Tag Archives: tag

Children’s Game: Spanking Machine Tag

Main Piece: 

Informant: “Here’s a neighborhood game that I just remembered we used to play. It was very popular in our neighborhood. And I don’t know where it was picked up. You know, I was one of five kids, so we played a lot of games together and so we played a lot of games together, and the neighborhood would play a lot of games together, and we played a lot of tag. So we’d play some pretty typical tags like freeze tag, or just tag, or… I can’t remember the other names.”

Collector: “Like zombie tag. Or the version of it, yeah.”

Informant: “Zombie tag, yeah. So, one that we played pretty frequently- maybe it was pretty common, I’ve never seen anyone else do it -it was spanking machine tag. So, when someone gets frozen by tag, if they can stand with their legs apart like a teepee or like an A-frame and someone else can crawl through their legs before the person who’s it catches them, the person gets free.”

Collector: “Oh, yeah. I’ve played that.”

Informant: “Okay, so maybe it’s—”

Collector: “The word spanking in the title threw me off.”

Informant: “Maybe… Oh, I think we would spank them as they went through, too.”

Background:

This is a game that, as above, my informant would play as a child in Virginia as one of a number of tag variants. From the tone of voice, it was clear that she enjoyed the game. She called it as a neighborhood game, rather than a school game or kid’s game. Playing this game, she said, was localized to a smaller group than children or Virginian children. She had the opinion that this was a weird thing her neighborhood specifically did.

Thoughts:

Having played a version of this myself when I was a child in Utah, I can attest that this game is widely proliferated. The idea behind crawling through the legs rather than simply touching the frozen body is to provide a further challenge for everyone that’s not “it.” Games where there is an “it” figure are characterized by a balance of power. Power is temporarily granted to the “it” figure and it is the title that transfers from child to child, allowing them to try their hand at power. This modification allows more power for the “it” figure in freeze tag, where it’s normally very easy for the larger group to win and the “it” figure doesn’t change as frequently. This specific version is also a good example of children’s counter-authoritative tendency to introduce things like spanking that they’re not supposed to do into their games in order to push the game outside the boundary of approved play.

Taser Tag at the Exposition Park Rose Garden

I heard about this game while many of my housemates were gathered around a table and drinking. The first time the speaker shared this story, he also bragged about other rules he had broken as a child or young adult. This story is an example of ‘forbidden play’ and it took place near the University of Southern California.

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After the Exposition Park Rose Garden closes for the night, those who enter can be apprehended for trespassing. From 2013 to 2015, the speaker said that the cycling community in Los Angeles was “massive.” After one large race in 2013, the speaker’s friends gathered in the rose garden and someone suggested that the group of 13, 14 and 15-year-olds play taser tag. Cyclists carried tasers, knives or brass knuckled with them and they rode ‘suicide bikes’ or racing bicycles that have the breaks removed. ” A lot of us have very traumatic lives where we just pain sometimes makes us feel alive.” The speaker explained that about 15 of the 50 cyclists gathered owned tasers, and that the game was well received by the group.

In the event that state troopers caught the boys in the rose garden, they would scatter. Those who were caught were given “a slap on the wrist” and sent home.

The speaker never had a taser, so he was a ‘runner.’ There were no rules about where tasers could attack. ” You could taste in the nuts. It’s wherever this person lands the taser. The good thing is it wasn’t high voltage… enough to drop you on the ground. That’s it.” The speaker said he had been tased in the neck. Girls could attack with tasers but the speaker said they seldom outran the boys. Anyone playing Taser Tag in the rose garden was fair game for attack. He admitted that Taser Tag was fun because it was forbidden, as was “using self defense weapons as offensive weapons.”

Taser Tag games with the speaker’s group occurred five times between 2013 and 2015. The last time, one member brought pepper spray and the speaker said “All 10 of us suffocated. And you’re like, Dude, this guy that comes back. We’re going to hurt him.”

The speaker said that “growing in South LA is kind of like a free for all,” and that “whenever a bunch of kids run around with bikes, I rather see them doing that than dealing drugs.” The speaker noted that some of his cyclist friends who played Taser Tag did get involved in gang activity after their group dissolved. When asked what the game meant to him, the speaker said that this “was a day where all of us no matter what ethnicity where we’re from, who we are, it’s just fun. And that fun involves a little bit of pain.”

