Go(ld) Fish!

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Mon Aug 2 07:31:28 UTC 1999

Greg Pulliam wrote:
> At this moment my 17-year-old stepdaughter and my 9-year-old son (who
> have lived in Chicago for six years) are arguing with my 14-year-old
> stepson (who has lived in Pittsburgh for two years) and a 17-year-old
> family friend (who grew up in Boston).  The issue:  is the card game
> "Go Fish!" as believed fervently by the former, or "Goldfish!" as
> embraced just as strongly by the latter?
> I have told them that it is likely that they are both right, but that
> I would submit the question to this list for confirmation or denial.
> It looks like _Goldfish_ is an eastern phenomenon, while _Go Fish_ is
> the midwestern version, but is this really the case?


My answer is based on an extensive, or even exhaustive, study of
families with experience of the game.  Interviews included both
discussions with and observations of interacton networks centered
successively on each family member. (Let me add that I did not undertake
this  study lightly, much less voluntarily.  Our two sons forced me into
playing the game almost past the point of endurance.  Teaching them to
play gin rummy alleviated the problem to some extent, but the eventual
cure required introducing them to poker before their agemates learned
that poker is a game of skill, not chance.)

I tried to develop my data into a more general article ("Non-Euclidean
parallels DO intersect: pish/fish and pish/piss", Salovesh n.d.), but as
our sons grew up they forced my concerns to shift to other topics. I
showed a preliminary draft of what I had to colleagues. When they
pointed out the possibility that my survey suffered from a
methodological weakness, I put the project aside and hve not been able
to return to it.  (Their suggestion was that critical readers might feel
more comfortable if my sample of families had an n > 1.  Unfortunately,
budgetary consolidation ruled out the possibility of a grant to finance
either a second spouse/auxiliary concubine or a suitable number of
children to adopt.)

FWIW, and on the basis of my limited sample, I believe that your
hypothesis may well have some grounding in fact. All participants in my
sample are Midwestern (Chicago oriented) in residence and affiliation.
All of them, without exception, call the game "go fish".  None of them
ever heard of anyone who knew how to play the game calling it
"goldfish". (Most acquaintances of the sample recognize and respond to
an abbreviated form, "fish", in place of "go  fish".)

An older member of the sample has a vague recollection of a similar game
known to his grandparents.  That game is called "pishe paysha".
Considered in isolation, the game's name might be explained as another
instance of the initial consonant shift from voiceless bilabial to
voiceless dental fricative, as in Latin pater/English father. Further
elicitation produced the fact that "pishe paysha" is derived from
Yiddish.  The apparent parallelism in the initial consonants of Yiddish
pishe/English fish to Latin pisces/english fish can only be viewed as
accidental, not systematic.  The proof is found in the second element of
Yiddish "gefilte fish", a term which antedates by far the relatively
recent "pishe paysha".  (I ignore, for the moment, the dialectal variant
"gefulte fisk".)

--  mike salovesh             <salovesh at niu.edu>        PEACE !!!

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