Mudcat Café message #699634 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46932   Message #699634
Posted By: Joe Offer
28-Apr-02 - 12:28 AM
Thread Name: Child's Game: Elastics
Subject: RE: Child's Game: Elastics
Yes, the Opies have a lot to say about the subject, and I think it's worth quoting in entirety. My wife Christina says she called it "Chinese Jumprope" when she was growing up in Woonsocket, Rhode Island - and she claims to have been very good at it.
-Joe Offer-

ELASTIC SKIPPING

This is not skipping in the usual sense, for there is no turning rope to jump. Instead, the two enders stand with feet apart inside a loop of elastic, which passes round their ankles and is thus stretched into a long oblong frame between them. The role of the enders is completely static, and their place can be taken by dustbins or chairs. The performer stands sideways to the stretched elastic, usually with the elastic to her right, and goes through a series of actions. She lifts the farther strand of the elastic over the nearer strand with the pointed toe of her right foot, whilst hopping on her left foot, and passes it across the other strand and back again so many times. Then she jumps into the frame, facing the long way, jumps her feet apart and lands with feet either side of the frame, jumps feet inside together again, jumps so that her feet land on the two strands of elastic, brings them inside together again, and so on, sometimes with the strands crossed, according to the local sequence. When she has performed all the movements without a mistake the elastic is raised to calf height; then it is raised to knees, thighs, and finally waist. (Claims that the sequence can be performed with the elastic round the enders' necks can probably be discounted; indeed, one girl said 'When it's that height you don't do jumps you just do cartwheels over it.') The common impression is that the game looks 'like a giant cat's cradle'.
        In the summer of 1960 elastic skipping arrived in England as 'an entirely new game', and was for eighteen months, apparently, the exclusive possession of London children. 'This year's craze', said a 10-year-old girl in Fulham, 'is American Skipping. Karen Clark brought American Skipping over from America.' In playgrounds all over London little girls could be seen with their heads bent over the fiddling task of joining a packet of elastic bands into a long loop, or going through the dance-like steps of the game, which is as dainty, and in some ways as skilful, as the Scottish sword-dance, and has a similar look.'
        However, when a powerful craze comes over from the United States there is not one point of entry but many. American families coming to London undoubtedly brought the game with them; but so did American Air Force families coming to bases in England and Scotland. For instance, when 'Chinese Ropes' was the rage in Dunoon Grammar School in 1962, about fifty of the girls in the school were from the nearby American Air Force base. 'Chinese Ropes' (or 'Rope', or 'Ropies', or 'Skipping'), reflecting the American name 'Chinese Jump Rope', continued to be the term in Scotland (e.g. Jedburgh, 1972; Glasgow and Paisley, 1975).
        Elastic skipping spread rapidly in 1963-4. There could scarcely have been a junior school playground in Britain where it was not known. 'French Skipping' was now the most usual name in England and Wales, though Londoners remained faithful to 'American Skipping'. (Any foreign name was felt to be appropriate, however: e.g. 'Dutch Skipping' in Liss, 1964; and 'German Skipping' in Bedford, 1966.) By the mid-197os the predominant name was simply 'Elastics', and the game is still, in the 1990s, known by that name. Correspondents followed the game's progress with excitement: a teacher in St Helier, Jersey, said: 'Linda, who sent you "American Skipping" in November [1963] tells me she learnt the game in Hampstead "a few years back"; a parish priest in Workington wrote 'Chinese, or French, skipping went round Workington like wild fire this Easter [1964], and I know that it had hit Liverpool and Preston before last Christmas.' The actions began to vary. The original starting-sequence of lifting one strand a number of times across the other faded away (though remaining in the London version) and the sequence in which the player jumps directly onto the elastic strands became more important and was carried out in different modes, such as 'Bouncy' (with a rebound after each jump), and 'Hopsy' (landing on one foot inside the frame instead of both). A further development was known as 'Diamonds', 'which is really complicated'. The performer crosses the elastic band with her feet and proceeds to jump round inside a 'diamond'. Then she jumps out of the diamond so that both feet finish up outside the rectangle as the elastic is released. Finally, she jumps back into the rectangle. The complete sequence for 'Norwegian Skipping' at Grove, near Wantage, in 1963, was:
        In the early 1960s the enders might chant 'In, out, in, out, In, in, in out' as the jumps were made; but as the game developed, or perhaps as the children grew bored with the game as it was, they began to adorn it with a miscellany of borrowed rhymes: the all-purpose 'Roses are red, Violets are blue' was used (Worsley, Staffordshire, 1969); and some old counting-out rhymes, such as, 'Mary at the cottage gate, Eating cherries off a plate, Two, four, six, eight,' and 'Inky pinky ponky, Daddy bought a donkey, Donkey died, Daddy cried, Inky pinky ponky.' 'Queen, Queen Caroline' was revised: 'Kathy, Kathy, Kathaleen, Washed her hair in ~ Windowlene keeps it clean, Kathy, Kathy Kathaleen' (Montrose, 1974). Other words are: 'Jingle, jangle, centre, spangle, Jingle, jangle, out' (Notting Hill Gate, London, 1976); 'England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, outside, donkeys' tails' (Birmingham, 1977, and other places); and 'When you do "Double Diamond", said a 9-year-old in Dulwich, 'which is when there's one bar up here and the other down there, and it's twisted over and you've got to jump over the twist, there's a special rhyme that advertises beer':

