Names Will Never Hurt Me

No, go get him. Tackle him, he’s got the ball… not me.

When I was little I had a tremendous group of childhood friends. We did many things together to keep ourselves busy. I was rarely home after the bus dropped me off from grade school. My books would find their home on the kitchen counter and then I’d run down the street to go play with my friends, without even removing my “school clothes”.

We played lots of games during my youth, whether it be hide and seek, bike tag, touch football, Ouija, butt ball, or smear the queer. Wait, smear the queer?

Yes, that was the name of a game we played when I was a kid. I have no clue where the name originated, but I knew the game well. Smear the Queer was like playing a vicious game of tag with a ball. One person carried a bag and would run away from the attackers. You would try to plow through them without hitting the ground, much like football. Why the person carrying the ball was referred to as a “queer”, I don’t get. I don’t think I fully knew what the word “queer” meant until I was in high school. This front yard classic allowed us boys to be boys and burn off nervous energy without chewing ice or chasing girls on our banana seat bikes.

If you thought Smear the Queer was bad a bad name, there’s one more though. I have trouble typing the name, Nigger Knock. Seriously, I hate typing it. Again, I haven’t a clue where the name originated. Actually, this was less of a game and more of a prank since you’d knock on someone’s door and then run before they could see your face. Do you suppose kids still ding dong ditch their neighbors? I only did it a few times because I felt horrible once the person arrived at the door.

Anyways, I have very fond memories of my childhood. Recently I’ve reconnected with many childhood friends via, you guessed it, Facebook. The positive memories are flooding my head space. The only negative is how these games acquired their names. Perhaps that’s what I get for growing up in a rather homogenous Seattle suburb.


About lessinges

Seattle native, discovering life! I like ice cream, cold cereal, and The Amazing Race.
This entry was posted in Dumbass Move, Flirting with Homosexuality, Games, Storytelling. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Names Will Never Hurt Me

  1. Chris says:

    We had alot of odd games with names that are, well really bizarre. Sometimes looking back, there was an awful lot of hurtful stuff we did as kids – stuff that as an adult would be far beyond unacceptable, yet as kids, it happened.
    I clearly remember being the target of hurtful shit and how bad it made me feel, especially as a young boy but I can also jsut as clearly remember taunting people in the same manner – it’s awful to think about that.

  2. tori says:

    We always just called it ding dong ditch, and your post is actually the first time I have heard it called something else. Interesting.
    Kids do still do it…I know this because I live in a neighborhood filled with kids who are just the right age to do it. They also do a thing that might be particular to the midwest…ticktacking. You grab a handful of dried corn (see the midwest connection now?) and gently throw it against windows. The first time it happened to us, someone did it to our basement windows and it freaked me out! Luckily it was some neighbor kids I knew so when I figured it out I scared the crap out of them by opening the window and yelling boo one time. Then the kids begged me not to tell their parents, which wasn’t even something I was considering. Seriously? People tell kids parents for that?
    This post brings back a lot of memories from my childhood (banana seats on bikes!). I never played smear the queer though. I don’t think I ever heard of the game until I was an adult. Well, I had heard of the game, just not the name. In my neighborhood that was more of a boy game. We played a lot of in the dark scare each other kind of games where a lot of chasing was involved when I was little.

  3. meno says:

    We called that game “Ring Doorbells and Run.” A name that still cracks me up. I remember the name Smear the Queer, but i don’t remember what game it was attached to. We played something called SPUD.
    I first got the hint that queer might not mean what i thought it meant when i used it in 5th grade (in the older sense of the word) and the teacher shuddered and told me not to say that.
    I was a queer child.

  4. Amy says:

    Don’t beat yourself up too much about the words you used as a child. We all know that you did not know what they meant. I truly believe that if you did, you would not have used them OR have tolerated your friends using them. Even more important than that, we all know that your daughter will be more enlightened and will never use those words. The cycle ends with you!
    I remember(30 years ago)frequently saying Eeny, meeny, miny, moe … (I’m sure you know the rest). My friends and I used this saying for years as a method to settle disputes, or to decide who would play first in games ect. Then one day my uncle’s new girlfriend (now my aunt Susan) told me in no uncertain terms that the “N” word was not a nice word, and suggested that I substitute it with “Monkey” in the rhyme. (I hope it isn’t offensive to monkeys.) I had no idea the “N” word had negative connotations, and before that, no other adult stepped up to set me and my friends straight. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my aunts “intervention”. We need more people like that to step up.

