Monday, April 28, 2008
Ancient Chinese Secret!
Have you seen that commercial where four nearly-middle-aged women are in an elevator and they spontaneously break into the old-school hand-clapping game Miss Mary Mack? (I can’t even remember what product the commercial was advertising, so kudos to the marketing department on that one.)
Hearing the Miss Mary Mack song for the first time in like 30+ years got me to thinking about other games we used to play when I was a kid in the 1970’s…..Kick the Can, Ringoleavio, Red Light Green Light One Two Three….(then we got PONG and childhood as we knew it came to an end...)
The playground game we used to play the most during recess at Catholic school was Chinese Jump Rope (a detailed description of the game can be found here. )
All you needed was three players, an elastic band, and the ability to jump chest high with your legs spread-eagle whilst jumping on the rope and yelling “Kill It!” (a skill that is highly prized in today’s job market).
I couldn’t quite remember the nonsensical chant that we used to say during the game…it was something Chinese sounding (at least to our Americanized ears) like “Itsy Me Si Gi Loco Hotsi Totsi Kill It”….so I did an internet search and was surprised to learn how obscure our little version of the game was. Apparently most children chant “In, out, side, side, etc”….how boringly unoriginal!. I did find one variation of our chant - Itchy me, star shee, Logo hutsy yutsy. - kill it' - and a reference that called the game ‘Itchy me’ and traced it back to Oxford England circa 1985. And then lo and behold, after numerous Google searches, I found a posting on a message board by a woman who linked the nonsensical chant to the Japanese numbers for 1-10 - Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go, Roku, Shichi, Hachi, Kyuu, Juu – it’s not exactly the same but close enough to conclude that our little playground chant was a bastardized version of Japanese counting. So there you go. Mystery solved.
So much for the 1985 Oxford, England origin, we were doing it on Long Island as early as 1973….so nannie nannie pooh pooh! (of course, where we got it from I have no idea)
I suppose the only reason why this crazy game sticks in my head is because I experienced one of my most humiliating grade-school moments while playing it. I was airborne getting reading to execute a waist-high Kill It when my foot caught on the rope and down I went in a heap, landing face down in a puddle. My uniform jumper was soaked, and after being berated by the nearest nun I was forced to spend the rest of the recess period sitting in the classroom next to the heater. With plaid wetness sticking to my thighs I could only stare out the window at all the other kids having fun, knowing full well that I would be the object of ridicule as soon as the other kids came pouring into the classroom at recess’ end.
Sigh…I should have stuck to Miss Mary Mack…