clapping games

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Most are played by two girls standing face to face and clapping their own and each others' hands in a set pattern and in time with a chanted or sung text. To the uninitiated, the process seems dextrous and complex, but the movements are relatively few and repetitive and can be picked up quite quickly. Most junior school girls in England will know a half a dozen clapping games, and the overall repertoire is not large, perhaps 20 to 30. The more innovative, however, will adapt other rhymes if necessary. Clapping games were certainly known in earlier periods but seem to have lost favour from about 1900 to after the Second World War. Since then they have enjoyed a renaissance, probably under American influence, and are now an integral part of the playground game repertoire.

An example of a clapping rhyme isHave you ever, ever, ever, in your long-legged lifeSeen a long-legged sailor with a long-legged wife.No, I've never, ever, ever, in my long-legged lifeSeen a long-legged sailor with a long-legged wife.

(Successive verses replace ‘long-legged’ with ‘knock-kneed’, ‘bow-legged’, etc.)

Opie and Opie, 1985.

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