  5. thistle says:

    i hate that n* word, also used it in the same rhyme amy just mentioned AND it was one that was used in our family to refer to Brazil Nuts ( ie n* toes…) which is gross on so many levels…
    thanks for that memory this morning egan!…aagghhh…

  6. egan says:

    Chris – kids are ruthless. I wonder where the influences come from? I sometimes wish some adults would have put us in our place with the names we used. I was a pretty good kid, but I still did some rather deplorable acts as a youth.
    Tori – the games of our youth were fun and I have fond memories. Fond memories of ghost riding my bike of an embankment. This corn prank is such a midwest thing. I can totally see this happening where my wife grew up, corn fields and whatnot. I like that you scared the kids with your boo. I’m going to be all over that.
    Meno – funny how such a descriptive word tranformed to what it is today. Maybe that will happen with maverick. What was Spud?
    Amy – we did the same Eeny Meeno Miny Moe thing, but I don’t recall the N word being part of it. Phew. Aw, your aunt’s intervention is precisely what I was mentioned in my comment to Chris. I wish someone called us out on the ridiculous terms. Look, you still remember it today. Not to worry, I’m not beating myself up over it. I didn’t know what it meant and once I did, I stopped using the term.
    Thistle – hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I can’t stand the n word. I have a list of words I prefer not to use and that one is definitely on it. I’ve heard the Brazil Nuts nickname too and it’s very wrong.

  7. Golden says:

    A few things:
    I don’t think the word ‘Queer’ meant what it means today. When we were kids, it meant WIERD! That’s all I ever associated with it
    I have never heard it called *igger Knocking, ever. We also never used that word in the eeny meenie miney moe thing, we used catch a ‘Tiger’ by it’s toe. I never even had any idea that the N word was used. That word is beyond hateful.
    My neices play a fantastic game in their neighborhood. I think it’s wonderful on so many levels. It’s called ‘Something Better’. They grab an item from home, be it an old shoe, a broken lamp or whatever. They knock on a neighbor’s door and ask them if they have ‘something better’ and they trade! They keep doing this from neighbor to neighbor until they either get bored, or what they get is not something they want to trade up! Whoever comes home with the ‘best’ item wins. My oldest neice came home with an old rotary phone one day, it was yellow! My younger neice brought home a Spitoon! Yes, the spitoon won! I think this game is fantastic in that it seems to be something we would have done as kids, when people were more ‘neighborly’.
    I have to go back to the N word now. I was in a meeting one time, when I first became manager here at my current company. My boss at the time used the N word in that meeting. I won’t go into the ‘context’ or the ‘reason’ because frankly it does not matter. There is no valid reason to ever use the word. Ever. I was so offended, and to this day I regret just sitting there and doing nothing. It forever changed my relationship with this person. But that’s another story for another day.
    Okay, wow. Didn’t mean to make this so long.

  8. Gwen says:

    My kids still attempt to play ding dong ditch. But they’re bad at it, and I yell at them because it’s so obnoxious, so they really get no fun out of it at all.
    We played the smear the queer growing up, too. It always ended in tears.

  9. brandy says:

    I just read some good news- walking you say?! That’s so exciting!

  10. churlita says:

    We used Ding Dong Ditch ‘Em too. I didn’t hear the other term until I moved to an all Irish suburb on the Southside of Chicago. Yeah, Smear the Queer really just meant Smear the Weirdo or Freak at one time. My kids still play kick the can and ghost in the Graveyard with their neighborhood pals. I’m glad those things still haven’t changed.

  11. egan says:

    Golden – after all you shared here, I’m really discouraged about the final piece you shared about your employer. Yikes, that’s just uncool on so many levels. It’s just not appropriate no matter what. This Something Better game seems like a sign of the times, almost like Craiglist for kids. What a cool idea.
    Gwen – how can they be bad at ding dong ditch? Do they ring the doorbell and stand there? Maybe they don’t understand the rules of the game.
    Brandy – I see you heard from Twitter Egan. Yes, the little one is walking. See the video above for proof.
    Churlita – I guess I really didn’t understand the word “queer” back then. I think I figured it was the person holding the ball, but didn’t associate anything wrong with the word. The N word is wrong on so many levels.

  12. brookem says:

    it’s interesting the names these games used to go by. funny how certain words can take on a different connoation over time too, huh?

  13. egan says:

    Brookem – very weird how they can change meaning. Sadly most terms take a turn for the worse. What games did you play growing up?

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