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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 27 18:39:04 UTC 2020

> On Jan 27, 2020, at 1:25 PM, Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> My demographics for this are close to Laurence's in space though later in
> time: Manhattan, Upper West Side, circa 80s-90s (West *n*th Streets, not
> decades; those were early sixties for me), including where I lived and the
> K-12 school I attended, both in the first block from Central Park West.
> Also, like Laurence, a group of boys only, with me as the nerdy victim.
> Now that you mention it, Wilson, I do remember the name "Saluggi", though
> it was a long time till I learned a way to spell it. There are several;
> Barry Popik, an indefatigable and reliable investigator of word and
> expression histories (as I'm sure you all know), has an article about it on
> his website at
> https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/salugi_or_saloogie.
> Saluggi's, I find, is the name of a restaurant/pizzeria in New York with a
> couple of locations (http://www.saluggis.com), but I haven't seen anything
> on their website about the name itself, and the "game" is probably much,
> much older than the chain.
> Mark Mandel

Thanks for the link, Mark.  I strongly support the details provided by Barry et al., including the applicability of terminology like “torture”, “victim”, “torment”, and “humiliation”.

The 1964 Gilbert Rogin cite from Barry’s entry is especially apposite:

"Salugi, by the way, is more a kind of urban torture than a sport. One kid grabs something—say a hat or a glove—belonging to another kid, hereinafter and with good reason referred to as the victim, and cries, "Salugi!" He then tosses it to a third kid who relays it to a fourth, fifth or sixth—any number can play. While they blithely fling it among themselves, the victim tries to reclaim it. No score is kept, since the success of a game of salugi is measured only by the degree of the victim's humiliation.”

I’d forgotten to mention the essential cry of “Salug(g)i” that accompanies each toss of the object out of the victim’s reach, another essential difference from “keep away” and “monkey in the middle”.  

The comments suggest that there was no isogloss coextensive with Manhattan, but (as with many lexical items, chaque mot having son histoire), the distribution was somewhat irregular.  I don’t have any views about the proposed etymology.  


> On Mon, Jan 27, 2020, 10:27 AM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>> On Jan 27, 2020, at 10:24 AM, Margaret Winters <mewinters at WAYNE.EDU>
>> wrote:
>>> I'm pretty sure we didn't have anything called "Saluggi" - but I'm
>> remembering about a decade later, Brooklyn instead of Washington Heights,
>> maybe just for boys…??
>> Our group was indeed just boys, but I don’t know if there was a crucial
>> gender divide. My previous dialectological inquiries (i.e. asking random
>> people my age who grew up in NYC) do suggest a localized use within
>> Manhattan extending to the east side as well as Washington Heights, but I
>> don’t have enough data points to propose an isogloss.
>>> ----------------------------
>>> Former Provost
>>> Professor Emerita - French and Linguistics
>>> Wayne State University
>>> Detroit, MI  48202
>> ________________________________
>>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
>> Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>> Sent: Monday, January 27, 2020 10:07 AM
>>> 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.
>>> LH
>>>> 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
>>>> 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)
>> ----------------------
>>>> 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.
>>>> MAM
>>>> 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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