Tag Archives: Rules

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.

Bubblegum Bubblegum

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Salvadorean
Age: 24
Occupation: Law Student Advisor
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/9/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

MR: “Oh…Did you ever play Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”

MG: Wait can you explain how it went?

MR: “When you are going to play a game and you need to choose a person, everyone has to put their shoe in the middle (puts foot in middle) then you say …”Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” oh and then whoever it lands on has to pick a number and then it continues until that number is reached. Whoever it lands on gets out until the last person is left.”

Context: We were talking about childhood games and this rhyme came up.

Background: Informant is twenty four years old and from the Los Angeles area. RR remembers playing this in school for tag or hide and seek and also with her cousins. She believes she learned this from the other students in her class. Then, she taught this to her little brothers.

Analysis: Children often teach other children folklore. I thought it was quite interesting that regardless of the fact that RR is two/three years older than me, I also learned this rhyme from other children in my school. It shows that folklore can live on for many years and now lives in our memories. This song/rhyme is a common example of children bringing order and structure to their play. This rhyme allows children to choose a leader in a fair way. Because the person it lands on the first time gets to chose a number it leads it up to fate, in a sense, to choose the person who will be “it.” It prevents kids from fighting over being chosen or not being chosen.

Other versions of this include using one’s fist to count rather than one’s shoes. For this version please see: https://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=2776

Why You Can Never Keep Glass on the Floor: Puerto Rican Tale

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Tucson, Arizona
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None

Is this tale well known in Puerto Rico?

L.O. – “Nah, this is just something which was told to my father, and he told it to me.”

How does the story go?

“So, there was a man in my dad’s like, village, or his small town, and he’d just always leave his dishes on the floor after he finished eating and was watching TV.  And one day he tripped, and the glass cut into his neck, and he died.  *Chuckle*  And that’s why you can’t ever leave your dishes on the floor.  It’s funny, this is definitely something that you just tell your kids, so they’ll behave around the house and such.”

Do you live by those rules now?

“Yes, absolutely.  We have like, actually kept those rules in our house.  Because I used to keep my dishes all over the floor, and my dad would be like, ‘this dude injured his neck and died, don’t do that,’ and so I never do.”

When you see dishes on the floor, do you think about it?

“Yes.  Immediately.”


This story served to remind this person why he should never leave dishes on the floor.  For me, though, it was a reminder to always remember your roots.  While that sounds cliche, it makes sense to me.  Again this is a person who is completely independent from his previous life where he grew up.  To think that, although one day he’ll live far away from his father, he’ll always think of that one story which was told to him, is quite sentimental.  They are stories like these which we hold onto the tightest.  You can also imply this story in other walks of life, using it as lessons for your children, and their children.  

The Little Green Men

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Caucasian American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/21/12
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant Bio

My informant is a 19 year old college freshman studying theater at an academy in Hollywood, California. This student is deeply involved in the active social aspect of life as a theater student – frequently attending wrap parties, after parties, and general Friday night parties to blow off steam after a week of classes. Because the academy is not a traditional college or university, the student body contains a wide range of student ages, from teens just out of high school, to men and women in their late thirties.

My informant was observed playing the game detailed below. He was not the only underage student there.

The Game

“Two is you, three is me, four is whores, five is drive, six is dicks, seven is heaven, eight is mate, nine is rhyme, ten is thumb master…”

There are many variations of the rules of the game known as King’s Cup. It’s a party game, played by young people, often in their teens or mid-twenties. In this case the game I observed was being played by a group of four students. The game involved a can of beer placed in the center of the table with a deck of cards fanned out around the can. Each student also held a cup of their own filled with beer. The students took turns choosing cards from the circle – each card had a special action associated with it. For instance, if a player draw a “7,” they would quickly drop the card to the table and point both fingers in the air (toward heaven). The last player in the circle to follow suit and point at heaven would take a drink from their cup.

At one point my informant drew a jack. He was told to make a rule (that the other players must follow until another jack is drawn from the deck) and he decided on the “little green man” rule. To demonstrate, he pointed his fingers like a gun and “shot” at the top of cup of beer. He explained to me that this killed his “little green man.” By establishing this rule, now whenever any player needed to take a drink, they would first need to kill the little green man sitting on the rim of their cup.

My informant’s demonstration of the rule led to a dispute. Another player had heard the little green man rule played differently. In her version, the little green man should be taken carefully off the rim of the cup and set aside on the table, allowing the the player to drink, and then placed back onto the cup when the player finished drinking. My informant had never heard this variation, and claims he finds his version to be more fun because players can be very creative in deciding in what way to kill their little green man.

The rules to King’s Cup, and even the name of the game, varies wildly depending on the group one is playing with. The little green man rule is one example of how the game changes between groups. However, in both cases the little green man rule allows the player to act out the removal of an obstacle to drinking. A drinking game itself can have only one purpose – to aid in the intoxication of the players. As this is a game that is often played among groups of young adults, and in some cases including the game I witnessed, with students who are not yet legally old enough to consume alcohol, the little green man rule asserts the players ability to get drunk together and party in spite of the restrictions of parents, their academic institution, and the law. The little green man is an alien outsider who represents anyone or any institution who would put a stop to the dangerous and potentially illegal behavior, and must be removed before a drink may be taken.