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

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Vol. XVI, No. 2, Summer, 1960

Eugenia L. Millard

UNLIKE the nicety of language traditionally employed among Australian children who prefer, “You are HE,” or “Who shall be SHE?” our slightly less precise youngsters still shout, “You’re IT,” to the companion who is selected to fulfill the leader’s rôle in their play practices. In New York State the neuter pronoun is customarily used in the predicate, “Let’s choose IT.” The designation does not necessarily infer that the child selected to be IT takes on a disagreeable duty. Rather, the children generally prefer what they believe to be fair and impartial methods of allowing one member of their group to serve as starter for their combined pleasure. This preference, moreover, may be boldly associated with play customs the world around, whether here in the Empire State or “Down Under” makes little difference.

There are various methods among our children for determining who shall have the distinction of being IT in their games. Not infrequently the child who speaks up first, thus showing his initiative as a leader in his group, takes upon himself the responsibility. Drawing straws, tossing coins, or choosing between objects concealed in two hands are often satisfactory ways of selection. Such means of choosing a leader may be carried out quickly and are resorted to when the participants of the game are anxiously waiting for action to begin. The time-tested procedure, however, is that of using a wide variety of popular counting-out rhymes, a term which the children themselves rarely use. By this means the players perform a kind of ritual, the result of which is binding upon all concerned....

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