LINGUIST List 6.655

Tue 09 May 1995

Sum: Hide-n-Seek all clear call, Babies' intellect

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  1. "Michael C. Beard", Sum: Hide-n-Seek all clear call
  2. , Sum: Babies' intellect

Message 1: Sum: Hide-n-Seek all clear call

Date: 07 May 95 20:23:15 EDT
From: "Michael C. Beard" <>
Subject: Sum: Hide-n-Seek all clear call

Content-Length: 5063

Summary: Hide-n-Seek all clear' call

Thank you to all those who responded to my query of a couple
weeks ago regarding the origin and meaning of Ollie ollie in
come free' or Ollie ollie oxen free'. Those who responded are
listed below: I owe them thanks specifically, and in case they
are overlooked in the actual summary, I wanted to mention them
here (in no order whatsoever). Where affiliation was given, I've
included it beside their name:

- Anton Sherwood
- Bill King, Second Lang. Acquisition &
 Teaching Program, U. of Arizona, Tucson
- Karl V. Teeter, Professor of Linguistics Emeritus,
 Harvard University
- James Kirchner
- Alison Huettner
- Dale Russell
- Will Dowling
- Marie Egan, South Carolina
- Lynn Messing, Applied Science and Engineering
 Laboratories, duPont Institute, Wilmington, DE
- Allan C Wechsler
- David Solnit, University of Michigan
- Mark Newson
- Stavros Macrakis
- Deborah Milam Berkley, University of Washington
- Karen Stanley, Central Piedmont Community College,
 Charlotte, NC
- Jakob Dempsey, Asian Linguistics, U.Washington
- Amy Sheldon
- S J Stauffer, Georgetown
- Rich Alderson
- Rebecca Larche Moreton
- Sarah G. Thomason
- Laurel Smith Stvan, Northwestern University
- David Baxter, Department of Linguistics,
 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Teresa Marcy, St. Mary's
- Nancy Clements, University of Chicago

My original query stated that I assumed Ollie ollie...' was
derived from All ye, all ye..' (and it was originally
represented as all-ee all-ee' because of that assumption). The
second part of the call was most in question: I used the phrase
 in-come free,' and my wife used oxen free.' Several people
replied with the variations of the call they used or heard as
children. The first two variations are those used by me and my
wife and others as listed; other variations follow. Please note
that where regions and dates are given, these are the places and
times listed by contributors as when and where they used the

Ollie ollie in come free (Stavros Macrakis)
Ollie ollie oxen free (Anton Sherwood, Illinois,
 c. 1970; Karl Teeter, Eastern Mass., late 1930s;
 Alison Huettner, Northern New Jersey; Lynn Messing,
 Upstate New York c. 25 yrs. ago; Deborah Berkley;
 Laurel Stvan, Chicago suburbs; Rich Alderson)
Ollie ollie oxenfreed (Alison Huettner, Northern New
Ollie ollie infree (Karl Teeter, Eastern Mass, late
 1930s; Bill King, Ft. Edward, NY and Ticonderoga, NY;
 James Kirchner, Grosse Pointe Park, MI)
All-ee all-ee all come free (S J Stauffer,
 South Central PA, 60s-70s)
Alley alley in free (Dale Russell ( alley' rhymes with
Olly olly home free (Will Dowling, upstate New York,
All-ee all-ee ump come free (Marie Egan, suburban Chicago,
 ump' is pronounced like the beginning of um-pa-pa)
All-ee all-ee in (Mark Newson, Midlands (Coventry) England,
 "without any mention of free oxen or the like.")
All-ee all-ee all in free-o (Karen Stanley, Detroit)
All-ee all-ee oxen free-o (Karen Stanley, Detroit)
Oly oly ocean free (Jakob Dempsey, Indian and Chicagolang,
 (oly rhymes with holy))
Olly, Olly, Um-Phum Free (Nancy Clements)
All-ee all-ee outs in free (Teresa Marcy)
Ah-lee, Ah-lee in free, All out, come in free!
 (Rebecca Moreton, Jackson, Mississippi, 1940s)

