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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Summer 1960

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XVI, No. 2, Summer, 1960

COUNTING-OUT CUSTOMS OF AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN
Dorothy Howard

THE term “counting-out,” naming and describing the process and devices by which children decide—by selection or elimination—a player for a specific part in a game, may now belong or soon belong only to archeologists. The title of this article is a misnomer, a concession to academicians; for, actually, during my ten months association with Australian children, I heard no child use the term or show any knowledge of it. Australian grandparents with whom I talked and exchanged letters were familiar with the term, but their grandchildren apparently had no general name for the practice. “Tell me a counting-out rhyme,” I would say to a child, only to receive a blank stare. Yet when I began chanting, “One potato, two potato,” he chanted with me and continued chanting. “One potato,” not “counting-out,” was the magic key that unlocked a door of understanding between us.

The terminology for the “It” (or “He”) position in children’s games “Down Under” varied from state to state and from community to community I observed. In fact, the word “It” was rarely heard. The most prevalent word in all the states was “He” (You must go He). In one Sydney (New South Wales) community the favorite word was “IN” (You must go IN). In St. Helens, Tasmania, the general word was “Master”; although in other parts of Tasmania “Master” named a specific position in a specific game, I heard “It” not once in the whole of Victoria; only occasionally in Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia; more often in Queensland and Western Australia than elsewhere, but never superceding “He” in popularity.....





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