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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 27 15:07:08 UTC 2020

Hunh.  For me, b. 1945 NYC, growing up in Washington Heights, there were not two versions of a single game, but two very different “games”. The actual game was Monkey-in-the-MIddle (aka Keepaway).  The one where you (not me) take something from a younger or vulnerable kid (sometimes me), perhaps a hat or a baseball glove, and pass it back and forth among your confederates, was Saluggi.  At least that’s how I’d spell it, given what I remember about its pronunciation at the time.  So you could say “Let’s play Monkey-in-the-MIddle/Keepaway, I’ll be it”.  But you could not, in the early to mid 1950s, call “Let’s play Saluggi, I’ll be it”.  Barring clinical masochism, I suppose, but we didn’t know from that.


> On Jan 27, 2020, at 7:48 AM, Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU> wrote:
> 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.
> Geoff
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
> http://blogs.wayne.edu/proftech/
> 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)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> 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
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