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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cat's Cradle

The question of who first played cat’s cradle, the children’s game in which two players alternately take from each other’s fingers an intertwined cord so as always to produce a symmetrical figure, is almost as contentious as the origin of its name. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the origin as ‘fancifull,’ and notes the commonly held opinion that the name derives from “cratch-cradle” is not grounded in fact.

The anthropologist Louis Leakey claimed to have used the game to gain the cooperation of indigenous people native to Sub-Sahar
an Africa who were suspicious of European ways. Whether you call it cat’s cradle, Jack in the Pulpit, or as the Russians prefer ‘The Game of String,’ it’s worth marveling at the universal appeal of this simple game of string.

Versions of this game can be found in indigenous cultures all over the world, like the Ainu people of Northeast Asia, the Navajo in North America, as well as indigenous people from South America.
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-Joaquin Espinoza, Intern


  1. I had no idea about the (questionable) origin of this favorite childhood game! Keep the great unique posts coming NAA!

  2. I grew up in China in the 1950s, and I remember playing with the games. It was very popular!
    Off course, that was before the electronic age!

  3. I didn't know until I visited the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian recently that this was a common pastime. Patient staff members taught my five-year-old grandson the tepee and drum figures. Thank you!