sexuality at this age may contribute to shame surrounding sexuality for both boys and girls equally.