Janken pon!
July 18, 2006 6:34 AM   Subscribe

How do (did) you decide who goes first?

My son had a few friends over the other day, and when they were trying to decide who would go first to play a video game with only one player mode, they naturally resorted to playing janken ("Rock Paper Scissors"). Here in Japan, janken is THE decision making method for kids and adults alike; everyone knows it and uses it. Which got me thinking about my own childhood growing up in the States in the '70s and early '80s; as I recall, nobody I knew used "Rock Paper Scissors" to decide things. I think we used "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe," or some variation on that, but even this memory is vague. And of course, it's been years and years; have things changed since then?

I'm also interested in this because janken appears a lot in Japanese films, and every time I encounter it when I'm translating it into English, I find myself wondering how many people in which countries are actually familiar with the concept.

Googling turns up the World RPS Society, and this interesting page among other things, which suggests that RPS and its variations are more common than I thought, but is it really?

So my question is (1) How did you decide who goes first where you grew up? and/or (2) Do you know and use RPS or its variation? How common is it where you are?
posted by misozaki to Society & Culture (70 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Whoever would say "Me first!" first. Or grab a controller.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rock, Paper, Scissors. occasionally we would add "match" to the mix. Growing up in NY, "might makes right" also at times decided who went first. I am still using RPS with friends and my kids.

Also, we did the "shoot it out" thing with odds and evens and one finger or two.

I am aware of a movie being made about the "sport" of RPS and a fictional championship tourney.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2006

Here in Ohio RPS seems quite common. My friends and I often use RPS (always "best out of three") to decide a variety of things.

There's the occasional "Guess a number between 1 and 20" type game, though it requires a 3rd party to mediate the responses.

Or you could go old-school and simply use the "Shotgun" technique. The original manifestation refers to who gets to ride in the front-passenger seat when taking a trip in the car, but it can be used for other things. Basically, whoever calls "dibs" first, gets to do it first, fair and square. Their foresight allows them the privilege of going first, which tends to be more fair since it relies on their actions and not just luck of the draw.

Hmm.. I think I put way to much thought into this!! ;)
posted by sprocket87 at 6:42 AM on July 18, 2006

1. If we couldn't logically figure it out ("you go first this time, I'll go first next time"), we flipped a coin.
2. I know RPS (more so, I know janken and its associated rhyme), and occasionally use it to decide trivial matters.
posted by Meagan at 6:42 AM on July 18, 2006

Who's house (usually mine) the event was at, or by pecking order.
posted by Mick at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2006

Oh, and we were RPG nerds so there were always dice around to solve things too
posted by Mick at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd never heard of rock, paper, scissors until I got to college, but I hear people use it all the time now at work.

We'd "shoot" to go first -- with one or two fingers. Two beats one.
We also did "eenie meanie minie moe, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers, let him go, out goes Y O U". That was probably under the age of 10.
posted by jdl at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2006

Also, note that my friends and I play 2 variations of RPS:

1) "Ninja, Bear, Cowboy" - Ninja beats up cowboy, bear mauls ninja, cowboy shoots bear. The gestures are karate-hands for the ninja, two hands up in a bear-claw formation for the bear, and a 2-handed pistol draw for the cowboy.

2) "Nuclear bomb, Cockroach, Foot" - This was stolen from an episode of "That 70s Show". The Nuke blows up the foot, the foot crushes the cockroach, the cockroach survives the nuclear fallout. The gestures are a mushroom cloud-shaped explosion for the nuke, stamping one hand into the opposite palm for the foot, and using two fingers to run across the opposite palm for the cockroach.

I'm sure there are others ;)
posted by sprocket87 at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2006

We used any number of methods. We were nothing if not versatile.

