What are the current non-offensive terms for these activities?
October 29, 2014 3:23 PM   Subscribe

My kids have asked me how to say a few things in English, but I realize the only terms I know were the racist terms used back when I was a kid. What are the current, non-offensive terms for these activities?

1) Ringing someone's doorbell and then running away.
2) Giving something to someone but then demanding they give it back.

Also, my kids haven't asked about it, but this thread got me curious:

3) Stopping at a red light, having everybody in the car jump out, run around the car a few times, and jump back in before the light turns green.
posted by Bugbread to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) Ringing someone's doorbell and then running away.

I know this as playing "ding-dong-ditch".
posted by Zephyrial at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2014 [15 favorites]


Number one is doorbell ditch, or ding-dong-ditch.
posted by samthemander at 3:24 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Renege means to go back on a deal or agreement.
posted by tllaya at 3:32 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


When I was a teenager we called #3 a firedrill, or redlight greenlight. I only learned about the Chinese version when "American Graffiti" came out.
posted by Floydd at 3:32 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


2) Being a jerk (does this really need a special name?)
3) We just call this a "fire drill."
posted by muddgirl at 3:32 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I used "Nicky Nicky Nine Doors" for #1 but now I'm worried that is racist because I only ever heard it by that.

Nthing "fire drill" for #3
posted by kanata at 3:36 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have seen "take-backsies" for #2.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:39 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I also used Nicky Nicky Nine Door for #1. No idea what that means or why it was called that but it's the term we used.
posted by thegoldfish at 3:40 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always known Number 1 as 'Knock down ginger'.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 3:40 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


#1 was called Knock Down Ginger when I was a kid. I don't know why. Is it Gingerist?!
posted by KateViolet at 3:41 PM on October 29, 2014


Thanks, guys. "Doorbell ditch" and plain "fire drill" sound great. For number two, is there something less babyish/Gollum-ish than "take backsies"? (If not, that's cool, I'll just teach them "take backsies", but I have a hard time imagining them using that past early elementary school).
posted by Bugbread at 3:53 PM on October 29, 2014


Little kids sometimes call #2 "taker-backer." I hear on the playground, "You're a taker-backer! Don't be a taker-backer!" of course derived from "No takebacks!"

(#1 is a ding dong ditch and I've never heard it called anything else! I'm afraid to google.)

PS, sitting cross-legged on the floor ("Indian-style") is now widely called "criss-cross applesauce."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:56 PM on October 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, I remember the phrase "no take backs!" from my childhood, but not 'take back' as a noun/verb--I never had a word for it. I learned the racist one somewhere, so I know what you're talking about, but it's never been part of my productive vocabulary, if that makes sense. I think "English doesn't have a good word for this" is an acceptable answer, with more elaboration depending on the age of your kids. ('renege' always gets suggested, but we're talking about taking back objects, not promises, right?)
posted by hoyland at 3:57 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Take backsies might not work for this, because it sounds like it's a claim from the giver's perspective: "I'm allowed to take it back right away because I'm doing this Thing called take backsies, which allows me to do it in Kidworld."
The original, racist term criticizes the giver, who according to the slur, ostensibly has a (negative) cultural habit of taking things back.
I guess you could really reverse the old racist term and call the act of reneging Treaty Breaking.
posted by third rail at 3:58 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


"No take-backs!" doesn't sound as cutesy as "no doing take-backsies" and doesn't make it into a thing in itself.
posted by Lexica at 4:04 PM on October 29, 2014


In Seinfeld, Tim Whatley was labeled "re-gifter" after giving Jerry the Label Baby Junior that Elaine had given him. In retaliation, Jerry decided to "de-gift" the Super Bowl tickets he had given Whatley*.

Assuming your children are Seinfeld fans (and why wouldn't they be, you're a responsible parent), maybe "de-gifter" will work.

* I won't even get into how Whatley then used Elaine's upstairs invite as a springboard to a Super Bowl sex romp
posted by mullacc at 4:06 PM on October 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


hoyland: "For whatever it's worth, I remember the phrase "no take backs!" from my childhood"

That sounds perfect, thanks.

third rail: "I guess you could really reverse the old racist term and call the act of reneging Treaty Breaking."

Actually, as a kid I interpreted it as "giving someone something and taking it back like an asshole, like we did with the Native Americans". For some reason, in my mind, the recipient was the Indian and the giver was the white man. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that I had the equation flipped and that actually it was insulting the Indian in the equation.
posted by Bugbread at 4:07 PM on October 29, 2014 [19 favorites]


muddgirl: "2) Being a jerk (does this really need a special name?)"

I don't know about "need", but yes, having a special name can be helpful. Like when my nursery school aged kid is all excited that a friend has promised to give him one of his extra Yokai Medal toys, I could say, "Don't get your hopes up, Tony, you know Taiga tends to be a take-backer", or I could say "Don't get your hopes up, Tony, you know Taiga tends to be a jerk" (which is just straight up insulting his friend, as opposed to this aspect of his friend), or I could say "Don't get your hopes up, Tony, you know Taiga tends to give people things only to come back later and demand they give them back", which is a big mouthful. So, yeah, when a word exists, it helps with brevity, something I already wrestle with.
posted by Bugbread at 4:20 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I realize it's not exactly the same thing, but "bait and switch" could work for some instances of #2.
posted by oxisos at 4:24 PM on October 29, 2014


In that case I'd probably go with "lender" - the friend says he's going to give you a toy, but he really only wants to lend it for awhile.
posted by muddgirl at 4:39 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have always known #1 as ring and run.

