Date of Performance/Collection: 4/11/19
Primary Language: English
Having collected a fairly common children’s game, thumb wars, I sought a game or rhyme that was more obscure. While familiar with similar games such as Paddy Cake (which the informant mentioned for reference), I had never heard of the Chinese Restaurant variant.
When I was little, on the playground we used to have… it was a sort of “paddy cake”-like game that had, um… a rhyme about a Chinese restaurant. So you would start and you would clap your hands together and clap opposite hands with your partner, and it would be like:
“I went to a Chinese restaurant
To buy a loaf of bread bread bread
The waiter asked me what I want
And this is what I said said said”
and then you would point to your eye and say:
“I know karate”
then you would punch and say:
“Punch in the body”
Then you would cover your hands with your mouth and say:
“Oops I’m sorry”
Then you would wag your finger and say:
“Don’t tell my mommy”
And then the most upsetting part is that you would move your eyelids in accordance with people’s race, so you would say:
“Chinese” — pull your eyelids up — or down, I don’t remember
“Japanese” — pull your eyelids up and then you say:
And then whoever said “check please!” first would win.
As the informant notes, the game is upsetting, enforcing the kind of racial stereotypes and prejudices that would have been seen as innocuous in past decades. As such, I would classify it as an example of blason populaire. It is through games and rhymes such as these, shared among children during their formative years, that casual racism insidiously engrains itself into young minds. Thankfully, the informant grew up and now recognizes the problematic nature of this game, but many others likely do not, and maybe even teach it to their children one day.