Tag Archives: New York



The informant is my friend’s mother who grew up in the Bronx in the 1960s. Ringolevio is a game that they’d play in the streets outside their houses, or in the abandoned lots throughout the neighborhood. The informant told me that Ringolevio was her favorite game growing up as a kid.


My friend’s mother told me about Ringolevio over a phone call. We were discussing much of her early life growing up in mid 20th century New York City, and she spoke with particular fondness as she reminisced about Ringolevio.

Main Piece:

KB: Ringolevio was my favorite game. We’d play for hours with all the kids on my street. One house was torn down and there was a big, abandoned lot that we would play it in.

Me: So what were the rules?

KB: Well, there was a chasing team and a running team, like cops and robbers. One area would be marked off up against the fence and that would be the jail. The runners would run around the lot while the chasers would chase after them, trying to catch them. If you caught a runner – you had to try and grab them, usually their arm – you would hold on and yell “Ringolevio, coca-cola, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.” If you could say that while holding on to the runner – the runner would try and break free from your grasp – the runner would have to go to the jail area and be locked up. When someone was in jail, one of their teammates could free them by running into the jail area and tagging their jailed teammate without getting caught.

Me: And the girls played with the boys?

KB: Oh of course, everyone played everything together. We all played for hours, and it was quite rough a lot of the time. The boys were really quite rough with the girls and especially each other. A loooot of bruises and scrapes.

Me: How many kids were on one team?

KB: However many we had as long as there was even numbers.

Me: Were there ever any fights?

KB: No, not a lot of fist fights. The boys would get into arguments and things could get out of hand, but really never any fist fights that I can remember. We mostly played ringolevio at the age before boys started getting into scraps and things like that.


Although we were speaking on the phone, I could deduce that the informant was thoroughly enjoying the flood of memories that was rushing back to her as she described her favorite childhood game. What stands out to me is the lack of tools or objects needed to play Ringolevio. All that is needed is the kids and some open space – no bats, balls, or nets. The prospect of boredom spurs immense creativity in kids looking to avoid it at all costs. Games like Ringolevio are customs that unify the bonds and relationships between kids. Ringolevio also appeared to offer a chance to young kids to win the praise and admiration of their friends, as whoever was the fastest and the best at the game was sure to gain the respect of the other children.

Jewish One Liners


The informant is my grandfather, who spent most of his teens in 1950’s and 60’s New York City. He is Jewish, and grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, immersing himself deep into the lore and sardonic nature of Jewish, New York humor.


These are some jokes my grandfather has told me to me over and over since I could walk. There’d be many times at family functions and events that we’d be talking and he’d break into a tirade of “Jewish jokes,” flinging out one-liners and jokes from Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, and jokes he heard on the sidewalks in the city growing up. My grandfather told me that he and his friends would go for hours, cracking joke after joke like rapid fire, imitating the comedians on the radio.

Main Piece:

A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill. The doctor gave him another six months.

I broke my leg in two places. The doctor told me to stop going to those places.

My dad was the town drunk. Usually that’s not so bad, but in New York City?


These one-liners were always my favorite jokes growing up. For me, they were my first impression of an era of post-WWII America immortalized by films and television: New York City in the mid-20th century. This was a time where many immigrants were coming to the United States and establishing identities for their communities in this new land. My grandfather moved to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the city after his family emigrated from Israel. Many of the jokes he heard and told with his friends during his time growing up there formed the backbone of the Jewish identity in New York City. These jokes are quick, witty, and overly masochistic. The Jewish people suffered greatly in Europe in the prior decades, and now they were forced to try and assimilate to a foreign country. These one-liners are almost a coping mechanism for the Jewish people, as they learn to laugh at pain and misfortune. A broken leg is certainly not as severe as the Holocaust, yet it mimics the misfortune and shares the experience with companions when the joke is told to a group of friends hanging out in a schoolyard.

Clamshells as Folk Objects – Long Island, NY


Informant KC was a current undergraduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of this collection and was raised in the east end of Long Island, NY.

When speaking with KC, they told me how clamming is a source of income and entertainment for many living along/near the coast along the east end of Long Island. They mentioned how people use large rake-like tools to sift through the sand while searching for clams. Once the clams had been cracked open, emptied, and cleaned, KC explained how the shells are often “repurposed” as folk objects. After cleaning, the shells can be decorated, painted, or kept looking “natural.”

