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

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Jan 27 12:48:22 UTC 2020

Like Margaret and Mark I remember the quote game unquote, and not with fondness. I only remember
the malicious version, and I, being the nerdy kid, was usually the victim. Again, early sixties.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
geoffnathan at wayne.edu

From: Mark Mandel<mailto:markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2020 12:52 AM
Subject: Re: monkey in the middle (1952)

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
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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