“Rock, Paper, Scissors”

As one of four kids my life was filled with repeated claims of “it’s not fair,” “you always go first,” and “it’s my turn.” We ended up with several methods of solving these minor disputes by ourselves. Our parents were steadfastly uninterested in the debates.

“Rock, paper, scissors” was usually played by two of us for the best two out of three. (Unless the loser insisted that what they really meant was best three out of five.) Rock(clenched fist) smashes scissors. Paper(flat hand) covers rock. Scissors(two extended fingers) cuts paper. I would like to say that this ended the disagreement. However, there seemed to be new complaints such as “how come you always choose rocks?” Irrational I know, but the loser had to think of some way to confuse the results. (Here I consciously avoid present political parallels.)

Coin tosses were another decision maker. I still was regularly tricked by my brother’s quick “heads I win, tails you lose.” As I watch my grandchildren use the coin toss to settle questions that old phrase still hangs on. And a new complaint is added to the list: “that coin only has heads!” (My brother did buy such a penny at the novelty store we both loved.)

Finally we used “eeny meeny miny moe.” In the mid-1950’s our family was considered progressive because we said “catch a tiger by the toe,” instead of the much more commonly used racial slur. It never occurred to me to figure out who should go first in this rhyme. It took 60 years to learn from my young granddaughter that where you start determines who wins. I’m glad we didn’t know that as kids. We would have had yet another round of : “you always go first.”

I would love to know any other ways you resolved issues of fairness when you were a kid. Violence not included!

21 thoughts on ““Rock, Paper, Scissors”

  1. Fun post, Elizabeth. Part of teaching elementary school was teaching kids methods to settle the inevitable disputes. Rock, paper, scissors settled a lot of disagreements. As you point out, even what seem like full-proof methods still can cause controversy. Some kids weren’t obvious on their choice, and rock became paper a bit late on the scene.

    We had a form of eeny meeny miny moe that went, “bubble gum, bubble gum in the dish, how many pieces do you wish?” Math always fascinated me from an early age and I learned how to rig the results based on how many pieces of bubble gum to ask for. 😊

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  2. Eeny meeny miny moe is actually possibly Celtic… it’s something I’ve just read about in The History of Ancient Britain (it might be in the Melvyn Bragg book The Adventures of English, too). In Cumbria they still use yan, tan, tethera, methera (or something), which has its roots in eeny, meeny…

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  3. I was an only child, so most of that stuff never featured in my childhood. But when it came to picking sides in a game, or sport, the biggest, toughest boy normally took charge, and did not allow any arguments.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. A trick my mother tried (unsuccessfully) on long car trips was to offer a dime to whichever of us three kids could stay quiet the longest. Nobody won as we all couldn’t keep quiet for even two miles. because everyone had to GO FIRST. 😂

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  5. We called ‘dibs’ for things like the window seat in the car. We also used ‘cootie catchers‘ (although I am sure we did not call them that). We also arm wrestled and leg wrestled. Fun post, Elizabeth.

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  6. Wonderful post and memories, Elizabeth. We played “One Potato” with everyone having two fists up. This was popular because two fists gave you a second chance. We also drew straws.

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    1. We tried the straw drawing but found ways to cheat. We would put the shortest straw a little above the others which tricked the little ones into picking it.(I am rediscovering the mean side of our interactions. Agh.)

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  7. We never did rock-paper-scissors in my home but relied heavily on ‘eeny meeny miny mo’ as well asone potato two potato.’ Reminds me that my mom sometimes used cards for getting things done on a Saturday. The loser of a round cards – maybe crazy-8’s – would have to draw from a jar of chores. Works pretty good with a big family. 🙂

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  8. My sisters and I often fought over who got the biggest piece of something – pie, cake, etc. Mom came up with an ingenious way to settle the fight. One of us would get the knife and be told to cut the piece in half, then the other kid would get first choice. Those pieces would be SOOO equal in size!

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