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Pass the parcel

March 15th, 2004 · 3 Comments

Via Anita Rowland I learned that the phrase pass the parcel is on the OED Appeals list:

Words or phrases which appear on the Appeals List are those currently being drafted or revised for the Oxford English Dictionary for which the documentary evidence is incomplete.

I hadn’t heard or played pass the parcel until last month. Each week or so, I get together with a couple other friends who also homeschool their children. One of the other moms is Australian, and in honor of her daughter’s birthday, she played pass the parcel with the kids. It reminded me of other childhood games, a little like what might happen if the games of musical chairs and pinata got married: While music plays, the children pass around a large bulky parcel. Whenever the music stops, whoever is holding the parcel is allowed to unwrap one layer and discover whatever treat is beneath the paper. The game is continued until the layers of paper and parcel have been unwrapped completely. It was fun! The girls are still talking about it.

So far, the OED has evidence for pass the parcel up to 1968 – if anyone has any evidence prior to that date, there is an email address on the site. For me, I can only antedate it to 2004! Now I’m wondering what other fun games and phrases I’ve yet to learn….

Here are some other words on the OED Appeals List – some that were familiar and some that I’d never heard…and I find myself wondering what?!

there is a rotten/bad apple in every barrel:
antedate 1971

granny-sit v.:
antedate 1979

antedate 1964

moose milk (Canad., = alcoholic drinks):
antedate 1957

nutcake (mad person):
antedate 1967

one potato, two potato:
antedate 1963

termiting n. (the extraction of termites for food):
antedate 1968

wife-beater (sleeveless T-shirt, vest):
antedate 1997

Tags: news

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 15, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    I played “pass the parcel” many times growing up attending a British primary [elementary] school in Switzerland. Some of the better times included a small prize inside every layer of wrapping so everyone could get at least something. We also played “musical bumps,” “musical statues,” and “musical chairs.”

  • 2 Julie // Mar 16, 2004 at 12:54 am

    Would you mind explaining “musical bumps” and “musical statues”? Do you play these games with your kids? Just curious….thanks!

  • 3 Katherine // Mar 16, 2004 at 11:25 am

    Musical bumps: play music on a stereo, the kids dance. Stop the music, the kids have to sit on the floor as fast as they can (hence the bumps!). Last one on the floor withdraws from the game. Repeat until one winner left.

    Musical statues: same thing, but when music stops, kids freeze. If anyone moves, they’re out, until one winner left.

    No, I don’t play this with my kids. You need a lot of kids. Also it’s kind of sad for the first one to get out, so you need kids old enough to be brave and strong about that.