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo
One Potato Two Potato
Rock Paper Scissors
The time honored (and personal favorite) "dibs" method
flipping a coin
rolling a die

The time-consuming and annoying part was trying to decide which method to use, which usually led to more 'first' games to figure it out. As you can see, it was a nightmarish never-ending cycle of 'first' games. We were trapped in a hellish world of our own making.
posted by iconomy at 6:46 AM on July 18, 2006

Oh, and dance-offs.
posted by iconomy at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo and One Potato Two Potato always seemed predictable to me, because if you were quick enough you could figure out who would be first without having to go through the whole set and deliberately start with a certain person to make you be the chosen person.
posted by vanoakenfold at 6:53 AM on July 18, 2006

"Shotgun" or more commonly there would be posturing and fighting to decide who goes first. "Might makes right" is the accepted way of doing this. We would then throw rocks at each other and retreat to lick our wounds.
posted by geoff. at 6:55 AM on July 18, 2006

When I was a kid, the thing at recess was usually a variant of Eeny Meeny. One Potato was very common. Once we developed into full-fledged geeks, we used twenty-sided dice a lot.

I don't ever remember using RPS for that kind of thing, it just didn't 'take' in our social groups. I'll have to remember it for this problem in the future, though.

Good question!
posted by Malor at 6:55 AM on July 18, 2006

I had a German friend in college who played "jager, oma, baar" (I don't know German, so I'm spelling this phonetically, as diluted by the passage of eight years time).

Jager, the hunter, shoots baar, the bear
The bear eats oma, the grandma
Grandma ... I dunno, seduces the hunter?

And in high school a korean friend taught us a version of the game I don't remember at all. There was a bird and a snake, but I don't remember what the third animal was or what trumped what.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:57 AM on July 18, 2006

As a kid, we had so many stupid little poems. All the kids would circle up and place a foot in the middle. Usually the largest kid would start counting each foot at each syllable of the poem. Here's a few that I somehow dredged from my memory:

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, catch a tiger by his toe, if he hollers let him go, eenie meenie miney moe...

Ink a bink a bottle of ink, the cork fell out and you stink.

Bubble gum bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish? (Person you are pointing at answers (i.e. "two"), count the numbers of letters in the answer that many people past the answering person ("T-W-O"), and that person is chosen)

Engine Engine Number 9, Going down Chicago line, If the train falls off the track, do you want your money back? (Person answers yes or no, count the number of letters, etc)

My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes, my mother punched your mother right in the nose, what color was the blood? (Count letters in answer, etc..)
posted by quite unimportant at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2006

For shotgun, I dont know if other people do it, but does anyone else have a rule where if two people call shotgun at about the same time they need to race to the car and be the first person to touch all 4 tires?
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2006

I'd never heard of rock, paper, scissors until I got to college

wow! that amazes me; I've always thought of it as something 'everyone knows'. eenie meenie always seemed weak for being predictable to me, too.

rock, paper, scissors, spock, lizard is pretty smart...
but the concept can be taken too far
posted by mdn at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2006

Baseball bat.
Toss a bat (gently) to another person, who catches it one handed. Tosser grabs the bat so their hand is closer to the pommel, but touching the catcher. Catcher does the same. Repeat as needed. Whoever gets the pommel goes first.
posted by plinth at 7:26 AM on July 18, 2006

We used rock, paper, scissors sometimes, and eenie meenie minie moe, but added our own nonsense syllables once we figured out that is was predictable.

When playing baseball, we used the hand over hand on the bat method: one person tossed a bat at the other. This person would catch it with one fist closed around it. Then we would alternate putting our fists on the bat directly above the other person's fist. Whoever put their hand on the top of the bat went first. Sometimes we added a finger rule, where if your fist didn't fit, you had to use fingers.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:27 AM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: So those of you who have used RPS or its variation, do you actually say, "Rock, Paper, Scissors!" or whatever ("Nuclear bomb, Cockroach, Foot!") when you stick out your hand? I honestly never recall doing that in the US elementary schools that I attended (I moved around a lot). I'm fairly certain about this because I knew RPS as a kid because I'm Japanese, and I remember noticing that the American kids around me didn't use it. So maybe it's a relatively recent thing?

And I don't remember using Shotgun, either. Or at least not by that name. Do you say, "Shotgun!" or just "Me first!" and do whatever it is you're trying to decide the order of (e.g. swipe controller, hop in front seat of car, etc.)? With this method, how do you decide who goes next?

