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29 Games Nobody Plays Anymore

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You’ve played blind man’s bluff and hide-and-go-seek. You have Marco Poloed, hot potatoed, and I-Spied. But you’ve probably never had to pull a peg out of the ground with your teeth because your knife wasn’t as sharp as the others, or tried to knock a metal plate into a basin with the dregs of your drink. Here are 29 games you won't recognize, because no one plays them any more.

1. ABLE-WHACKETS (1700s-1800s)

Able-whackets is a card game that was “very popular with horny-fisted salts,” according to The Sailors Word Book (1867). Although its rules are lost, what we do know is that the loser of each round would be whacked over the knuckles with a tightly-knotted handkerchief.

2. ARE YOU THERE, MORIARTY? (1800s-early 1900s)

Two players are blindfolded, given a rolled-up newspaper, and made to kneel down opposite one other. The first player asks, “Are you there, Moriarty?” to which his or her opponent replies, “Yes sir, I am here!” Player 1 then has to try and blindly hit Player 2 with the newspaper, judging where he is only by the sound of his voice. Player 2 can try to dodge the blow, but his knees must remain in place at all times.

3. BANDY-WICKET (1700s-1800s)

As well as being the name of a winter sport similar to ice hockey, a bandy is an L-shaped or J-shaped wooden bat. Bandy-wicket was an 18th century form of cricket played with bandies rather than cricket bats.

4. BARLEY-BREAK (1500s-1600s)

Three couples are each allotted to one of three squares drawn in a row on the floor. At the word “go,” the couple in the center square—referred to as “prison” or “Hell”—must try and catch one of the other two couples. All three couples must remain holding hands throughout the game, but the two couples being chased can split up and change partners at any time to avoid being caught. (Jacobean playwrights, incidentally, also liked to use barley-break as a euphemism for sex.)

5. BLOWPOINT (mid 1500s-1600s)

Blowpoint probably involved players using a peashooter to fire wooden or paper darts at a numbered target (or else at each other), although some later descriptions suggest it was a form of archery in which arrows were shot through a hollow log at a target.

6. BUBBLE THE JUSTICE (1780s)

Bubble the justice was an 18th century version of a much earlier game called “nine holes,” in which players would take turns bowling a metal ball along a wooden board with nine numbered holes or “pockets” drilled into it. The aim was either to land your ball in each hole in numerical order, or to simply to score as many points as possible. It was renamed bubble the justice as this was one of only a few games not outlawed in a clampdown on games in London taverns in the late 1700s.

7. CHICKEN-HAZARD (1700s-1800s)

Hazard was a complicated Medieval English dice-throwing game. Chicken-hazard was a low-stakes version that became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

8. COCK-A-ROOSTY (early 1800s)

One player is chosen as “it” and stands opposite all of the other players, who are lined up on one side of a road in their “den.” One by one, each player in the den has to try and get past “it” to reach “home,” on the other side of the road. Oh, and everyone has to stand or hop on one leg the entire time.

9. COTTABUS (Ancient Greece)

Cottabus was a popular game among young men at Ancient Greek drinking parties. Although there were numerous different versions, the basics were always the same: players tossed the dregs of their drink at a metal basin, above which was mounted a loose plate or dish. The aim was simply to knock the plate into the basin with the wine, but men playing the game would often shout out their girlfriends’ names at the same time and the louder the sound of the plate landing in the basin, the better the relationship was deemed to be.

10. FOX-IN-THY-HOLE (Tudor England)

One player is the “fox,” whose job it is to catch all of the other players, who are “chickens.” As soon as a chicken is caught, the fox takes him back to his den where he too becomes a fox. The last chicken to be caught becomes the fox in the next round.

11. GRAND TRICK-TRACK (1700s)

Grand trick-track was apparently an even more complicated variant of chess that emerged in France in the 1700s. Its rules are lengthy and convoluted, but if you have an afternoon to spare you can find out how to play in The Compleat Gamester, 5th Edition (1725)

12. HIJINKS (late 1600s-1700s)

Its name has come to be synonymous with “shenanigans” or “tomfoolery,” but hijinks or high jinks was originally a drinking game popular in Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Players would roll a die, and either the lowest scoring player or the first player to roll a designated number would have to take a drink or else pay some kind of humiliating forfeit.

