Tag Archives: thumb war

Thumb-a-War

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French American
Age: 16
Occupation: Student
Residence: Pasadena CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting on the informant’s living room couch . My informant (CH) was born in Pasadena, CA, but grew up in a very French household, learning English as her second language. All of her education has been in American schools, but she learned how to read and write French thanks to after school lessons her mom gave her and her older sister. She is currently a Sophomore in high school and enjoys horseback riding. 

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Do you remember the Thumb-a-Wars from when we were little? Can you describe them to me?

CA: Wait, wait, let’s just do it. *both turn to sit facing each other* Ok film it from above, yeah *moves the interviewer’s hand to a good position*

Interviewer: *interview switches from voice recording to camera and they proceed to film the video*

Both: *Sing Thumb-a-War song and then play*

One, two, three, four

I declare a thumb-a-war

Five, six, seven, eight,

Try and keep your thumb straight

Interviewer: *after settling down from laughing and playing a few games. Switches back to voice recording* Ok *laughs* so where and when did you learn this.

CH: I learned it at school! In like, kindergarten and we  played it during recess. Everyone I know knows the game so even today if my friend and I are bored we can just play for funsies. 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (CH) and interviewer.

Thoughts: 

Thumb-a-War was a very popular game when I was in elementary school. We would play it during recess or on bus rides to field trips. We would have big competitions between classmates to figure out who was the strongest boy and strongest girl in the grade, so I have a lot of very good memories of this game! Like CA said, everyone who’s around my age knows this game, so we can whip it out at any time and play if we’re bored. 

Thumb Wars

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American (German heritage)
Age: 21
Occupation: Student/Musician
Residence: Wisconsin/California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/10/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context

I asked the informant for a popular schoolyard game from his childhood, and this was his immediate response. Though I had played many a thumb war, his opening signature chant varied from mine.

Main Piece

Alright: thumb wars! Everyone used to do ‘em, and it starts off with the signature chant: “one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war” as you move your thumb from left to right in opposition to your opponent’s. Sometimes, I don’t know if this is a thing out here, but we had “one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war. five, six, seven, eight, you’re the thumb I really hate” um, I’m not sure if that’s a thing out here but we did that back home and then, you know, obviously you just like take your thumb and you try to push the other person’s thumb down as your hands are intertwined. It is cheating to move the elbow, um, it has to be all the thumb and yeah, the winner gets nothing, besides pride.

Notes

Thumb wars were very popular during my childhood, and so this recounting may not be the most valuable piece of lore, but I was intrigued by the variation in the classic introductory chant. While familiar with the first part — “one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war,” in my experience, it is followed by “five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumbs straight.” Because my informant grew up in Wisconsin, I believe it may be a regional variance.