Original script: 데덴찌 in Korean, 手天地 in Japanese
Phonetic (Roman) Script: Daeden Zzi
Transliteration: The back of the hand and the palm
Full Translation: Back of the hand or palm, choose one
Daeden zzi is a game played very commonly by kids in Korea. Daeden zzi isn’t the game tho, it’s simply a process to begin any given game. Basically, daeden zzi is a team dividing method. Let’s say a group of kids are trying to play basketball, and they have to divide up into two teams. Everyone would gather around in a circle, and they say “Daeden zzi” out loud. Kinda like rock paper scissors, at the end of the phrase you reveal your hand- whether it’s facing up or down, either the back of your hand or the palm – and you become teammates with everyone with the same hand as you. If it’s a game that requires an even number of people in each sides, you would repeat the process until everyone’s evenly split. If it’s a game that doesn’t require the same number of people, then you just roll it once.
What’s interesting is that Daeden zzi comes from a Japanese word that translates to “the back of the hand and the palm”, the name isn’t translated into Korean, it’s still a Japanese word that Koreans use. So unless you speak Japanese, a given Korean kid playing this game wouldn’t even know the name’s meaning, but they kinda do, they know that the game Daeden zzi refers to choosing between the back of the hand and the palm. Daeden zzi is one of many children’s games that come from Japan, a lot of these folk traditions came to Korea during the forced occupation under Japan in the early 1900s. Koreans don’t like Japan but a catchy game is a catchy game (laughs).
The informant is a college student residing in Seoul, Korea. She was born and raised there, and describes that she played the game daeden zzi quite often growing up, mostly from age 7 till middle school. She doesn’t remember when or how she specifically learned this game. She also has a study abroad experience in Irvine, California when she was in 4th grade, she went to an elementary school in America for a semester. During her time, she introduced the game to her non-Korean friends, effectively spreading the game. Though she’s not sure if the students at her school continued to practice the game after she had left, but it isn’t uncommon to find Korean American children play this game.
The conversation took place over the phone, while the informant was in her college dorm by herself, in her comfortable environment.
I remember being a kid trying to divide up teams for whatever game I was playing. If the method of dividing was by having two team leaders pick a member at a time, it instantly creates a problem; there’s a power imbalance amongst the players, and it might hurt the feelings of those who aren’t chosen until the very end. In that sense, I think deaden zzi is the fairest method to divide everyone up- it’s purely random.