13. HONEY-POTS (1800s)

One player rolls himself up into as tight a ball as possible. The other players then have to pick him up and carry him, as if he were a jar of honey being taken home from market.

14. HOT COCKLES (c.1300-1800s)

One player is blindfolded and made to kneel on the floor with his head in another player’s lap and his hands held, palms outwards, behind his back. The other players then take it in turns to strike his hands, one at a time, and the kneeler has to guess which of the other players has hit him.

15. JINGO-RING (1800s)

An early 19th century dancing game from Scotland in which a circle of girls, all holding hands or linking arms, would dance around another girl in the center, singing, “Here we go the jingo-ring, the jingo-ring, the jingo-ring! Here we go the jingo-ring! About the merry-ma-tanzie."

16. JOHN BULL (1700s)

An old English pub game in which players would take it in turns tossing coins or stones onto a four-by-four grid of squares, randomly numbered from 1-16, in an effort to score as many points as possible.

17. KING ARTHUR (late 1500s-1600s)

Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) lists a game called King Arthur that was played by sailors in the 16th and 17th centuries. According to Grose, one crew member would play “King Arthur,” and would customarily be dressed up in ridiculous robes and made to wear a wig made of old rope. The King would be sat beside a tub of water, and one by one all the other members of the crew would be ceremoniously introduced to him and then made to pour a bucket of water over this head with the words, “Hail King Arthur!” As Grose explains, “If during this ceremony the person introduced laughs or smiles (to which his majesty endeavours to excite him, by all sorts of ridiculous gesticulations), he changes place with, and then becomes, King Arthur.”

18. KING CAESAR (Tudor England)

Hopping on one foot, the “King” must chase down all the other players and tap them on the head. As soon as they are hit, they become one of the King’s “subjects” and can help him catch the rest of the players, but they too have to stand on one foot. The last player to be caught becomes the next King.

19. LOGGITS (Tudor England)

As mentioned in Hamlet (“Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggits with them?”), loggits was an old Tudor game in which a stick would be pushed vertically into the ground as a target. Players would then take it in turns to throw smaller sticks towards it, and whoever managed to land theirs the closest won. Loggits was one of a number of games banned by Henry VIII in 1542 out of concern that it would distract his soldiers from military practice; the same statute banned quoits, all card and dice games, and even tennis.

20. MILKING CROMOCK (1500s-1618)

The only thing we know about milking cromock is that it was a gambling game popular in pubs and taverns in Tudor England. And we only know that because it was one of a number of games listed by name in a 1618 directive that made playing it illegal.

21. MOULD-MY-COCKLE-BREAD (1600s)

According to the 17th century writer John Aubrey, Mould-my-cockle-bread was a “wanton sport” that was once played by young women in northern England. As Aubrey explains, the women would “get upon a table-board, and then gather up their knees and their coats with their hands as high as they can, and then they wobble to and fro with their buttocks, as if they were kneading of dough with their arses.” There doesn’t seem to have been much point to the whole thing, but there was a rhyme should you want to try it out: “My dame is sick and gone to bed, And I’ll go mould my cockle-bread. Up with my heels and down with my head, and this is the way to mould cockle bread.”

22. MUMBLETY-PEG (1600s-?1960s)

The earliest description of mumblety-peg dates back to 1627, while more recent accounts suggest it was still being played as recently as the 1960s. The game involves players throwing knives into the ground, blade first, either aiming at a target or aiming just to propel the knife into the earth as deeply as possible. In the earliest versions of the game, the loser would be made to pull a wooden peg out of the ground with his teeth, hence the name.

23. PAPSE (Medieval England)

The only thing we know about papse is that it was popular in the Medieval England, and the loser was hit over the head.

24. PLUCK AT THE CROW (1500s)

Pluck at the crow was a Scottish children’s game, the only point of which seems to have been to tug and pull at someone’s clothes as much as possible. It dates from the reign of Henry VIII, but there are no records of it later than 1570.

25. SHAKING IN THE SHALLOW (late 1700s)

The “shallow” in question here was a type of hat popular in England in the 18th century, and all that we know about shaking in the shallow is that it was a dice game that presumably involved players rolling the dice around inside the hat.

26. SNAP-DRAGON (1500s-late 1800s)

The aim of snap-dragon was to pick a raisin out of a bowl of burning brandy as quickly as possible without being burned yourself. Although it dates back to Tudor times (Shakespeare mentions it in several of his plays), it became a particularly popular party game at Christmas in Victorian England.