*

This speaker retold this story in front of friends. I believe that this memory is important for the speaker because many of his friends have left or are no longer living. This memory is also important because the speaker enjoys rough activities, and it is difficult to engage in rough-and-tumble activity as an adult. I believe this time reminds him of an era where he did not have to worry about larger adult problems, and this brings a sort of nostalgia for something one can never do again.

For more information on forbidden play, see Folk Groups & Folklore Genres Chapter 5, Children’s Folklore by Jay Mechling.

Relievio – New England Street Game

Description of Informant

NM (49) is a Massachusetts native living in California. He commits to a regular exercise routine and owns/operates a metal decking supply firm. NM enjoys strategy games, world news/current events, and participates in a weekly chess match with friends. From 1980-1989 (his middle- and high-school years), NM lived in Merrimac, MA. Merrimac was a small town on the MA/NH border, approximately 10 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Game

Relievio is a team-based hide-and-seek style game, where the first team, the “seekers,” try to catch all members of the second team, the “hiders.” If a seeker finds a hider, the chase begins. The seeker must grab hold of the hider and yell “Caught!” three times. If successful, the victim must go to a predefined waiting zone (“jail”). Once all hiders are jailed, the seekers win. The teams then switch roles and begin again.

There is a “jailbreak” rule, where if a “living” (i.e. not yet caught) member of the hiding team physically touches the jail and yells “Relievio!”, all jailed individuals are set free. Much of the game’s strategy (e.g. guards, sneaking to jail, faking being caught) stem from this mechanic. 

Context of Use

Relievio was a common street/neighborhood game for the children of Merrimac, MA. The game was often played after nightfall, so as to augment the “thrill of the hunt.”

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Context of Interview

The informant, NM, is met in his garden by the collector, BK, his nephew. They speak poolside.

Interview

BK: So what would kids in Merrimac, Massachusetts do?

NM: The biggest was a game called Relievio, which was a very popular neighborhood game. And our house was kind of a home base. Like yeah, central home base for the whole thing. We had a massive oak tree in our front yard. That was the jail. But yeah, basically, if you had, if you had eight people, you could have a pretty great, great game of Relievio. Four people would be just split up evenly. Four would stay at the tree, which was home base, or the jail. The other four would take off and hide and we’re talking– the neighborhood was the bounds, you know, everybody’s house neighbor, whether we knew them or not, were in-bounds. So about five or six houses. So I would say at least five acres worth of property. And then the other four would go out and seek. And, and usually, we do this at dawn or even night. I mean, some of the games were at day, but at night, it was a little bit more thrilling. Cuz nobody, you know, we’re still little kids, nobody loved hiding in the dark. *chuckles* But as soon as you found somebody, you know, the chase would begin. And the chaser would have to grab hold of the person and say “caught! caught! caught!” three times. You had to say “caught!” three times. And that person would then go to jail. So they’d be at the tree. And usually, one person would be guarding them. And the other three would still be seeking. But once someone got caught, it was the goal of the people who hadn’t been caught to touch the tree, say the word “Relievio,” and that would release anybody captured at the tree. So yeah, that’s where the strategy came. But you know if you had two people and you coordinated and there was only one person guarding the tree, that would be pretty easy release. So sometimes I would have two people guarding it. 

NM: At some point, a couple of us got old enough to climb the tree. And we’re talking, like, when I was like 14 or 15 years old. Because this tree was six or seven feet in diameter, as far as the base, with no low limbs, and the first low limb was about 10 feet off the ground. The first limb to get your hands on was about two-foot diameter. So it was a, it was a massive tree. And with no easy branches, just had to hang on, you had to climb up the bark, hug the first limb, and then kind of shimmy your way around that first limb. And then once you’re on that first limb, you had a little bit of mobility around that first layer branches 10 feet up. But the trick was to sneak back to the tree while the seekers were still seeking. Climb the tree, so you’re in the jail so that nobody knew you were there. And then they start bringing in people as they’re caught. And then you’re sitting up in the tree, and they don’t see you and then you just announce “Relievio” and it completely would shock them. Yeah, we played hours and hours and hours of Relievio.

NM: That was not a game we knew about before I lived in Merrimac. Yeah, I mean, we didn’t have the number of the kids for that. But when I moved to Merrimac, there were a lot of us. There were 1, 2, 3, 4… 8 boys. All within four years of each other. And then yeah, whenever we had friends over, yeah, you could easily get to 10. Occasionally my father would play. I think my father and my father’s brother played once.

