Monday, October 27, 2008


The group at diner last night included my wife, my mother, my mother-in-law, and me. Somehow the discussion got around to games and in particular the generational and regional differences in games. The discussion was interesting, but I'm going to concentrate on just a few of the games discussed here.

First there was "Olly, Olly, Oxen Free ". The interesting thing here is that my wife and her mother, both Minnesota natives, remember it under the variant name of of "Olly Olly Otzen Free " (think of the scandahoovian diminutive of Olaf for the pronunciation of Olly). The MIL also remembered playing it under yet another variant name as "Olly Olly Otzenburger Free " My mother and I remembered it in the "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free " form. So there was a clear regional difference in the naming of what is the exact same game.

Then there was the perennial favorite "Duck Duck Goose ." Once again the split was by region with the Minnesota natives both remembering the game as "Duck Duck Gray Duck ", although I swear that my wife often pronounces it "Ray Duck" rather than "Gray Duck". From what I can gather, if you grew up in Minnesota or the Dakotas, you call it "Duck Duck Gray Duck " and otherwise you know it as "Duck Duck Goose "

Then came the first of the real generational differences. My mom and mother-in-law both recalled with fondness a game called "Auntie I Over " that my wife and I could not remember ever hearing about. If you clicked on the name and read the description, you probably understand why it is a game that has disappeared from modern life.  Throwing a ball over a building at the opposing team is not a game that plays well in an urban environment. Mom and MIL both remembered several variants of the "Auntie Came Back" call if the ball failed to go over the building. All I want to know is what the call was for the ball stuck in the gutter?

We ended the discussion by reminiscing about several games that seem to have disappeared from playgrounds today. We all remembered "Red Rover " and its "Pom Pom Pull Away " variant. My wife and I could not remember our son ever having played either of those games when he was young. I suspect the possibilities for malicious play have demoted both of these games from the school playgrounds. I can remember "Red Rover " being banned from recess in grade school when I was a kid, so it very well could be verbotten today. All it took was a couple of rousing games and the principal said no more - I suspect it was all the torn clothing that was the clincher. After all, we played dodgeball back then too, so it couldn't have been the violence! {*grin*}

All of this leads me to ask the questions:

  • What games do you know that have names that vary by region?
  • What games do your parents remember that you don't?
  • What games do you remember that no longer seem to be played by your children?


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