Double Diamond works wonders,
Works wonders, works wonders,
Double Diamond works wonders,
So drink one today.

The strangest rigmarole came from North Hinksey, on the outskirts of Oxford, in 1985: 'Itchy me, star shee, Logo hutsy yutsy. - kill it', and the game was called 'Itchy me'.
        The game reached other countries too. It arrived in Israel in 1960 ('Gummi', Eifermann (1968), 218-20). In Australia it had certainly arrived by 1962, when Ian Turner saw it in Canberra; 'It was called "American Hoppy",' he said, 'then I saw it no more until 1967 lfl Melbourne, when it was called "Elastics".' Subsequently it was reported in Afghanistan, Austria, the Argentine, Germany, Greece, India, Italy ('Elastici'), Kenya, the Netherlands (1962, when it was called 'the English Twist' or 'the Russian Twist'), Norway ('Hoppe strikk', i.e. 'Jump Elastics'), Turkey, and Yugoslavia-so it would be safe to say it had become worldwide.
        When Patricia Carpenter interviewed schoolgirls in Reno, Nevada, in 1964, the 14-17-year-olds had never heard of the game, but the 9-13year-olds said, 'Oh, you mean Chinese Jump Rope, we play it all the time.' A Chinese-American io-year-old, born in Nevada, said 'I learned it from my mother who was born in China'; and another io-year-old, new in Nevada from California, said 'I learned it from a very old Chinese lady who said she used to play it in the alleys in China.' It seemed that 'Chinese Jump Rope' really did come from the Orient.
        A correspondent of ours played 'Chinese Skipping' out in Hong Kong in 1956, at an army school and also after school with Chinese children. Another correspondent, who was in Beijing in 1963-4, said the game was so popular there that 'you couldn't walk along the street without seeing it'. She was told that it had come to north China during the time of the Japanese occupation, 1938-45. Another correspondent, who had lived in Tokyo for many years, tried to find out whether elastic skipping was known in Japan before 1938. She said (August 1976):

I have yet to find anyone over 60 who knows the game. People in their forties and younger seem to know it as a matter of course, and it appears to have been played to the rhythm of many different popular songs over the past few decades. One contemporary of mine, born in Nagasaki in 1940, recalls being a 'nuisance' when her elder sisters were playing it, before the end of the war. The song they sang was a rather jingoistic battle air, left over from the Russo-Japanese conflict. Another song current in the northern Kanto district in the 1950S was more fanciful, something about a golden carriage with silver bells.

This still does not prove whether the game began in Japan or China, and although our earliest evidence is from China, from someone who played the game in Shanghai in 1935, it was tempered by the remark that 'the Japanese had already begun to infiltrate then'. It almost seems
as if the game sprang up simultaneously in both countries in the mid-1930s.
        In their traditional games, Oriental children need agile feet as well as dextrous hands (in their game of kicking a shuttlecock, for instance). A game called 'Awakening Giant', similar in appearance to elastic skipping, was glimpsed briefly in a television film on China ('made recently', March 1975). Two children squatted about 6 feet apart, with a rope in each hand. They crossed hands while a third child jumped in and out of the ropes. Once the rope was trodden on, the giant awoke, the child fled, and it was someone else's turn. The game was said to have been played by old Chinese ladies in their youth. Another game is played with bamboo sticks, and is known to have been brought to the USA and Great Britain by Philippino immigrants, though descriptions are tantalizingly few. Two long bamboo sticks are laid parallel on the ground, and two similar sticks are laid across them, also parallel. The ends of the topmost sticks are held by two people, crouching or kneeling, who tap them alternately onto the lower sticks and against each other, in time to music. Two dancers move in and out of the moving sticks, and if they are caught between the sticks as they close together, they are out. These two games probably represent the tradition that engendered elastic skipping.

'Windowlene' is the window-cleaning fluid made by Reckitt & Colman, Hull.


From Children's Games With Things, Iona & Peter Opie, 1997 (Oxford University Press)