27. SPARROW-MUMBLING (1700s)

According to Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), mumble-the-sparrow was “a cruel sport practiced at wakes” (that’s old village festivals, not funerals) which involved a player, with his hands tied behind his back, trying to bite off the head of a live sparrow that had been placed inside a hat. Thankfully, the player would only ever succeed in being repeatedly bitten and pecked on the face by “the enraged bird”, which would either then be set free or kept as a pet. A later variation of the same game, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, involved holding one of the sparrow’s wings in the mouth, and then “attempting to draw in its head by movement of the lips.”

28. TAMBAROORA (1880s-mid 1900s)

Named for a town in New South Wales, Tambaroora is an Australian drinking game dating from the late 19th century. Players place a token amount of money (originally sixpence) into a hat, and then take three turns rolling a die. The player (known as the “nut”) who scores the highest collects the money in the hat, buys all of the players a round of drinks, and keeps any left over cash for himself.

29. UP JENKINS (1800s-mid 1900s)

Two teams sit opposite each other at a table with their hands kept under it, out of sight. One member of one team secretly hides a coin or a button in one of their hands. The captain of the opposing team then shouts “Up Jenkins!” and the team who are hiding the coin have to place their hands, palms downward, onto the table. Their opponents then have to guess who is hiding the coin under their hand; if they’re correct they win a point, but if they’re incorrect, their opponents take the point.

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11 Things We Learned About Hedy Lamarr From Bombshell
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At the height of her fame in the 1940s, Hedy Lamarr was hailed as the most beautiful face in Hollywood. Her roles in films like Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and Samson and Delilah (1949) made her a household name, but the work she did off-screen reflected a completely different side of the glamorous Hollywood A-lister. She helped develop frequency hopping technology in an effort to aid the Allied Forces during World War II. Her invention would eventually become the basis for sophisticated military gear, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, but it wasn’t until 1990 that her accomplishments were recognized in a story for Forbes.

Now, decades later, the original audio recording from that Forbes interview has been unearthed. Lamarr’s story in her own words is featured in Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a new documentary written and directed by Alexandra Dean, which details the life of the icon. Here are 11 things we learned about Lamarr from the film, which is in theaters now.

1. SHE WAS AN INVENTOR FROM AN EARLY AGE.

Born in Austria in 1914 as Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler, Hedy’s urge to tinker was evident early on. According to her son, Anthony Loder, she showed an interest in technology at age five. “She took an old-fashioned music box apart and put it back together again,” he said. As she grew older, Lamarr became more curious and her inventions grew more ambitious.

2. HER FAVORITE SUBJECT WAS CHEMISTRY.

As a student at a private school in Vienna, Lamarr enjoyed mixing together materials in her chemistry class. Many years later she told Forbes journalist Fleming Meeks that she was quite good at it. But instead of furthering her education, Lamarr pursued a career in cinema as a teenager.

3. HITLER BANNED HER FIRST FILM.

Portrait of artist Hedy Lamarr.
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Hedy received her first acting credit in the Czech-Austrian romance Ecstasy (1933). The film was controversial for its day, and Hedy’s performance caused the biggest stir: In the movie she appears nude and simulates what was likely the first female orgasm in a feature film. But the risque content wasn’t Hitler’s reason for condemning the film: He told the U.S. press he banned it because the lead actress was Jewish.

4. SHE NEGOTIATED A HIGHER SALARY FROM MGM.

As Jewish actors and actresses were fleeing the Nazis, Louis B. Mayer of MGM came to Europe with the plan to sign some of them to his studio for a cheap price. When he met Hedy he said he was willing to pay her $125 a week, an offer she immediately refused. “She said, ‘I’m sorry that’s not good enough’ and walked out," said Richard Rhodes, author of the biography Hedy’s Folly. “People didn’t usually turn down Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.” But Hedy wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away from her. She booked passage to America on the same ship Mayer was taking. Once on board, she put on her most becoming dress and jewelry and walked through the dining hall, making sure she passed Mayer’s table on the way. “I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but all of a sudden I got $500 every week,” Hedy said.

5. LOUIS B. MAYER’S WIFE CHOSE HER LAST NAME.

After persuading Hedy to work with him, Mayer decided she needed a new name to match her Hollywood persona. His wife Margaret suggested she take the name of her favorite silent film star Barbara La Marr. The last name also sounds like the French word for the sea (la mer), adding to its romantic appeal.

