The following is a guest post.
I find that I do have to explain netball to many of my American counterparts. I more often than not mention that it is similar to basketball, but then there’s the pivot and the three second rule and you can’t run with the ball!
So, it got me thinking – what other games did we play in Britain that perhaps American children would not have played?
This is my selection – I am sure there are plenty others!
Knock down ginger – this is a very naughty prank or game dating back to 19th century England, or possibly the earlier Cornish traditional holiday of Nickanan Night. It involves knocking on the front door (or ringing the doorbell) of a house and then running away before the door can be answered.
This prank goes by many names in different countries, so I’m sure it’s played under another name in the USA. The name Knock down Ginger or Knocky Door Ginger, used in Britain, comes from a piece of British doggerel:
Ginger, Ginger broke a winder
Hit the winda – Crack!
The baker came out to give ‘im a clout.
And landed on his back.
Honestly, now this is thought of anti-social behavior – and I am sure we were right royal pains in the wotsits at the time. I send a thousand apologies to anyone who I did this to in Saltash, Cornwall in the 1980s!
British bulldog – we got in to so much trouble playing this at school in the 1980s, that they banned it! It’s a tag-based game and originated in Great Britain.
The play area is usually a large hall or large area of a playing field, and it doesn’t matter how many people play – the more the merrier, as long as there is enough space for the players to manoeuvre and enough players to have fun.
Most commonly one or two players – though this number may be higher in large spaces – are selected to play the parts of the “bulldogs”. The bulldogs stand in the middle of the play area. All remaining players stand at one end of the area (home). The aim of the game is to run from one end of the field of play to the other, without being caught by the bulldogs. When a player is caught, they become a bulldog themselves. The winner is the last player or players ‘free’.
More often than not, coats, jumpers and shirts get ripped, and then you have to go home and explain that to your mum…..!
Ring a ring o’ roses – this is a nursery rhyme or folksong and playground singing game. It first appeared in print in 1881, but it is reported that a version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s and similar rhymes are known from across Europe. Urban legend says the song originally described the plague, but folklorists reject this idea. I actually like that idea – that’s what we always believed and it does kind of make sense.
Common British versions include:
Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Apparently, the last two lines of the American version reads:
We all fall down.
Pin the tail on the donkey – this is a game played by groups of children. It is common at birthday parties and other gatherings. I’ve played it as an adult after a few vodkas, and it still hasn’t lost its appeal!
A picture of a donkey with a missing tail is tacked to a wall within easy reach of children. One at a time, each child is blindfolded and handed a paper “tail” with a push pin or thumbtack poked through it. The blindfolded child is then spun around until he or she is disoriented. The child gropes around and tries to pin the tail on the donkey. The player who pins their tail closest to the target, the donkey’s rear, wins. It’s pretty funny to watch! I think the piñata is the popular party game in the USA, and it might just be making its way to British shores.
Blind man’s buff – this is a children’s game, a variant of tag. The traditional name of the game is “blind man’s buff”, wherein the word buff is used in its older sense of a small push.
Blind man’s buff is played in a spacious area, such as outdoors or in a large room, in which one player, designated as “It”, is blindfolded and gropes around attempting to touch the other players without being able to see them, while the other players scatter and try to avoid the person who is “it”, hiding in plain sight and sometimes teasing them to make them change direction.
Blind man’s buff is ideally played in an area free of dangerous obstructions so that the “It” player will not suffer injury from tripping over or hitting something. Obviously, it’s amusing if they do fall, but then no one would play the game for fear of injury!
Rounders – not dissimilar to cricket or baseball, but without all the paraphernalia of masks and gear. I have memories of playing this on summer days on the school playing fields, doing cartwheels at the base or up the field as they bowled the balls, and then I had to duck or catch it.
It is basically a bat-and-ball game played between two teams. Rounders is a striking and fielding team game that involves hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a rounded end wooden, plastic or metal bat. The players score by running around the four bases on the field. It’s super fun and I am feeling the urge to play!
Kiss chase – I suspect this is banned everywhere now! But gosh, it was a smashing game, especially when you are after the Cornish pasty-maker’s son!
Kiss chase, also referred to as Catch and Kiss, is a tag variant in which tagging is performed by kissing. All members of one gender are “it” at once and chase players of the opposite sex until everyone is caught, when the roles are reversed. A variant is that the player chosen to be “it” will, with assistance from players of the same gender, chase all members of the opposite sex and kiss one of them, who is then “it” on behalf of the other gender.
Oh! When you read it like that it sounds like some sort of weird swinging party game. But it was all terribly innocent on the school playground in the 1980s, I can assure you!
Claire McGill is a British expat living in Maryland, which means she still drinks tea, but now has it with a corn muffin instead of a crumpet. Claire has two blogs – one which observes the amusing and confusing cultural differences between living in America and Britain (www.ukdesperatehousewifeusa.wordpress.com) and her fitness blog (www.fortyshadesoffitness.wordpress.com)