This is really interesting. Thanks, everyone!
posted by misozaki at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2006

[small]plinth, we should have used a bat...[/small]
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2006

Ip Dip Dog Shit. Knew of RPS but never used it to start a game.
posted by ed\26h at 7:32 AM on July 18, 2006

My favorite method comes from Chrononauts - one person basically says "cover your watches." Everyone then has to guess what time it is on the watch of person who started the challenge. It still kinda works even if there are clocks around, because watches can still be off. It's also pretty fun with people who've never done it before. They get kind of flustered and confused, especially if everyone else seems to know what to do.

In high school, we used this to decide who went first in all kinds of games. I've mostly stopped wearing a watch these days, though, and I suspect using a cell phone as the target time would be kind of boring because it's synchronized with the network.
posted by heresiarch at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2006

There were a few months where my friends and I would use games of NBA Jam to decide practically everything - who was going to make the rice that night, who would do the dishes, etc. Usually, this ended up in us just playing NBA jam, and the thing-in-contention not actually happening.
posted by clcapps at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

So those of you who have used RPS or its variation, do you actually say, "Rock, Paper, Scissors!" or whatever ("Nuclear bomb, Cockroach, Foot!") when you stick out your hand?
We never did. You wouldn't want to slip and reveal your hand (so to speak).

At my house, Shotgun! on applied to the car. You had to call dibs anything else. "I call dibs on the Nitendo", or just "Dibs on the Nintendo".

As far as who got to go next, senority usually ruled after the first person (whoever's game it actually was, and then oldest to youngest).

We also used "Ink a Dink" and "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe".
posted by donajo at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2006

I remember doing potato-related counting as a kid. I always tried to encourage this versus 'whoever gets to the tree across the field first' trials because I was (am) short and weirdly prone to spraining my right ankle.

These days we usually use dice. And yes, I'll use whatever die I drag out of the big bag first. It's usually a d10.

(Did you see this page?)

I also have to add that I met someone who went to the world RPS comps once. He said he liked practicing against kids because they were 'more random' with their throws and that in adults, he could often size them up after talking to them for a while and predict the sort of throw they were prone to.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:46 AM on July 18, 2006

posted by wackybrit at 7:51 AM on July 18, 2006

If the conflict is between two people, you roshambo for it. Three or more in a kitchen table environment will roll dice/pull high card. Conflicts of more than two people in the field and away from random number sources are resolved by pecking order and/or appeal to reason.

Roshambo is (unlike janken), among all players I know, never used in simultaneous multiplayer mode with more than two people throwing gestures. On the very rare occasions I've used roshambo with more than two players, it's as an elimination tournament.

In my family, we use it where a coin flip might be used such as to decide between two equally appealing or unappealing activity options of which neither has an advocate over the other. For example, we picked between two favorite restaurants using roshambo this weekend.
posted by majick at 7:53 AM on July 18, 2006

Process of elimination:
Everyone involved puts in one foot. Going around the circle, one person chants and points to each foot at each syllable.


The person pointed at when the last YOU syllable is said is then "out" and leaves the decision-making process. It continues to the last two, until one is decided upon. Can take a long time if there are lots of people involved.

Also, mom used an interesting way of helping my brother and I share things, especially when it came to food. For example, if there was just one Snickers candy bar left, of course we both wanted it. But she would have us split it and share. Her method was to give one of us the responsibility of cutting or spliting the shared item "in half" and letting the other one of us get first pick between the two "halves." It meant a lot of concentration by the cutter/splitter to get that sucker right. down. the middle.
posted by UnclePlayground at 7:57 AM on July 18, 2006

Where I grew up in Massachusetts, we did the evens and odds shooting thing, which was, for some odd reason, called "bucking up". Best 2 of 3, usually.

I was always exceptionally good at reading the other kid's mind.

I've wanted to get this off my chest for years; thanks for asking.
posted by baylink at 8:02 AM on July 18, 2006

My dad's family (Boston Irish) used "hosey" as a transitive verb -- "I hosey the last piece of pie," "I hosey sitting next to Mom," whatever.