NM: Yeah, I mean, it’s there. There’s nothing like the thrill of getting chased in the dark. And basically generally knowing where there are dark places to hide. And just getting ahead, just enough to duck into them. But then, not being able to control your breath. Because you’re in the dark and then you’re super tired and breathing heavily and just trying to find a way not to breathe. So that they don’t hear it, because I’ll be walking right by you. Because they wouldn’t have thought you ducked into that dark, little space. Like, do you really want to go stick your head in some dark corner of the bushes? You usually didn’t. So it was only if you’re breathing that you’re gonna get caught. Yeah, that was a great game.

BK: What years did you live in Merrimac?

NM: In 1980. I think. And yeah, through high school. So 1989 when I moved. The summer of fifth grade we moved. So I must have been probably 11.

Collector’s Reflection

Relievio is an extremely well-documented game with international variations. It began in New York, where it was called “Ringolevio.” Relievio is the name of the Canadian variant, which found its way to Boston and Ireland— the former being in Massachusetts where NM played the game, and the latter being NM’s country of origin. I won’t spend time going into each of these versions here (annotations below).

One difference in NM’s version of the game, which has not been documented across any versions of Relievio, is the use of “Caught! Caught! Caught!” as the catching phrase. Documented “catch-phrases” are “Chain chain, double chain, no break away”, “Ringolevio, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3!”, “1-2-3 come with me, you’re my prisoner”, “1-2-3 caught by me, no Relievio rest” (this final version is that documented of Boston and its suburbs). Common among all is an obsession with threes; either the expression is constructed of three parts, contains a three-count, or, in the case of NM, is a thrice-repeated term.

Though NM mentions that the game can be played at any time, he emphasizes that nighttime or in-darkness are preferred. Other versions of this game do not mention a time preference, but it seems as though the majority of data collection was done in large cities. In these environments, children playing outdoors at night may have been forbidden or dangerous. In a safe suburb such as Merrimac, though, there was likely more openness. The associated thrill, then, developed the preference among the children.

For other versions and descriptions of Relievio, please see:

“Ring-a-levio.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ring-a-levio. Accessed 25 Apr. 2021.

“Ring-a-Levio is a sophisticated cross between Tag and Hide-and-Seek.” Albert, David H. Dismantling the Inner School. Retrieved 25 April 2021.

NOTE: The Wikipedia article “Ringolevio” is expansive, but many contributions are uncited.

Cheese Touch

Text

“Cheese touch” a game of tag

 

Background

The informant told me that she learned this game while in elementary school and that she’s noticed that most people played this game when they were younger, even if they did not go to her school. The game originally came from the popular book “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” when a character touched a piece of moldy cheese and was diagnosed with “the cheese touch.” This game quickly caught on with elementary school children across the nation, even with kids who did not read the book. The game was essentially tag, but instead of “being it” it was called having the cheese touch. The informant notes that it was occasionally used to bully other children (popular kids would sometimes give the touch to a kid they thought was weird so that they would have an excuse to run away from or ignore said kid). She said that boys would mostly give it to other boys unless a boy had a crush on a girl, in which case he would give it to her. She confessed that she never really believed in the cheese touch but that it was just a fun game to play on the black top.

 

Context

The informant goes to a school in Southern California and grew up in Newport beach where she attended a nice public school.

 

Thoughts

While this game was just something that the kids used to entertain themselves during recess, it gives insight on how young children socialize with one another. I find it interesting that the children would use the same strategy on a kid they were bullying and the kid they “had a crush on.” Because children have no prior relationship experience, they don’t know how to handle romantic feelings and may resort to this tactic in order to express their emotions.

 

Traps and Doors

When my friend was a kid she played a game at recess on circular four square court.  The game was essentially a variant of tag.  One person would be it and they would chase the other players around the court.  The rules were that the players must stay on the outside of the court and not enter any of the squares.  The court had cracks in it which could be entered from the outside but if a player was on the inside the cracks became a dead end and they had to turn around.  When players were tagged they went into the prison area (the squares in the court) and they could be tagged out.

My friend invented this game and played it with her friends at recess so the game was very close to her.  I think she felt pride that her friends all partook in a piece of folklore that she invented.

The game seems to be at its heart very close to tag but the moderations allow tag to be played in an area that would ordinarily be much too small for tag.  This shows the evolution of a folkloric game into a form that is adapted for the environment it was confined to.  The addition of the cracks as a rule also shows the complexity in the game practice and an incorporation of the environment into the gameplay.