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Olly, olly oxen free

Posted by ESC on August 23, 2000

In Reply to: Looking for a confirmation to a game phrase posted by Bill on August 18, 2000

: I have actually had arguments with people about what this phrase actually is. I always thougt it was "Ollie Ollie oxen free!!", but one of my close friends informed me that I was an idiot and that the phrase was really "Everybody all come free". So perhaps that is at least that is one variation you can add to the list.

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).