Category Archives: eenie meenie miney mo

Playing Games, Part 2: Who’s "It"?

If you were going to play hide-and-go-seek or any kind of tag, someone had to be “it.” You could, of course, all shout “NOT IT!!” at the top of your lungs and some poor kid would be caught unawares and go home crying. So then you’d have to start over and pick some other kid to be “it.”

We had two ways of choosing: eenie meenie miney mo, and one potato two potato.
As with any tribe of kids, we had elders and we had young ‘uns. It was an unspoken rule that the oldest (or in some cases, the bossiest) girl would be the chooser — the one to invoke the choosing chant.

For the record, I never rose to the rank of elder. There was always someone older in the knot of kids who played together on my block. So I had to hold my hands out  like all the littler kids while the tribe elder began doing the vertical fist bump that was one potato, two potato.

This a short version of the way someone is chosen to be “it, ” although the kid in the video seems way too excited to be the last one standing. Doesn’t he know he’s the one who has to cover his eyes and count one Mississippi two Mississipi to one hundred while everyone else goes home and has a snack? Also, they are standing in a line, which is weird. We got in a circle and held out our hands in up-and-down fists.

So, the leader fist bumps everyone who stands in the circle saying: One potato,two potato, three potato, four (four puts a hand down), five potato, six potato, seven potato more (another hand goes down), repeating until only one kid hasn’t been tapped on both hands. Confusing? It’s easier to yell “Not it!” and hope for the best.

Now, if you were a savvy elder, you could manipulate eenie meeny miney mo any way you wanted to by adding enough words at the end to target the kid you wanted to be “it” in the first place. No fair!

Here’s how it went down, Humphrey Avenue style:
The chanter points to every kid in the circle, one word, one kid.
Eenie meenie miney mo
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers
Let him go
( a variation: if he hollers make him pay fifty dollars every day)
Eeenie meenie miney mo

(and here’s the part with some potential to put in the fix):
My mother told me to pick the very best one
And that is Y-O-U
(See, you could keep this going as long as necessary to make sure you point to the kid who everyone knows can’t find you or catch you. Very sneaky. Wish I’d tumbled to that 50 years ago.)