The Dozens

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jul 14 21:06:37 UTC 2006

On 7/14/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
> When I was a kid in St. Louis, "playing the dozens" didn't necessarily
> apply to the classic form of the game. The usual terms, as I knew them
> in the '50's were:
> Front [someone] off
> Square [someone] off
> Jone with [someone]
> Play with [someone]
> Sound on [someone]
> Sound [someone] down

According to Labov's 1972 article "Rules for Ritual Insults" (in
_Studies in Social Interaction_ and _Language in the Inner City_),
"sounding" was the most common term for the dozens in NYC usage.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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