Cooties

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For other uses, see Cootie (disambiguation).
Cootie Game, a board game from 1918

Cooties is a fictional childhood disease used in the United States of America, Canada Laois (Ireland) and Australia as a rejection term and an infection tag game (such as Humans vs. Zombies). It is similar to the British dreaded lurgi, and to terms used in the Nordic countries, in Italy, and in New Zealand.[1] A child is said to "catch" cooties through close contact of an "infected" person or from a person of the opposite sex of the same age. Often the "infected" person is someone who is perceived as "different", such as being of the opposite sex, disabled or shy, or who has peculiar mannerisms.[2] Usually the phrase is used on girls by boys, as in "now you've got girl cooties". The phrase is most commonly used by children aged 4–10; however, it may be used by children older than 10 in a cruel, sarcastic or playful way.[3]

The word is thought to originate from the Austronesian term "kutu", meaning a parasitic biting insect. The earliest recorded uses of the term in English are by British soldiers during the First World War to refer to lice; the term was brought to America in the 1950s by military personnel coming back from service alongside the British in the South Pacific.[4] As with the British "dreaded lurgi", the cooties game developed during the early 1950s polio epidemic, and became associated with dirt and contagion.[1][5]

Origin[edit]

The word is thought to originate from the Austronesian languages, in which the Tagalog, Māori [6] and Malay word kutu refers to a parasitic biting insect,[7] or kudis (pronounced kuːdiːs), meaning scabies. The earliest recorded uses of the term in English are by British soldiers during the First World War to refer to lice.[4] A hand-held game, the Cootie Game, was made by the Irvin-Smith Company of Chicago in 1915; it involved tilting capsules (the cooties) into a trap over a background illustration depicting a battlefield.[8] Other cootie games followed, all involving some form of bug or cootie,[8] until The Game of Cootie was launched in 1948 by Schaper Toys.[9] The game was very successful, becoming an icon;[10] in 2003, the Toy Industry Association included it on its "Century of Toys List" of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.[11]

In addition to the cooties games, the cooties term was popularised in America in the 1950s by military personnel coming back from service alongside the British in the South Pacific.[3][4] As with the British dreaded lurgi, the cooties game developed during the early 1950s polio epidemic, and became associated with dirt and contagion.[1][5]

Cooties game[edit]

A child is said to "catch" cooties through any form of bodily contact, proximity, or touching of an "infected" person or from a person of the opposite sex of the same age. Often the "infected" person is someone who is perceived as "different", such as being of the opposite sex, disabled, shy, or who has peculiar mannerisms.[2] Usually the phrase is used on girls by boys, as in "now you've got girl cooties". The phrase is most commonly used by children aged 4–10; however, it may be used by children older than 10 in a sarcastic or playful way.[3]

In the United States, children sometimes "immunize" one another from cooties by administering a "cootie injection".[4] Typically, one child administers the "shot", using an index finger to trace circles and dots on another child's forearm while reciting the rhyme, "Circle, circle, Dot, dot, – Now you've got the cootie shot!"[citation needed] In some variations, a child then says, "Circle, circle, Square, square, – Now you have it everywhere!" In this case, the child receives an immunization throughout his or her body. These variations may continue to a final shot where the child says, "Circle, circle, Knife, knife, – Now you've got it all your life!"[citation needed] A number of other variations exist.

Other cultures[edit]

In the United Kingdom children have the rejection term and infection tag game, the dreaded lurgi, and in Italy "the peste".[1] Cooties are known in Denmark as "pigelus" (literally "girl lice"), and "drengelus" ("boy lice") and in Norway as "jentelus" ("girl lice") and "guttelus" ("boy lice"). In Sweden and Finland, it usually refers to girls, where they are known as "tjejbaciller"[12] (literally "girl bacilli") and "tyttöbakteeri" ("girl bacteria").

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Simon Bronner (26 Aug 2011). Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture. University Press of Kentucky. p. 452. 
  2. ^ a b "Appeals: cootie | Oxford English Dictionary". Public.oed.com. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  3. ^ a b c Sue Samuelson (July 1980). "The Cooties Complex". Western Folklore 39 (3, Children's Folklore): 198–210. doi:10.2307/1499801. JSTOR 1499801. OCLC 50529929. 
  4. ^ a b c d Simon Bronner (26 Aug 2011). Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture. University Press of Kentucky. p. 213. 
  5. ^ a b Simon Bronner (26 Aug 2011). Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture. University Press of Kentucky. p. 214. 
  6. ^ "Definition of cootie". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  8. ^ a b Tim Walsh (1 Oct 2005). Timeless Toys. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 78. 
  9. ^ Tim Walsh (1 Oct 2005). Timeless Toys. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 77. 
  10. ^ Tim Walsh (1 Oct 2005). Timeless Toys. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 79. 
  11. ^ "Toy Industry Association Announces Its Century of Toys List." Business Wire. 21 January 2003. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  12. ^ "p. 10". Web.archive.org. 2008-10-31. Archived from the original on 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2011-10-31.