It's the same concept as "dibs," but, really, hosey?
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:07 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

That was the first time I got yelled at for cursing:

Me: Let's do Eeny-Meeny-Minie-Mo for it.
Friend's Mom: That's not fair, spaceman, you can figure out who you should pick first.
Me: Dammit, he didn't know that!
[five minute time-out ensues]
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:09 AM on July 18, 2006

Odds and evens, at least for two people. One person would call which they wanted, then on the count of three both would stick out as many fingers from one hand as they wanted. If the total was what the person had called, odd or even, they got first play.
One potato was also popular, and dibs.
Oh, and specifically for video games we would put a quarter on the machine, in imitation of the way order was determined at the arcade.
posted by solotoro at 8:09 AM on July 18, 2006

So those of you who have used RPS or its variation, do you actually say, "Rock, Paper, Scissors!" or whatever ("Nuclear bomb, Cockroach, Foot!") when you stick out your hand?

As kids, yes. It always went "Rock, Paper, Scissors.... SHOOT!" with hands out on "shoot". As an adult this is still my preferred way of deciding trivial matters, but usually done silently.

For board/card games, the rule was always youngest first, then play passes clockwise. This works better with families than peers, since age isn't a useful determiner with friends. In that case, we all roll a die (or draw a card, or a scrabble tile, or whatever) and highest goes first.

"Shotgun!" was for the front car seat only; other things were "dibs!" We also had a pretty complicated Jinx system. Anyone who was currently jinxed didn't get a say, and any two people who called dibs simultaneously were both jinxed and out of the running.
posted by miagaille at 8:23 AM on July 18, 2006

"Shotgun!" only applied to the front seat of the car, and there are restrictions.
1.) Optionally, at the drivers discretion, you must be in site of the vehicle.
2.) Optionally, at the drivers discretion, all passengers must be in site of the vehicle, or at least outside.
3.) Driver can veto for their girl/boyfriend
4.) the "laws of physics" rule overrides all whenever there is a tall / large person and a small back seat.

Some other people used Shotgun! to call the first drag on a cigarette and "Kills!" for the final drag. These people were huge mooches though, and were avoided.

"Dibs" was used for anything that we wanted. First video game, first anything really. A successful dibs calling was nigh uncontestable. "But I wanted to try it first!" "Dude, he called dibs, wait your turn".

One thing not mentioned so far is "Not It!". This was reserved for undesirable things. One person would say "1..2..3.. NOT IT!" out of the blue and the last person to respond with "NOT IT!" was it and had to do the deed.

Paper, Rock, Scissors, as we called it, was occasionally used to settle a two sided dispute. Also, flipping coins.

"eenie meenie miney mo" and it's variants were droppped quite early when we all figured out that they weren't actually random.
posted by utsutsu at 8:25 AM on July 18, 2006

errr, "in sight of the vehicle..."

yeah, you all knew that.
posted by utsutsu at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2006

Odd or even, RPS, One potato two, or eenie meenie.

I can't even imagine anyone not knowing about rock paper scissors.

Also starting around high school we had strict rules for Shotgun that were as good as legally binding. The big one was that you had to be able to see the car--couldn't call it from inside.

I grew up in Maine.
posted by lampoil at 8:32 AM on July 18, 2006

The version of "not it" that I've generally seen is the nose game. When someone brings up something undesireable that needs to be done, everyone around silently touches their index finger to their nose. The last one to notice and put their finger to their nose loses, and gets stuck with whatever needs to be done. Eeny Meeny Miny Moe was dropped when it became obvious that if the person saying the words knew the number of syllables in the rhyme, they could control the result.
posted by ubersturm at 8:33 AM on July 18, 2006

baylink made me remember: we called it "bucking up" too and not shooting. Before starting a game, it'd be "ok, buck up" and we'd "shoot" our hands into the middle of the circle and "throw" ones or twos.
posted by jdl at 8:38 AM on July 18, 2006

One potato, two potato for groups of people.

