Clapping Queens


This is what my childhood looked and sounded like. I love this sound. So I looked into the history and cultural role of girls’ hand clapping games.

Apparently these girl-centric singalongs are an important part of oral culture. As I knew growing up, there are a variety of distinct families of games that were played in various versions, and were specific to different areas, classes, and ethnicities. The hand clapping games you grew up with are indicative of where you came from. The little Spanish girls I grew up with in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights all played Hello Operator, Aatchi Katchi, Miss Lucy, and a perverse version of “Oh Little Playmate.” I was the Hello Operator queen. I think the white girls must have played Pat-A-Cake and the clean “Oh Little Playmate” because I never even heard of either until I was about twelve and we moved to a nice neighborhood. Apparently there is no “correct” version of any game though everyone always fights over whose verses are “right” or “real”. That was half the fun.<br


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