Friday, November 25, 2005

Here I come, ready or not!

Most of you remember playing Hide and Seek during summer evenings when you were a kid. Or are you from the latest generation of new adults who seldom went outdoors to run and play? Did you too often choose, instead, to sit in front of television screens watching violent programs or playing violent games with your thumbs? That sounds like too many of the current crop of kids, as well. But, my curmudgeon bias aside, I’ll bet you discriminating readers remember Hide and Seek.

O.K., now you are “It.” We will all run and hide while you stand at this tree, the base, with your eyes closed, and count to fifty. Then you come find us and tag us before we can sneak back to the base and be “free.” “Free,” that is, of being “It” for the next round in the game. The first hider tagged will be “It” for the next round. Remember all that?

When we played the game, after the person who was “It” tagged a kid hiding or running to the base from his or her hiding place, interest in seeking all the other hiders often waned. So the “It” kid usually ended the round without seeking everyone who was hiding.

Hide and Seek is an old game, its rules passed down by oral tradition from child to child, with little variation over the centuries. The “little variation” is with the words the person who is “It” calls when he or she is tired of seeking and wants to end the round. If no player who is hiding has been tagged, the kid who is “It,” is “It” again. Still, when “It” is ready for the next round, he or she can let all the hiding players “get in free.” How?

That depends. I have heard different calls. Chicago kids used to say, “Oley, Oley, Oceans free!” I suppose if any play the game in Chicago today, they still do. “Oley, Oley, Oceans free,” and the hiding kids come in to touch base without getting “caught.”

I have asked three different friends who grew up in Chicago what that means. None knows. “We just said it because that’s what we learned from the older kids when we first played the game.”

My wife, who did not grow up in Chicago, reports her neighborhood kids yelled, “Oley, Oley, Olsen, all in free.” One could construct meaning from that call, perhaps believing that “Oley Olsen” was the name of one of the originators of the game, or the first referee to decide who got in free.

I grew up in Iowa, but I am sure there were variations around the state. There were variations within my city! What our neighborhood kids said also made little sense. “Ollie, Ollie oxen free.” What does that mean? Were the kids hiding out named “Ollie Ox”? We never asked.

A friend who grew up in a southern state reports a call close to the original. He used to say, “Ollie, Ollie outsen free.” He said he never knew what “outsen” meant.

The original call, from who knows how long ago, has meaning easily understood. Those hiding are the “outs.” Touching the base without being tagged means you are “in.” When whoever was “It” became tired of seeking, that player gave the call to get “in” free and yelled, “All the, all the ‘outs’ ‘in’ free!”

Try it aloud. “All the, all the ‘outs’ ‘in’ free!” Again. Louder. Say it as kids might. “Oley, Oley Oceans free ,” “Oley, Oley, Olsen, all in free,” “Ollie, Ollie outsen free,” or, “Ollie, Ollie, oxen free!” See? It’s a simple little example of how languages can change from one another over time. In this case, the changes are the results of children “teaching” a variation of the original.

Imagine all the language changes over centuries among wandering tribes and then among nations before there were text books to decree what was standard.

Now you tell me: What did you call to end the round, and where did you play Hide and Seek?

~ ~


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We said something that sounded like alley, alley ah chin, all in free. That was in the late 50s in Pennsylvania.

11/26/2005 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember what we said. Our gang hid in pairs, and we kissed the girl we were hiding with until whoever was it found us.

11/27/2005 1:05 AM  
Blogger amrit said...

And here is what I remember of the Indian version of Hide & Seek (called ice-pice:

The hidden ones had to touch the 'it' before the 'it' could spot them and shout 'dhappa' or may be some other arbit word like that. If the 'it' succeeded in shouting this 'dhappa' on time, the one who was spotted became the next 'it' and it wen on.

I do not remember exactly what we said to let everyone know, that the'it' had changed!

Your post sent me down the memory lane. And I enjoyed!

11/27/2005 1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All a, all a, alls in free! In my Kansas community.

11/27/2005 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an ollie ollie oxen free kid myself. Time period would be the 90's in Wisconsin.

11/27/2005 7:27 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Betcha, if anyone does figure it out, it will have come from the old baliffs yelling out, "Oh-yeah! Oh yeah! Everyone in the stocks is free!"

(Want to really frighten yourself? Go look at the origin of Ring-Around-the-Rosie.)

11/27/2005 9:55 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Right you are, Bill; the origins of Ring Around the Rosy are grim. The plague's first appearance was a rosy red spot somewhere on the body with a ring around it.

There were so many deaths by plague that some areas stunk. And funerals were to bury stinking corpses. So people often carried a pocket, or pocket purse, full of flowers, posies, to whiff in the parade to the church cemeteries. And thousands, "all," fell down, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I like your idea about getting out of the stocks free. Pillory, too? Thanks for the visit and comments.

11/29/2005 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the reverse type of hide and seek where only one person hides and the others have to try and find "it" and when one finds "it" they get in the same spot and hide with "it" until all the people have found the "it" and crowded into the same hidding spot.

11/29/2005 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

team tag everyone found and is tagged before getting to base, helps find the others when all the free are on base first one caught starts it again

11/29/2005 7:21 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I reread these comments aloud to my wife, and when I came to "amrit," I read his country's name for the game. "Ice pice." Say it aloud, and you may also conclude that it is a children version of the American words, "I Spy(s)" More evidence of how languages change, perhaps.

12/01/2005 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should read the book Finnegans Wake. It is full of this sort of language play. It is written by James Joyce and is a masterful book of writing. You could learn a thing or two about using language by reading James Joyce.

12/20/2005 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Fun bit by the author of Marekin. I sometimes like to suggest that the second day of the week, (third, maybe?)Tuesday, is a word distortion derived from Toes Day, the one day of the week when our rarely-bathing, foul-smelling ancestors of the 14th or 15th centuries finally took off their socks to wash their feet, first cleaning the lint from between their TOES.

12/27/2005 4:12 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

An amusing deduction, Bill. It would make a great story, illustrated, of course, for a children's book.

Tiu was the Germanic god of war and the sky.

"Tiu's tag" was his day, the third day of the week, for those who start counting with Sunday as the first.

The Germans now say, "Dienstag." And most of us say Tuesday. Many say "Toosdee."

I don't know how often Tiu washed his toes.

12/28/2005 9:37 AM  
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