6. SHE WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR SNOW WHITE.


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The first Disney princess Snow White was modeled on Lamarr’s classic beauty. That’s not the only iconic cartoon she inspired. Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger said they referred to the actress when creating Catwoman.

7. SHE DATED JOHN F. KENNEDY.

In addition to her six husbands, Lamarr dated plenty of famous men. She even saw John F. Kennedy for a brief period before he became president. Lamarr described the conversation leading up to their date: “He said, ‘What can I bring you?’ I said oranges, because I like vitamin C.”

8. HER INVENTION COULD HAVE CHANGED THE WAR.

Even as she rose to stardom, Lamarr never forgot the war ravaging her home continent. One issue she learned of concerned the U.S. Navy. The torpedoes shot from American submarines were controlled by radio waves, but German forces were jamming the signals before the weapons reached their targets. Hedy came up with a solution: Make radio signals impossible to detect by sending them through rapidly-changing frequencies. “It was so obvious,” she said. “They shot torpedoes in all directions and never hit the target so I invented something that does.”

She dubbed her invention “frequency hopping.” She collaborated with her friend and famous pianist George Antheil to work the concept into a usable design. They successfully applied for a patent, but unfortunately weren’t able to get the Navy to take the idea seriously during World War II.

9. SHE SENT HER BODY DOUBLE TO COURT IN HER PLACE.


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The day Lamarr was set to testify in court over her divorce from her fifth husband, Howard Lee, her son got into a serious car accident. “Stressed and traumatized to the point of breakdown, she sent her Hollywood body double to testify in her place,” Rhodes said. This angered the judge so much that he slashed her share of the divorce settlement.

10. SHE HATED HER BOOK.

Hedy Lamarr’s 1966 autobiography Ecstasy and Me was written by a ghost writer. “Hedy’s manager was allegedly paid to get her to sign off on what turned out to be a salacious tell-all,” Bombshell producer Adam Haggiag said. “It focused on her sexuality and made her the butt of a joke.” Hedy had planned to write a more authentic version of her life story, but she died without publishing a second book.

11. SHE WAS NEVER PAID FOR HER INVENTION.

Though it was shelved at first, frequency hopping turned out to be hugely influential. The early technology can be seen in GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military satellites today, and the total market value of the invention is estimated to be about $30 billion. But Lamarr was never paid for her contribution. In 1969, she learned that her designs had become widespread in Navy vessels. There’s evidence that the military used her patent before it expired, but by the time she became aware of this her window to sue them had already passed. While she wasn’t compensated, Lamarr did eventually receive the recognition she deserved for her work. In 2014, she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Her son Anthony said, “She would love to be remembered as someone who contributed to the well-being of humankind.”

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A Brief History of Black Friday
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The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season is often referred to as the busiest shopping day of the year. But where did this tradition start and just how big is it? Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about Black Friday. Hopefully they'll give you some good talking points tomorrow, when you line up outside Best Buy at 4 a.m.

HOW DID BLACK FRIDAY BECOME SUCH A BIG SHOPPING DAY?

It's hard to say when the day after Thanksgiving turned into a retail free-for-all, but it probably dates back to the late 19th century. At that time, store-sponsored Thanksgiving parades were common, and once Santa Claus showed up at the end of the parade, the holiday shopping season had officially commenced.

In those days, most retailers adhered to an unwritten rule that holiday shopping season didn't start until after Thanksgiving, so no stores would advertise holiday sales or aggressively court customers until the Friday immediately following the holiday. Thus, when the floodgates opened that Friday, it became a huge deal.

SO RETAILERS WERE ALWAYS HOPING FOR AN EARLY THANKSGIVING?

You bet. They weren't just hoping, though; they were being proactive about it. In 1939, the Retail Dry Goods Association warned Franklin Roosevelt that if the holiday season wouldn't begin until after Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on the traditional final Thursday in November, retail sales would go in the tank. Ever the iconoclast, Roosevelt saw an easy solution to this problem: he moved Thanksgiving up by a week. Instead of celebrating the holiday on its traditional day—November 30th that year—Roosevelt declared the next-to-last Thursday in November to be the new Thanksgiving, instantly tacking an extra week onto the shopping season.

BRILLIANT! HOW DID THAT WORK OUT?

