Now the days are getting longer and the weather is slowly starting to climb out of the winter-worthy temperatures. Many of you have been stuck inside a lot over the past couple of dreary months and some of you have been stuck inside with children. While they can be the light of your life and they can bring you much joy, sometimes you just want them out of the house. Older generations typically criticize youngsters, or nointers, for their clothes, the music they listen to, the way they speak and the things they do. Everyone can recall a “Why, when I was your age…” story. One of the loudest criticisms of today’s youth is that all they do is sit around staring at computers, videogames and cell phones. This month Twig is focused on childhood games in the DNE. There are so many references to games in the DNE that this topic will be spread over several entries over the next year. If you have memories of games not mentioned here or know of new games that kids in Newfoundland and Labrador play, it would be great to hear from you.
First up is a game called tintacks. Tin is a pronunciation variant of ten. Citations for this game come from St. John’s, Twillingate and Sandy Cove. In this game, one person counts to ten really fast with their back turned while the other children run forward while the counting is done but they have to freeze before the counter turns around. If you are caught moving, then it’s back to the start line for you. There are a couple of variations on the game like the one on the card shown below.
You might have heard of see-saw before, but what about weigh-de-buckedy or its variants buckety-board and wady bucked? DNE editors have traced these terms to Irish origins, coming from the words bacaideach (undulating) and bogadach (moving). If you can get a good piece of board or a longer and a rock or something similar as a fulcrum, then you’ve got hours of cheap and simple entertainment.
Tag is a pretty common kid’s game but another chasing game particular to Newfoundland, specifically Change Islands according to the citations, is catching thirds. You can see from the word-file below that there was a little confusion as to what this game actually entailed.
Another game attested in the DNE is the game colours. Sometimes children were very creative with the colours they chose. According to one informant from St. John’s, duckedy-mud was a favorite colour chosen in this game.
Most of you, young and old, will be familiar with marbles or alleys and there are many variations on how to play. If you play marbles in Newfoundland, then when two marbles are touching each other at rest, it’s called a burney. If players have to guess how many marbles are hidden in another player’s hand or bag, the game is chip-chip. Chip-chip is not restricted to marbles. You can guess how many men are aboard a ship or hide other objects and call this game by the same name.
The DNE research collection holds numerous citations for cobby house and its variant spellings. Basically, the cobby house is any small house built by children but it can be anything from an actual building, a rock formation or even a rock outline on the ground. In this house, you could cobby or play copy.
Another simplistic game is boggers, from the Irish bagar for ‘a threat’, where children perform daring feats in a competition to outdo one another. The person who is able to complete the act most successfully in the game of boggering has a bogger on the others.
Parents are often terrified by the things their children are willing to do mostly because of the danger away from which youth turn their naïve eyes. One of these games that has claimed young lives and been featured on various newscasts throughout the years is copy, alternatively known as copying, gallygee (variant gallygolt) or steppycock. This is the game, if you can really call it a game, where children jump from one ice pan to the next trying to avoid falling into the icy ocean below the floes. As you might imagine, sealers also copy but they do it as part of the hunt, not as a game.
So once the spring weather arrives, or even before if you’re desperate for a break from the articles, give them the boot out the door after teaching them some of these games. Or better yet, dare them to be creative and come up with a new game of their own. If you’d like for us to look into a particular game you played as a child, drop us a line!