I cleep, you cleep, he cleeps

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sat Sep 18 15:31:56 UTC 2010

I doubt that this is a survival of the old verb.

It seems more likely to me that it is a variant of (or even a typo for)
"creep." After all the captains are slowing advancing, or creeping, toward
one another. Does this usage appear in any other sources?

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Joel S. Berson
Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 10:57 AM
Subject: Re: I cleep, you cleep, he cleeps

At 9/18/2010 09:31 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>It's still notable that this old word would have survived in the U.
>S. into the mid 19th C.;

The survival is notable.  But I wonder whether it did so in the
U.S.  The book was apparently first published in England.

>also: the sense of the word had shifted from "calling" the names of
>the boys the captain wants on his side,
>to that odd process of deciding which captain gets to call first.

I was uncertain about a shift in sense.  Did the writer mean that the
cleeping was the "tossing of the feet" to decide which captain chose
first?  Or did he mean what followed -- the calling out of the chosen
ones for one's team?

To me the process doesn't sound much odder for boys who didn't own a
bat than the one of my youth:  One captain placed his fist around a
bat at some random point; the other his fist next to the first, and
so on.  The one whose fist reached the end, preventing the other from
grasping the bat, chose first.  But I confess the bat method always
did seem a little odd to me -- tossing a coin would be faster, and
less liable to chiseling.  (A sly lad might gauge the remaining
distance and place his fist a little apart from the other's, or
attempt to push the other's back a bit.)

But perhaps impecunious lads didn't have pennies to toss, just as
English lads would not have had a baseball bat -- although they might
have had a quarterstaff.


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