I have written in previous posts about growing up in the large house with a two acre yard pictured above. Both places were excellent for hide and go seek, a perennial game in my childhood. There were two versions of the game. The one we played at home had one child hide and everyone else look for that child. The one who found the hider won. If no one could find the missing sibling, we would yell out “olly olly oxen free” and the hiding one would win the game.
With my friends we tended to play the other version. In this case one of us would hide and we all had to seek. When anyone found the one hiding, she(this was always an all girl game)joined her in the hiding place. The game continued until only one seeker was left. That seeker, noticing she was alone, would realize she had lost and she would yell out “olly olly oxen free.”
I am mystified about how we learned this phrase. It, like jump rope rhymes, ghost stories and the sites of witch houses in the neighborhood seemed to float from kid to kid, apart from adults, in its own child world. Since I have readers from around the world, I am curious if any of you heard this phrase and have any idea of its origin.