Unfortunate illustration and game name in kids' book


The girl second from the left knows what’s being said.

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Wow. “Not much right”, is right. Surely the illustrator was in on the joke? It’s so out there.

Yep…I remember playing this in Brownies over 20 years ago. It felt a bit icky at the time, despite not having a clue about the creepy overtones.

I too remember the game from when I was a kid, sufficie it to say much more than 20 years ago. At that time, people could still say “pussy” with a straight face, and kids were assumed to be asexual.

Old books need to be taken in the context of their time.


Merriam-Webster places the vulgar use of the term as either Low German or Scandinavian in origin, dating back to 1879. My take on it was that it was a coded word around the time of publication, just before it soon became a mainstream vulgarity.

Of course, there are still so many things wrong with the game in itself, with the intonations of subservience/degradation and whatnot.


I remember playing this as a REALLY little kid. We may have said “poor kitty,” though. Too long ago to remember clearly.

I think Alfred on the left looks like he’s nodded off.

Absolutely not. The game is about acting, on both sides. Can you meow plaintively/realistically enough that your victim can’t help laughing? Can you maintain a straight face while laughing internally?

It’s no more about oppression than duck-duck-goose is about waterfowl.


The OED first source of “pussy” as referring to female genitals comes from 1699 (there’s an uncertain one earlier), and given that it’s a pretty taboo word, we can probably assume that it was used for a while before that. The sense “cat” dates from the 16th century, with uncertain etymologies (except noting that it’s probably cognate with some German and Scandinavian words).

By the way, far and away my favorite citation in the entry is from 1865, from something called The Love Feast; or, A Bride’s Experience. A Poem in Six Nights by someone named Philocomus:

My poor pussy , rent and sore, Dreaded yet longed for one fuck more.

It doesn’t appear that the full work appears online, which I think we can all agree is a damn shame.


I probably could, but I could also do it when not on all fours.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those “anti-tag-on-the-playground” types, but there are many ingrained behaviors in our daily lives that we tend to take at face value. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it’s not. I see an equivalent awareness in the recent refusal of certain sportscasters to call a certain Washington football team by its assigned moniker.

I agree with lettuse and the creepy overtones.

I’m starting to feel like Merriam-Webster is the Daily Mail of the dictionary world.

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Haven’t been able to find the entire poem for context, but if if this line is spoken from the male voice, “pussy” could be a diminutive for the woman in question, rather than a woman referring to her own hoohah.
Still leaves open the possibility that it is metonymical, though.

The OED cites it as referring to female genitals, and they presumably have the full text and could see the context.

By the way, this text is cited all over the place in the OED. For instance, here’s a citation from the entry for “bumhole”:

Thus he buggered and befrigged, Cunt filled, and bum-hole, too, well rigged.

From “fuck”:

That night I never shall forget; We fucked and fucked, and fucked and sweat.

From “gamahuche” (course slang for fellatio or cunnilingus):

‘I’m going to teach your velvety cartouch [sic] The art and mystery of the gamahuche.’

From “machine” (in the sense “slang. The penis; the female genitals (rare)”):

It entered quite deep in her sucking machine.

From “pole”:

He oil’d his long and rampant pole, And tried to thrust it in the hole.

And “pego” (slang for penis):

A cunt…'Twill grasp a prick the smallest size, And suck it till the spending flies, and then 'twill stretch till you can take A pego of the largest make

There are a bunch others (22 in total). I really want to read this book now.


Reminder: KIDS. Kids haven’t yet been brainwashed into believing that crawling, or sitting on the floor, or playing make-believe, is undignified. Frankly, I don’t find it undignified either, and I haven’t been a kid for [mumble] decades.

Of course there are contexts of coercion and the like which would give it a different interpretation. And there are people who can’t deal with the concept of an adult – or a kid – being only as dignified as is actually appropriate for the situation. But that’s like saying that bathing suits are undignified because they expose more skin than would usually be considered appropriate for an audience with the Queen. Context matters tremendously!

If this book is like most of its kind, odds are extremely strong that the game was invented by kids and merely documented/formalized by the adult writers. And this one in particular is probably age-appropriate up to kindergarten or so, if that; after that it’s simply not interesting.

So: If it doesn’t sound like fun to you, that’s fine; don’t play it. But heck, I will still play cat on occasion to get a laugh out of friends. And I remember playing this when I was that age and it really did NOT carry any of the connotations you’re worried about; it was just a more organized party-game version of the make-each-other-laugh game we already played with friends.

If you can’t be silly when you want to be, and can’t laugh with your friends when you want to do so, you’re doing it wrong. For many values of “it”.

(If you’re worried about kids being coerced to play a game – ANY game – that’s a completely different kettle of worms and probably belongs in a different thread.)


Dr. Johnson: So, ahem, tell me, sir, what words particularly interested you?

George, Prince Regent: Oh, er, nothing… Anything, really, you know…

J: Ah, I see you’ve underlined a few (takes dictionary, reads): ‘bloomers’; ‘bottom’; ‘burp’; (turns a page) ‘fart’; ‘fiddle’; ‘fornicate’?

G: Well…

J: Sir! I hope you’re not using the first English dictionary to look up rude words!

Blackadder: I wouldn’t be too hopeful; that’s what all the other ones will be used for.


The undignified part comes when I try to get back up off the floor.


See, the thing is, it certainly feels like you’re likening me to a prude, which I am not.

All I am saying is that somebody with an iota of worldly experience might have explained a few things about life to the editor – whom I see in this situation as Moe the bartender, who doesn’t get that no…no we have not seen Mike Hunt this evening.

edit: and a smarter employee could have saved his bacon (future reputation in 2013) by offering up a variation on the game, as Hide-and-Seek is to Kick-the-Can or Sardines.

I don’t think you’re a prude – I think you’re trying to apply adult reasoning to a children’s game in a way that simply isn’t appropriate. And to apply 2013 sensitivities to a 1950’s book describing a game which may go back centuries.Even for 2013 I’d count you as a somewhat overprotective parent, but many now are.

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“There’s lots of words, and you can use some of 'em over again.” – Pogo, via Walt Kelly.


You are George Galloway, and I claim my five pounds.