Roshambo for pairs. I think I've always known what it was, but then by some curious turn, in the early 90s it became a kind of popular punk rock moment for people to talk a lot about roshambo. I never really got it, but it seemed to go along with a whole "we're all kids and innocents here" vibe that rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by OmieWise at 8:38 AM on July 18, 2006

Along a similar vein, whenever my brothers and I were watching TV or in a preferred seat in a car or anywhere, when we got up to get a drink or hit the head, we called "Occupied, reserved and controlled" which gave us about 3 minutes to come back and reclaim the seat. If you forgot to call it or took too long, anyone could snag your seat.

I have passed this concept on to my three kids and Mrs. Gunn.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:40 AM on July 18, 2006

one potato, two potato
bubble gum, bubblegum
hairpulling, shoving, whining, tattletaling, scratching, biting, pinching, punching...
posted by Sara Anne at 8:44 AM on July 18, 2006

Question: how did everyone deal with RPS with more than two contestants? I can imagine it done a number of ways. Did anyone do it in pairs only, winner advances? Or a fixed number of rounds?

We always had an elimination protocol. Everyone shoots, and then sums up n (number of players you beat) and m (number of players who beat you). Anyone for whom m>n steps out, and then there's another round, until only one remains.

For larger groups, this was totally on the honor system as it is difficult to track wins/losses for anyone but yourself. Anyone caught violating the honor system (e.g. not stepping out) was completely shunned and forced to go last, possibly for days.
posted by miagaille at 8:46 AM on July 18, 2006

As a variation, my brother and I would decide who had to put something away by whomever 'touched it last'. Therefore you could get out of some chores, for example, by aligning the milk carton such that the other's arm brushed it, thereby having him on the hook for putting it away.
posted by toastchee at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2006

(1) How did you decide who goes first where you grew up?
When I was in elementary school, we used eenie-meenie-miney-moe. After reaching Junior High & beyond, a shout of "dibs" would claim your right to go first. (I grew up in Suburban NY if that is helpful.)

(2) Do you know and use RPS or its variation? How common is it where you are?
I know RPS and use it very occasionally. I'd say most everyone I know is aware of it and uses it sometimes.
posted by tastybrains at 10:23 AM on July 18, 2006

I'm glad someone else has mentioned Ip Dip Dog Shit - rhyme of choice for my 8 year old self in deciding such matters, although I must admit it wasn't as swear-word packed as the Wikipedia version. Before I was really old enough to be aware of swear words we had a variation that went "Ibble obble chocolate bubble, ibble obble out, O-U-T spells out so out you must go". It never occurred to us that you could fix this by determining who it would land on according to who it started on!
posted by greycap at 10:24 AM on July 18, 2006

We used Rock Paper Scissors all the time growing up. We always did best two out of three though. This was in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Other methods including "calling" first, or putting "dibs" on it were also pretty common.
posted by KevCed at 10:28 AM on July 18, 2006

We currently use a six-sided die to decide who goes first. If two people, one gets 1-3 the other 4-6. If three people (as is usual), 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6. We've actually never had to do this with four people, though I think there's a twelve-sided die around the house somewhere.

For films, someone may propose to watch a film, but they don't get to pick that film (unless we're all just in agreement about Ghostbusters). So the person who proposes picks three films and the other people choose one of those three. In the case of three people and the two choosers picking different films, the conundrum is resolved with dice as above between the two.

The method of album selection is a bit funky, though this almost always happens with three people. Each picks one and the discs go into the stereo on random. Of course I always pick a longer CD with more tracks than the other two.

If only deciding who kept the larger bedroom had been so simple.
posted by Captaintripps at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2006

Baseball bat.
Toss a bat (gently) to another person, who catches it one handed. Tosser grabs the bat so their hand is closer to the pommel, but touching the catcher. Catcher does the same. Repeat as needed. Whoever gets the pommel goes first.

But you must determine first if "bottle caps" are allowed (putting a hand over the end in a capping fashion) by calling it as you toss the bat i.e. "no bottle caps."
posted by cccorlew at 10:53 AM on July 18, 2006

we had the foll. two methods for doing something opposite. Finding the last man standing who then pays a penalty - unlike yr case of RPS finding the guy first who gets an opportunity - like go fetch the ball, or find the egg or people or stand in center and protect the pegs aroudn you etc.

A) Show of palms: Starting with all palms touching each just throw them up in the air and then do a show: either palm facing upwards or downwards.