Not so well. Roosevelt didn't make the announcement until late October, and by then most Americans had already made their holiday travel plans. Many rebelled and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on its "real" date while derisively referring to the impostor holiday as "Franksgiving." State governments didn't know which Thanksgiving to observe, so some of them took both days off. In short, it was a bit of a mess.

By 1941, though, the furor had died down, and Congress passed a law that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, regardless of how it affected the shopping day that would become known as Black Friday.

WHY CALL IT BLACK FRIDAY?

If you ask most people why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, they'll explain that the name stems from retailers using the day's huge receipts as their opportunity to "get in the black" and become profitable for the year. The first recorded uses of the term "Black Friday" are a bit less rosy, though.

According to researchers, the name "Black Friday" dates back to Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. The Friday in question is nestled snugly between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game that's played in Philadelphia on the following Saturday, so the City of Brotherly Love was always bustling with activity on that day. All of the people were great for retailers, but they were a huge pain for police officers, cab drivers, and anyone who had to negotiate the city's streets. They started referring to the annual day of commercial bedlam as "Black Friday" to reflect how irritating it was.

SO WHERE DID THE WHOLE "GET IN THE BLACK" STORY ORIGINATE?

Apparently store owners didn't love having their biggest shopping day saddled with such a negative moniker, so in the early 1980s someone began floating the accounting angle to put a more positive spin on the big day.

DO RETAILERS REALLY NEED BLACK FRIDAY TO TURN AN ANNUAL PROFIT?

Major retailers don't; they're generally profitable—or at least striving for profitability—throughout the entire year. (A company that turned losses for three quarters out of every fiscal year wouldn't be a big hit with investors.) Some smaller outlets may parlay big holiday season sales into annual profits, though.

IS BLACK FRIDAY REALLY THE BIGGEST SHOPPING DAY OF THE YEAR?

It's certainly the day of the year in which you're most likely to be punched while reaching for a Tickle Me Elmo doll, but it might not be the busiest day in terms of gross receipts. According to Snopes.com, Black Friday is generally one of the top days of the year for stores, but it's the days immediately before Christmas—when procrastinators finally get shopping—that stores make the serious loot. Black Friday may, however, be the busiest day of the year in terms of customer traffic.

Snopes's data shows the 10-year span from 1993 to 2002, and in that interval Black Friday was never higher than fourth on the list of the year's busiest shopping days by sales volume. In 2003 and 2005 Black Friday did climb to the top of the pile for sales revenue days, but it still gets stiff competition from the week leading up to Christmas, particularly the Saturday right before the big day.

DO PEOPLE REALLY GET INJURED ON BLACK FRIDAY?

Sadly, yes. One of the most tragic Black Friday incidents happened in 2008, when 34-year-old seasonal employee Jdimytai Damour was killed after a crowd of hundreds of people from the approximately 2000 people waiting outside knocked him own and stampeded over his back after the doors opened at 5 a.m. at the Wal-Mart on Long Island, New York.

In 2010 in Buffalo, New York, several shoppers were trampled trying to get into a Target. One of the victims, Keith Krantz—who was pinned against a metal door support and then shoved to the ground—told a CNN affiliate he thought he would be killed. “At that moment, I was thinking I don't want to die here on the ground,” Krantz said.

In Murray, Utah, 15,000 shoppers swamped a mall with such force, the local police had to respond to break up skirmishes and fistfights, and keep shoppers from ransacking stores.

In 2008, a fight broke out between a young girl and a man at another Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, over a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television. It was $798, marked down from $1000. The New York Times reported that the not-so-aptly-named Nikki Nicely, 19, leaped onto a fellow shopper’s back and began pounding his shoulders violently when he attempted to purchase the television. “That’s my TV!” shouted Ms. Nicely, who then took an elbow to the face. “That’s my TV!” The fight was broken up by a police officer and security guard. “That’s right,” Nicely cried as her adversary walked away. “This here is my TV!”

HOW CAN THIS KIND OF THING BE AVOIDED?

In an effort to keep a few would-be clients from personal injury law firms, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a special checklist for retailers expecting large crowds.

So what’s OSHA’s advice? Consider using bullhorns. Hire a team of police officers. Be prepared for “crowd crushing” and “violent acts.” Set up barricades. And, above all else, if charging shoppers come running, stay out of the way.

Haley Sweetland Edwards contributed to this story, portions of which originally appeared in 2009.

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