skipping


skipping
   1) children's game
   Nowadays skipping is almost entirely done by girls, but this was not always the case. The earliest references refer to boys, and through most of the 19th century boys regularly took part in the game. This has led some authorities to conclude that skipping was exclusively played by boys until the late 19th century but there are numerous illustrations in chapbooks, books, and magazines of girls skipping, back into the 18th century. Why the boys stopped skipping when they did is not clear. Skipping with a rope cannot be traced further back than the 17th century, to a work by Jacob Cats, Silenus Alcibiadis (1618), and references in England do not appear until the 1730s. As the Opies point out, this may be because in earlier times skipping was normally done with a hoop, or it may simply be an accident of history.
   There are several basic variations in skipping, the most important being the distinction between short rope and long rope. Short-rope skipping can be solo, one child with a short skipping rope 'turning' over her head - or duo, with two girls face to face jumping a rope turned by one of them - or skilled practitioners can get three in at the same time. Alternatively, two girls can stand side by side, holding the rope between them, taking it in turns to jump by angling the rope one side to the other. There are numerous variations in footwork, speed of turning, actions to be performed, and so on. The basic game is static, but skippers can also progress along the street, again either singly or in pairs. The usual learning pathway for beginners is to start with short-rope skipping and, once the basic skills of timing have been mastered, to move on to long rope.
   Long-rope skipping involves a person at either end turning a long rope while several others jump, either one at a time or in pairs or groups. A further complication, now called Double Dutch, and much more common in the USA than in England, is where two long ropes are turned simultaneously, in opposite directions. A different form, hardly skipping in the strict sense, is French Skipping or Elastics where a rope, tied in a loop, is placed around the ankles of two girls standing facing each other. Participants take it in turns to jump inside, outside, or on to the rope, in a set sequence of movements and when they have successfully completed them the rope is moved a bit higher up the legs of the end people and the whole procedure is repeated, until the rope is too high for the jumpers to reach. A length of elastic is now often used instead of rope, hence the alternative name.
   Numerous skipping rhymes exist to accompany the action, many of which are apparently meaningless but rhythmic chants,
   Salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper -
   to the initiated, however, these four words indicate different speeds. Some dictate the action:
   Teddy bear, teddy bear Touch the ground Teddy bear, teddy bear Turn right round Teddy bear, teddy bear Climb upstairs Teddy bear, teddy bear Say your prayers Teddy bear, teddy bear Turn off the light Teddy bear, teddy bear Say goodnight.
   Commentators on children's games almost always lament that children no longer play like they used to and that traditions are dead. To the outsider, skipping appears to be one of those areas which is dying, but if so we are witnessing a very long and slow decline, and skipping is certainly not dead yet.
   ■ Opie and Opie, 1997: 160-306; Abrahams, 1969; Opie and Opie, 1959.
   2) calendar custom
   At noon on *Shrove Tuesday at Scarborough (Yorkshire), hundreds of local people, of all ages, flock to the Foreshore with their ropes and try their hand at skipping, in groups or solo, which goes on until after dark. In the past the ropes were longer, stretching right across the street, turned by local fishermen, and a dozen or fifteen people could skip in one rope, but nowadays it is more common for people to keep to their family group. The custom still seems popular, but many observers have commented that the local people are gradually losing their skipping skills from lack of practice, and that the accompanying rhymes have all but died out. The earliest known reference to the custom is in 1903, and the local theory of origin is that Shrovetide was the time when the local fishing fleet sorted out their ropes, and discarded any which were worn or otherwise past their prime. An associated part of the day is for boys to grab, and 'dump' the girls in the sea - an activity which, from local testimony, goes back at least 30 years, if not before. Similar customs used to take place on *Good Friday, and were particularly popular in coastal areas, such as in Sussex where it was reported at Brighton, Alciston, Hastings, Southwick, and South Heighton, where Good Friday was called Long Rope or Long Line Day. The Brighton custom is mentioned as popular in 1863 (N&Q 3s:3 (1863), 444) but it was apparently already on the wane when the closing of the beaches during the Second World War finally killed it. One inland place where Good Friday skipping was popular was Cambridge, where the custom took place on the open space called Parker's Piece, where it seems also to have died out as a regular event during the last war. Other scattered references show that the custom was quite widespread, being reported, for example, at Teignmouth (Devon) in the late 19th century
   (N&Q 172 (1937), 262).
   ■ Scarborough: Smith, 1989: 3-8; Shuel, 1985: 152; Dalesman (Feb. 1994), 23-4; Sussex: Simpson, 1973: 111; Ralph Merrifield, 'Good Friday Customs in Sussex', Sussex Archaeological Collections 89 (1950), 85-97; Wales, 1990: 50-1; Cambridge: Porter, 1969: 107; N&Q 172 (1937), 262.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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