Say there are 5 people. 2 had palms upwards, while 3 had it facing down. The 2 people are out (or saved) and the remaining 3 go for one more show of hands and it goes on until the last man standing pays a price..

"eenie meanie minie moe, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers, let him go, out goes Y O U".

great! We had a similar version :

akkad bakkad bombay bo, assi nambay poore sau sau mein laga dhaaga, chor nikal ke bhaagA" (in hindi)..

The translation won't make sense, bcoz the orig doesn't make sense either.. but it's still funny coz its weird :
akkad bakkad bombay bo, eighty ninety full hundred, thread in a hundred, here ran the thief :D

To save prefered seats in car/train we just use to "call". Like just before entering the isle, say "window seat mine". And if you are leaving it for some reason like to get water or something..you could say "occupied or reserved" to keep it "warm" for a min or two. Anything longer than that or if you delay in calling ..it was up for grabs.

Me and my brother used to do this unique thing because of the floor tiling in our house. We had alternate black and white tiles in a pattern. So we had days like Saturdays I'd step on only black tiles and he'd do whites (reverse it on Sundays). If anyone catches the other fouling..he would pay by having to do "whatever the next household chore" turned up. You would think it'd be all luck..but actually this can be played strategically...ie deliberately fouling when you know the next errand is to get clothes off the line (easy), and immediately afterwarsd if moms gonna ask the other person to get groceries (tough) then you get away by doing the easier chore. But sometimes mom had enough groceries for the week. Gaah!!
posted by forwebsites at 11:04 AM on July 18, 2006

In the Philippines, we would start with hong pyong to narrow three siblings down to two. The three of us would stand in a circle and hold our fists above our heads, drawl "Hong...pyong!" then throw our hands down to the center of the circle, palm facing either the sky or the ground. Odd man out lost big time and had to go last.

The remaining two used the RPS method of Jack En Poi to choose who started.

I had always thought our mother invented the names of those games. She preferred we used these methods, as we had mastered the mathematical intricacies of one-potato-two-potato to where we could always influence the outcome.
posted by ohcanireally at 11:21 AM on July 18, 2006

One spot, two spot, zig-zag, tear,
pop-die, pennygot, tennyum, tear,
harum, scare 'em, rip 'em, tear 'em,
tay, taw... toe.

posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:28 AM on July 18, 2006

My 6 year old daughter figured out how to win at eenie meenie every time, so we taught her and her 4 year old sister RPS to use instead.
posted by Addlepated at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2006

we use RPS, and it's usually signified by holding out one hand, palm up, and the other hand, fist ready to slap into the open palm, and a glimmer in your eye (so, no words). Two hits into your palm, and the third brings your choice.

In college, I learned (quickly!) the touching nose thing mentioned above. I use it all the time now, but for some reason, my fiancee doesn't respect it. She has gotten "calling it" (dibs) now, and uses it well.

When I worked at summer camp, we had a system for filling the table pitcher whenever it was out: "you kill it, you fill it." Basically, if you took the last of the drink, you had to get up to get a new pitcher. One rule was that if you left some drink, but not enough for a full glass, you still had to fill it, to prevent the cheaters from leaving only a couple drops in the bottom.
posted by toomanyplugs at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2006

In Hawaii we do it Japanese style:
Two people face off, fists clenched, game face on, and yell "Jan ken PO, ai kora SHO!" On SHO, both players simultaneously thrust out their hand gestures.
The cheaters psych the other player out with false moves, and sometimes use dynamite to blow up rocks, burn paper and melt scissors.
posted by killjoy at 12:52 PM on July 18, 2006

Odds or Evens.
Or, if it was baseball, the "First hand to the top of the bat thing."
posted by madajb at 1:35 PM on July 18, 2006

We'd "shoot" to go first -- with one or two fingers. Two beats one.

How does this work? Wouldn't everyone just 'shoot two'?
posted by chrismear at 2:12 PM on July 18, 2006

We totally used rock, paper, scissors. This could, of course, be because my older brother was heavily involved in role-playing games, in which rock, paper, scissors is used endlessly.
posted by starbaby at 2:26 PM on July 18, 2006

My dad would always do "fling flang flu", where one person is evens, the other is odds and you throw out fingers. You add them, and whoever guessed correctly wins.