In listing the many unique uses for old clamshells they mentioned how they have seen them repurposed as…


  • Spoon rests
  • Ashtrays
  • Plant pots
  • Jewelry holders


After speaking with KC, I considered how these examples of folk objects help illustrate/represent the identity and interest of east end Long Islanders. Whereas outsiders might not understand the repurposing of a clamshell or mistake it for a commercially bought object, insiders (east end Long Islanders) have a different connection to these objects as reflections of their identity and customs. This leads me to believe that east end long islanders might hold shared values of sustainability and/or craftiness which are able to be expressed through these repurposed clamshells.

JAP Stereotype

Background: The informant is a woman in her late fifties who grew up in downstate New York in Queens and on Long Island before moving to upstate New York for college. In her mid 20s, she moved out to Southern California and she had lived there ever since. She comes from a large family of Catholic Irish-Americans.

Context: TR went to high school in the late 70s/early 80s on the north shore of Long Island, where a substantial percentage of the public high school’s student body was either wealthy, Jewish, or both. TR does not consider JAP to be an antiemetic phrase and mentions that it describes women that aren’t Jewish too. Later, when she went to college in upstate New York, she says there were a lot of JAPs at her school there too.

Main Text:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as TR and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

TR: Especially coming from Long Island, the JAP—the Jewish American Princess…

JS: Did you use the phrase JAP?

TR: Oh god, yeah, cuz I was from Long Island!

JS: And did you know anyone who you considered a JAP?

TR: Oh, yeah!

JS: Do you want to explain exactly what a JAP is?

TR: Well, usually a Jewish American Princess knew it and was proud of it and self-identified, so it was never like, it never seemed like a really negative thing. Actually, I had a friend, she was a senior when I was a freshman—or, she was a junior when I was a freshman and yeah, she, uh, she self-identified as a JAP [laughs].

JS: Wanna explain anything else besides the abbreviation?

TR: Well, usually they’re Jewish…but they don’t have to be. Yknow, they dress very kind of, like, Long Island, downstate New York.

JS: What does “Long Island” mean?

TR: In the eighties…big hair, dark hair, lots of curls, fancy clothes, tons of makeup, very expensive clothes, lots of jewelry. And defitniely a thick New York accent, like “OH MY GAWD.” [laughs]

JS: So their families are wealthy?

TR: Definitely. Yes.

JS: Is there a specific…field Jewish American Princesses go into, studying-wise?

TR: Well, yeah they would get husbands. [laughs] Typically they would get..yknow attorneys, doctors, the hotel industry, ILR…I don’t think I knew any engineering JAPS.

JS: What do their parents do?

TR: Doctors, attorneys, wives…oh, oh, accountants!

JS: Anything else you wanna share about the culture?

TR: No, you know, it was a look and it was consumption—consumption.

Thoughts: The phrase JAP is something I know, but not really something me or people I grew up around ever used. Perhaps it’s still frequently used in downstate New York, but I suspect part of the affiliation had to do with the style and “consumption” (as TR calls it) of the 80s. It’s funny that she says it’s not exclusive to young Jewish women, despite what the acronym stands for, and that people would proudly self-identify as JAPS, despite it seeming like a stereotype. I suppose it’s not the worst stereotype to be identified with.

Further Citations:

For a humorous take on the Jewish American Princess, see Rachel Bloom’s “JAP Battle” from the television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019).

“JAP Battle (EXPLICIT) – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”.” Youtube, uploaded by racheldoesstuff, 29 Feb 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TQmo5TvZQY.

Common New York Slang: Brick

Y: New York is just one of those places where when it’s cold…  it’s COLD cold. But in New York, we don’t say it’s cold outside, we say it’s brick outside.

This is definitely one of those slang terms that is practically branded by the region that uses it. It’s possible that the reason New Yorkers use the word “brick” to refer to the drops in temperature is that it’s extremely telling of what city it’s from. During the development of New York, and up to this day, the vast majority of the buildings were made out of brick. If you’ve ever touched the side of a brick house during the winter months, you’d know that the material absorbs the surrounding temperature. In fact, however cold it is outside, bricks usually feel ten times colder. However, the further you get from the general city area, the more buildings you’ll see made out of brick. That being said, it’s possible that this slang term is generally used by New Yorkers who live in a more suburban area like the Bronx or Queens, for example.