Olly, Olly Oxen Free

Posted by ESC on November 03, 2005

In Reply to: Olly, Olly Oxen Free posted by Bob on November 03, 2005

: : Olly, Olly Oxen Free

: : I liked this explanation by Brooke Adams, in the Salt Lake City Tribune on 19 July 2004

: : "Olly, olly oxen free!"

: : "It is used by kids everywhere to signal it is safe to emerge during Hide-and-Seek games. But where did this nonsensical phrase come from?

: : "I couldn't find a source. One game player guessed it had something to do with oxen, while another was sure it had Olde English roots.

: : "After the Olly, Olly cry went up in Orem the other night, I asked a few kids where it came from. Shawn Fucile, 8, figured 10 year-old Zach Hedrick made it up. Nick Robinson, 11, knew better. No, that's what you say every time, Nick explained.

: : My guess? All ye, all ye, come in free, which became mangled while passing from one kid to another: olly, olly oxen free. My husband says the full verse is, "Olly, olly oxen free; if you don't come now, you'll be I-T!"

: You can check the archives to find many references to this phrase.

For more discussion, search the archives under "oxen."

OLLY, OLLY OXEN FREE - "If you've ever wondered about the origins of this chant - used to call in all players at the end of a game of hide-and-seek - be advised that the experts only have a partial answer to your lifelong puzzlement. Word sleuths are fairly certain that the 'oxen' (or 'octen') in the call is simply a childish corruption of 'all in.' The rest remains a mystery." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).