Nobody I've ever met has heard of that, I suspect it was something his crazy immigrant grandparents came up with.
posted by borkingchikapa at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to everybody who responded! It was really fun reading about about your childhoods and about your children's, and there were many methods I'd never heard about before. Remembered my own battles with my brother re the chores and TV channel...

Question: how did everyone deal with RPS with more than two contestants? I can imagine it done a number of ways. Did anyone do it in pairs only, winner advances? Or a fixed number of rounds?

With Japanese janken, when you have more than two people, let's say three for example, if each person puts out a different hand (a rock, a paper, and a scissors) or if everyone puts out the same hand (all papers), then we say "Ai ko de sho!" ("We're even!") and try another hand on the call of "Sho!" (The call for first round, BTW, is my title, "Janken pon!" or "Janken poi!" and the hands go out on "Pon!")
Then if, let's say, the outcome was two against one (two scissors and one paper), then the one who put out paper loses and becomes third place. Then the two remaining people determine the winner and second place. If the two against one is one winner and two losers (a rock and two scissors), then the losers determine second and third places.

Or best two out of three wins, as some have said above.
posted by misozaki at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2006

RPS seems to be overtaking coin tossing as the de-facto standard for choosing who breaks when playing pool in Sydney pubs. I have yet to meet anybody who doesn't know how to play it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 PM on July 18, 2006

Saddam Hussein has his own rules.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2006

+1 baylink -- I knew we called it something, but I didn't remember "bucking up" until you said it.

+1 booksandlibretti -- I hosey the last Hoodsie! Learned it from my Dad, who was also Boston Irish.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:08 PM on July 18, 2006

@chrismear: no; you alternated calling "odds" or "eads", and if you made the call 2 out of 3, you won.

Kinda like grade school craps.
posted by baylink at 5:32 PM on July 18, 2006

btw, the Rock Paper Scissors Tournament isn't fictional
posted by lannanh at 6:56 PM on July 18, 2006

you alternated calling "odds" or "eads", and if you made the call 2 out of 3, you won.

So does 'odd or even' refer to the total number of fingers that you've both put out?
posted by chrismear at 1:11 AM on July 19, 2006

A variation on calling "dibs": my English friend calls dibs (eg on the couch) by saying "bags the couch" or "bagsy me couch". He had never heard of dibs.

For "not-it": another method for not-it is to subtly touch your finger to the side of your nose and hold it there. Gradually the others in the group will notice, and follow your lead. Last one to catch on is "it". We called this "nosegame".

In Washington DC, we used rock-paper-scissors -- always called by that name, never by "jankenpoi" or "roshambo". A college friend from Appalachia called it roshambo, although at the time I imagined this being spelled Rochambeau, like a French general. In his way of speaking you could say "I'll roshambo you for it"; but in mine you couldn't say "I'll rock-paper-scissors you for it".

Also used one-potato, enny-meenie, and others I can't remember. Adding things like "my mother said to pick the very best one and you're not it" (ie, adding syllables) was at the discretion of the speaker, who was always the oldest/most charismatic kid and the most likely to have figured out that you could choose who you wanted by these methods.

For a while in the early '90s there was a variation on shotgun, in which the first person could call shotgun (always within sight of the car), and the second person could overrule by calling "Menendez". Classy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:21 AM on July 19, 2006

Also for the car, there was "not bitch". If there were going to be 3 people in the backseat, you could call "not bitch" to avoid being stuck in the "bitch", or middle, seat. Not around parents, obviously.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:37 AM on July 19, 2006

Yeah, chrismear: the players alternated calling out whether they thought the total number of displayed fingers (you could go anywhere from 0 through 5 -- 6 if you had birth defects :-) would be odd or even, as the hands were being flung out.
posted by baylink at 10:06 AM on July 19, 2006

Thanks! Sorry for the incessant questioning, I've just never heard of this game before. Makes sense now.
posted by chrismear at 3:10 PM on July 19, 2006

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