The only 'ditch' I ever used was dine and ditch.
posted by oflinkey at 6:06 PM on October 29, 2014


Just searched online and found this interesting history of the phrase "Indian giver" on NPR's Codeswitch blog.
posted by msbrauer at 6:08 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


And here's MetaTalk discussing the phrase. Haven't had a chance to go through it all, but there might be something in there.
posted by msbrauer at 6:11 PM on October 29, 2014


1) Ringing someone's doorbell and then running away.

Ring-n-run is what we sometimes called it
posted by TedW at 6:16 PM on October 29, 2014


We do "backsies giver."
posted by redfoxtail at 6:25 PM on October 29, 2014


I too learned the phrase as connoting whites breaking treaties. "Andrew Jackson" or "Jacksoning" might work, despite being a neologism. Even "A.J.-ed."
posted by klangklangston at 6:46 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


1) It's "Ding Dong Ditch" (not "Doorbell Ditch) and I have actually never heard anything else, appropriate or not
2) Oooh...um...that's hard...gonna have to think about that
3) I wonder if you could come up with something more catchy than just "Firedrill." Maybe "Freeway Firedrill"?
posted by radioamy at 7:28 PM on October 29, 2014


1) This was knock-a-door-run in the UK when I was a kid.

The others, we never had terms for, so I've only heard the old problematic ones, sadly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:40 PM on October 29, 2014


1) was ring-bell-skoosh at least in Glasgow
posted by stuartmm at 1:16 AM on October 30, 2014


#1 in the UK is Knock and Run or Knicky Knocky Nine Doors. The latter is more of a Northern thing.
posted by jontyjago at 2:20 AM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


#1 is Nicky nicky nine doors. Now I am also worried this has some racist meaning I didn't know about. Wiki doesn't reveal anything.
posted by girlpublisher at 6:13 AM on October 30, 2014


Funny how all of these things have slight regional variations, in my bit of the UK,
1) knock'n'run (you have to say it like it's one word)
2) No take backs
3) I'd never heard of that, but now I want to try it...
posted by Ned G at 7:14 AM on October 30, 2014


1) This is called playing "ding dong ditch." I've never heard any other term for it.
2) I've never heard any special term for this.
3) I only know a racist term for this one: A "[ethnic group] fire drill." I have no idea why it is called that.
posted by tckma at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2014


third rail: I guess you could really reverse the old racist term and call the act of reneging Treaty Breaking.
Brilliant.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:16 AM on October 30, 2014


I used "Nicky Nicky Nine Doors" for #1 but now I'm worried that is racist because I only ever heard it by that.

Nicky Nicky Nine Doors here too. I think that may be a common Canadian term for it? I've only ever heard Ding Dong Ditch in American contexts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 PM on October 30, 2014


1) Also in the UK and I always thought *everyone* called it Knock Down Ginger - this is the first time I've ever heard Brits call it something else. Interesting. (Grew up in Essex, FWIW).
posted by penguin pie at 1:20 PM on October 30, 2014


In my Brooklyn neighborhood, we said "you gotta keep your hedges down" when someone tried to take back something they previously shared. I have no idea where this came from but it a) worked and was b) race neutral.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:40 PM on October 30, 2014


Not to derail, but until just this moment, I was 100% certain that "Indian Giver" meant "one who gives to Indians." I understood it as a reference to colonizers who "give" (in the form of treaties, etc.) only to steal back. This is how it was explained to me as a child, and I never even considered the flip-side in which "Indian" refers to the subject. Weird.
posted by null14 at 9:24 PM on October 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I learned Eeny Meeny Miney Mo as " catch a tiger". It wasn't until I was assigned a Chester Himes book for a black fiction class that I learned it had been originally n*.
posted by brujita at 4:02 AM on October 31, 2014


For #1, I recalled a Japanese chum once telling me of this practice. Just asked her again to get it straight, and apparently this is known as the "Ping Pong Dash" in Japan, ping-pong not referring to table tennis, but to the sound of the door-bell. And 'dash' for the running away (not sure how the English word got in there).

I am also worried this has some racist meaning I didn't know about. Wiki doesn't reveal anything.

Ah, but it does! The last entry under Name variations involves the n-word, clearly familiar to the OP, although I'd never heard that before.
posted by Rash at 9:18 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rash: "For #1, I recalled a Japanese chum once telling me of this practice. Just asked her again to get it straight, and apparently this is known as the "Ping Pong Dash" in Japan, ping-pong not referring to table tennis, but to the sound of the door-bell."

Yep. That's actually my starting point: my kids speak mainly Japanese, and I'm trying to improve their English. They asked me how to say pinpon dash in English, and I realized that I didn't know a non-racist word for it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:02 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Rash -- I was totally lazy and read only the first para!
posted by girlpublisher at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2014


no. 1 is Knocky-Knocky Hide-O in my native corner of northern England, which rings with 'nine doors', and I wonder which came first.
posted by holgate at 8:24 PM on December 6, 2014


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