Monday, August 20, 2012

Olly Olly Oxen Free

If you played hide and seek as a kid, you probably heard the chant, "Olly Olly oxen free if you don't come out you'll be I T."  No one has traced the origin of this phrase or any of it's variations back to anything cool. There never were a group of heretics hiding from a Greek god, Hidensekius, who cried out to all his oxen to join his manhunt. The boring truth is that kids simply augment the way in which they declare hide and seek truces. Some yahoo answers state, the chant was originally worded as,"All come in, all are free". Well, who wants to yell out that mouthful of mediocrity? Kids are always outdoing one another, and you know that out there somewhere, is a kid who quit cleverly rhymed the word free with pee. As is "Olly Olly oxen free, Steve went inside to take a pee." Ok that was me, and let me tell you, it killed, I didn't have to be it for a year after that!

I suppose this morphing phrase can show us how languages can evolve in the absence of a written standard. This is a game passed on from generation to generation without the need for any rule book, because it is so simple, the trade off is it's simple variations. I never moved during my childhood so I don't know how the game was played outside of my tri block area, but once I visited my cousins in another state, and they had incorporated a can that you could kick! This one small change completely revolutionized the game for my entire elementary school.

Kids aren't the only ones who hide and seek though. As you are all innocently unaware, there are ninjas, spies, aliens, and other secrete magical creatures hiding in our midst. Some are hiding in plain site, as you can see with this vending machine soda pop ninja... possibly turtle.

If I were this guy, I'd at least have "an out of service" sign taped me. You know some jaded costumer is gonna start whaling on you sooner or later. I guess as a ninja you could take a beating for the cause, which I suppose in this case would research?

The one variation of hide and seek I enjoyed most as youth was called beckony. If I recall the rules correctly, the seeker must find and call out each hidden one's name. They didn't have to tag you, but once called, you are sent to front porch prison where you could be rescued by another hidden person by grabbing their hand and running them to hide again, but if the seeker caught you doing this they could call out both your names. So it was risky. The game got it's name because, when on porch prison, you would yell out "beckony, please save me." Many childhood romances were formed and dissolved during the course of these games. Kids would refuse to save their brand new girlfriends and you could say Olly Olly oxen free to that budding relationship.


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