[Ads-l] monkey in the middle (1952)

Margaret Winters mewinters at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Jan 27 12:46:05 UTC 2020

Even when it was played "seriously" back then and not to make life hard for someone, there was a feeling of stress (desperation is too strong a word) if you were "it" and had to run.  I remember it but certainly not as a favorite game.


Former Provost
Professor Emerita - French and Linguistics
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI  48202

mewinters at wayne.edu

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2020 12:51 AM
Subject: Re: monkey in the middle (1952)

I do not like the memories this brings up in me.

I knew the expression all too well as a schoolboy in New York in the 1960s.
After school some of my classmates would play this "game" (also called
"keep-away") with my hat or other possession snatched from me, yelling
"Monkey in the middle!" as they threw my property to each other over my
head and I ran frantically between them, trying in vain to reach one of
them before they could throw it out of my reach.


On Sun, Jan 26, 2020, 6:08 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> The children's game "monkey in the middle" is in OED3 (Sept. 2002 update)
> from 1980. Here are some cites from New Jersey newspapers in the '50s.
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/43065809/monkey_in_the_middle/
> Belleville (NJ) Times, July 24, 1952, p. 6, col. 6
> Mrs. Virtue, one of our directors, made up some five bean bags, and taught
> us the game "monkey in the middle." It sure has had great success and is
> enjoyed by youngsters of all ages.
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/43065650/monkey_in_the_middle/
> Verona-Cedar Grove (NJ) Times, July 28, 1955, p. 2, col. 5
> Despite the heat wave the children seemed to have quite an active week on
> the Forest Avenue playground. Although checkers, kings, Chinese checkers.
> Mad Maze, Lucky Shot and horseshoes were the most popular, there were still
> some badminton, softball, dodge ball, spud and Monkey in the Middle games.
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/43053896/monkey_in_the_middle/
> Courier-News (Plainfield, NJ), June 11, 1957, p. 25, col. 1
> More than 200 children and their parents participated in the annual picnic
> and field day of the Hebrew Institute held Sunday at Green Brook Park...
> Awards in games were as follows: Relay -- Jay Cherlow, Jack Ruden, Larry
> Sletzinger, Joel Taub, Jonathan Lippman, Mark Hitzig, Marilyn Siegel; nut
> potato race, Jay Lichtenstein; Monkey in the Middle, Joy Herzog... [etc.]
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/43059206/monkey_in_the_middle/
> The Millburn & Short Hills (NJ) Item, July 11, 1957, p. 6, col. 4
> The middle age group have a variety of games: volley ball, relay races
> (which are very exciting), giant steps, monkey in the middle, red light,
> red rover, and checkers. The wee ones have two favorite games, which they
> play constantly: Simon Says, and Duck, Duck, Goose.
> ---
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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