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"Monkey in the middle."

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on April 03, 2007

In Reply to: "Monkey in the middle." posted by pamela on April 02, 2007

: : : : : : : : : I have a friend that referred to playing keep away as playing "Monkey in the middle." She was shocked that I had never heard that used before, anyone have any ideas og where this came from? She is from upstate New York, maybe it's a regional thing?

: : : : : : : : Is that the same as Pig in the Middle in England? - i.e. a game in which two or more people throw a ball around, while the player in the middle (the "pig") tries to catch it? (VSD)

: : : : : : : I'd be shocked to meet a person who grew up in the U.S. who'd never heard of Monkey in the Middle, too. We played it in the 1960's in the metro N.Y. area, and my kids play it now out in the Poconos. I know that's culturally and geographically close to upstate New York, but a quick Google search shows the term is used far and wide.

: : : : : : : Of course "keep away" is a different game. Ask any 8 year old boy. In Monkey (or Pig) in the Middle you have exactly two players trying to keep the ball away from one other player. You try to throw the ball over the monkey's head and he tries to jump up and grab it as it goes by. There is a linear structure and the monkey may protest if the other players move outside a certain area. Keep Away is more chaotic because you can use an entire field and have more than three players. Also the one you're keeping the ball away from isn't called the monkey.

: : : : : : I grew up in California and never heard of M in the M. ~rb

: : : : : I'm always shocked that people are shocked when words and phrases they grew up with are not known in other parts of the big, wide world. (I know it, therefore everyone knows it.) I suppose that's why people are so vehement in defense of their particular version of "I always heard it was" stroy about, e.g., the whole 9 yards: to be disabused of its truth is to have your own centrality and authenticity challenged. The ideal scientist loves to have his hypothesis dashed ... but most of us are less than ideal in that respect.

: : : : "Piggy in the middle" is what we play in Australia - I've never heard the "monkey" version and "pig" in the middle sounds insulting (piggy sounds cute). Pamela

: : : I've recovered from my shock over the limited distribution of the beautifully alliterative name "monkey in the middle", and I've moved on to curious. It's interesting that pig or piggy in the middle has made it from England to Australia (or vice-versa) but my dear monkey version hasn't yet found its way from the Atlantic to the Pacific in this modern age of ours. I'm going to investigate, and I'll get back to you...

: :
: : Well, let me know what you find out. My memories of "piggy in the middle" are now dated - who knows, perhaps "monkey" infiltrated along with "cookies" and "bathroom". Pamela

: Yep - "Monkey in the Middle" gets about 5,630 hits on Australian google - "Piggy" gets 6,960. So I guess my claim for PITM as the Australian version is unjustified. Pamela

You know, it's funny. During my research I came across the game Duck, Duck, Goose which we used to play in kindergarten in New Jersey. Everybody played it. But I remembered how several years ago, I was stunned to find out that my wife, who hails from an anthracite coal mining town in central Pennsylvania, had never heard of Duck, Duck, Goose. She had tried to convince me it was just a New Jersey game. However, today's google search shows that the game is known far and wide, at least in the U.S., by this name, plus a few regional names.

Now back to my Monkey in the Middle search. Unfortunately my personal contacts consist mainly of people from the Northeastern U.S. and Quebec, plus some other foreign-born people from count ries where English is not the first language. But one guy I work with grew up in Utah and Nevada before moving to California as a teenager, and he says he played the game monkey in the middle and k new it by that name, back in Utah/Nevada. There's also Google, which indicates that the term is widespread throughout the U.S. and has been used as the title of several books, a board game, basketball and soccer drills, and may have been the inspiration for the title of the TV show Malcolm in the Middle as well as turning up coast to coast in the blogosphere.

Conclusion: "Monkey in the Middle" is a popular children's game that is widely played throughout the world but may be known by other regional/national names, or not at all. However, those who do know it, remember it so fondly that they use it as book and movie titles and pepper their blogging with it.

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