As can be seen from these representations, there is some
variation in the opening of the call, but the greatest variation
comes in the second part of the call. A few people mentioned
that the Peanuts cartoon actually gave an explanation of the
call's meaning: the oxen free' portion was explained as a
contraction of outs are in free'. Several people suggested this
is the correct derivation. Allan Wechsler did field work on this
when he was in elementary school (wow!). He says, I asked a
_lot_ of kids what they said, and I got three answers: [... Oks&n
fri], [... Ols&n fri], and [... Ots&n fri]. I don't remember how
I came to the conclusion, but I decided that all these forms must
be corruptions of "out's in free", although looking back, it
seems "all's in free" is a better theory."

In terms of origin of the call, two interesting bits of
information were submitted: Deborah Berkley was told (as a
child?) that it derived from German; Dale Russell remembers
"hearing or reading that the first word is (or is derived from)
French "allez."

Finally, as possible resources in discovering additional
information, S J Stauffer and Rebecca Moreton brought up a
reference to _The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren_ (Iona and
Peter Opie, 1959), and Sarah Thomason brought up a reference to
_Dictionary of American Regional English_, ed. by Frederic

Although at this point the actual historical derivation remains a
mystery, the general consensus is that oxen free' is the most
common form of the (probable) original phrase outs in free.' If
anyone comes across additional information, I'd be grateful to
read it.

Thanks again!
Michael Beard
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI
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Message 2: Sum: Babies' intellect

Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 00:44:40 -Sum: Babies' intellect
From: <>
Subject: Sum: Babies' intellect

Content-Length: 3046

A while ago I asked how a very small child I saw could produce a perfectly
pronounced, standard Midwestern American "thirty" after his German-born
parents and siblings had coached him with the accented rendition [so"ti]
(/o"/ = /o/ plus umlaut). Very few people ventured guesses beyond standard
Chomskyan theory, but below I am listing the most informed and the most
humorous of what came, as well as a similar story relating to L2 acquisition
in adults.

Thanks to all who responded.

James Kirchner

)The baby in question would probably not have been able to
)reproduce "thirty" correctly for another few months, it was
)simply an experiment the child was conducting to see if his
)mouth could produce the correct sounds. But how did he know >the correct
sounds? This family, recently immigrated, was
)probably trying to teach the child both English and German,
)and also the child would have had normal contact with native >speakers of
English. Being a little linguist, as nearly all
)children at and near that age are, he would have been able to
)differentiate between sounds of German and sounds of
)English. He would also have known that when his family
)spoke English, they were making substitutions and
)approximations themselves. Therefore, he knew that /so"/,
)coming from their mouths, would be /thir/ in a midwestern
)dialect, or English as he knew it. He knew that they were
)trying to produce that sound, and he was also trying to
)produce the sound he was expected to make. He came out with >"thirty" after
many attempts to get his mouth to do it right.
)But he would most likely adopt another way of saying it in
)regular speech, as most native speakers of English do when
)they are learning it.

) Anni L. Clark
)What a nice story!
)Is it the fact that the child produced an 'th', despite of
)what the parents did, that bothers you?
)I'd guess that the child was just lisping - as many children do >at that

)Sebastian Loebner (

Yes, but lisping would only get him halfway there. If he didn't already have
an American accent, how would he have known the "correct" pronunciation of
/o"/ was /r/, as in the German city name "Ko"ln", which every Yank knows
should be pronounced [krln]? --JK
Karen Stanley ( told of a similar situation among
adult ESL students:

)A friend of mine, teaching ESL pronunciation, noticed this:

)In class, students would periodically practice pronunciation
)in a group in which everyone was producing something other
)than the target pronunciation. On a regular basis, with no
)other model other than the one the teacher had produced
)*prior to* group practice, students moved closer to standard >American

)So it would seem that, whatever the baby was able to do,
)adults seem to be able to do as well, if on a more limited
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