"All in, all in, spuggy in the tin." - Ollie Ollie Oxen Free

Alas, Cecil’s research team has let him down! Spuggy is a northern English word for a house sparrow.:slight_smile:


LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1102/whats-the-meaning-of-ollie-ollie-oxen-go-free

“All the, all the, all the outs in free.”

Oh, and obligatory thread link.

Our version was pretty close to the original - “Olley olley in come free,” but we were saying “all” in the “olley” part, meaning “all may come in free.”

When the hell did oxen get involved? Some people have really weird games.

I simply said. “Okay, I give up, you can all come out now! Um… You can come out! Is there anyone around. Hello? Hey, this isn’t funny, it’s getting dark… Hello? What’s that sound?”

When I was a small child, learning from slightly older children, what I was told to say was “Ollie Ollie oxen free.”

Watching English films, I have heard something like “Ollie Ollie income free”, which makes a bit of sense, since it was to be called when you had a chance to come in and be free (that is, rush to base while the seeker was away).
That makes me think that perhaps “ollie” started as “All Ye”.

But as any fan of Straight Dope etymology knows, that makes too much sense to be right. :wink:

I believe I saw the correct answer to this ages ago somewhere and now its buried…

The original meaning could be from German “Alle, alle auch (?) frei” which would in my terrible German mean “everybody else (?) free”

I had about a 2-week crash course in German with no books to take home and which was 21 years ago.

“Allee, allee outsinfree!” is the the closest I can come to spelling what I regularly heard in Central Maine in the 50s.

I’ve heard the suggested German etymology Meribast mentions above: “Alle, alle auch sind frei.” But that sounds suspiciously like a German phrase created to suit the explanation, doesn’t it?

Yes. It’s awkward German at best, tortured grammatically at worst.
Powers &8^]

When i thought my admiration of Cecil could go no higher, I see a favorable reference to Naked Twister.

My bet is… in Old English, it started out as “All ye, all ye, in come free” and was distorted through generations. If you take as few as a dozen kids and seat them in a row and whisper a short phrase to the kid on one end, then have the child repeat the phrase to the next, but only once, that child must repeat what they thought they heard, to the next, and so on. Rarely, does the phrase at the other end, even resemble the original.

It was much later in my life, teen years at least and more likely adulthood, before I can remember seeing that phrase in print. Wherever and whenever I first heard it, my brother and I decided it must be something like, “Olee, olee, able sings.” There was never a clue as to what it meant or what it was supposed to sound like. And I can’t attest to any other kids (or even adults) claiming to know anything about it. Based on my experiences I have to assume the expression/phrase was not from our region of the country.

All I can say for sure is that I had heard something akin to it by the 1950’s in Central Alabama.

We said it is “in come free” when I was a kid.

Yep, Olee Olee Income Free was our mid 1960s chant

Is “Ollie, Ollie oxen free” used outside of America? If not, that would make it a lot less likely to be Old English in origin (not that “All ye, all ye, in come free” is anything like Old English, but I guess I know what you mean). I do not recall ever hearing it when I was a kid in Britain, and Cecil seems to think other expressions are used there. Mind you, I never heard any of those either. There were special words and chants that we used in games (like “vainites” and “Dip, dip, dip,/My little ship, Sails on the ocean,/You’re not It!”) but nothing remotely like the ones Cecil mentions.

MODERATOR COMMENT: I’ve merged two threads on the same column, and edited the thread title, so we’ve mostly got stuff together that’s about the same topic.

That explains why my 9:23AM post disappeared into the Ether, but it also makes my post unnecessary (added link, etc.), so it’s all good. :slight_smile: