What is/ are mumblypeg/s?

“Mumblypeg” is a game–I’ve seen it played a few times, where people throw a knife at the ground to see if it will stick straight up perfectly (rather than just falling).

I’ve always seen it spelled “mumblety-peg.”


It’s a game you play with knives.

Sample description

Mumblety peg is (was) a game children played with three-bladed pocket knives, back in the days when pocket knives were allowed at school. A blade at each end was opened fully, and the middle blade was opened half way. As best I recall, the knife was placed on the ground with just enough of the center blade inserted in the dirt to hold it in an upright position. You put a finger under the knife and flippped it. Scoring was based on which blade or blades, if any, stuck in the ground when the knife landed.

It has been a long time since I played and I could be off on the details, but that’s reasonably close. Of course, there were other variations and other rules, too. You can find some of them with a quick Google.

I am sure this game has many, many variations, but here is how we used to play mumblypeg.

Take a parter and a pocket knife and open a blade on each end. Each person throws the knife and tries to stick it in the ground in a place where the other person wont be able to reach with their foot. If they can’t reach the point you throw it at, you win. Not as easy as it sounds :slight_smile:

postscriptum: Try not to stab your partner in the foot, if you can avoid it.

That’s interesting… that’s exactly how me and my pals played it as kids, too. I had no idea there were other variations of it. This was in the Boy Scouts, too, and obviously throwing knives around peoples’ feet was not considered an appropriate activity in an organization with an entire chapter of its handbook devoted to knife safety. I think that was largely the reason it was so popular… sort of a rebellious, forbidden fruit sort of thing.

It seems though that despite the variations, the central theme of the game is “throwing knives at things.”

The definitive treatment of mumbletypeg can be found in a book entitled Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing. by Robert Paul Smith. The game is described in detail, and excellently illustrated by James J. Spanfeller.

The game is properly played with the awl blade of a pocket knife, and hence is much less dangerous than you would think from the description of the game as “throwing knives at things”. There are specific moves and, in the later stages, they become quite challenging.

Tony Chestnut!

The game that we played as kids was most like the one described in Nocturne’s link. However, we did have one additional aspect to the game that, to me, explained its name but which I haven’t seen in any of the descriptions so far.

When we played, we took a small wooden peg (perhaps a matchstick with one end sharpened) and stuck it upright in the ground. When you successfully made your throw you got to give the peg a tap to drive it into the ground a bit deeper. Whoever lost the game had to dig the peg out of the ground with his teeth. This led to a bit of strategy in that, if you were in danger of losing, you gave the peg very light taps. But if you were winning, you would really pound that thing down. And on the final throw, you’d try to bury the top of the peg well below the surface of the dirt so the loser would really have to dig for it. This led to quite a bit of mumbling while retrieving the peg and hence the game’s name (or so I’ve always believed).


I thought mumblety-peg was the name for the “game” where you stab between your outstretched fingers, as seen in Aliens and various other movies. What is the name of that game?

When I played it in Boy Scouts, we played with a regular jack knife, opening only one blade on it. Each person would take a turn at sticking it in the ground and the other would have to move his foot to where it stuck. The knife had to be 3 finger width’s high to count as sticking in the ground. The one who could not move his foot to the knife would lose.

A very simplified version compared to the ones listed here, but fun none the less.

I opened this thread to recommend the Robert Paul Smith description. Except I think it’s inHow to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself, which is illustrated by his wife. (You can’t play mumbletypeg all alone by yourself, but you can practice it.) Or maybe he describes the game in both books?

The origin of the name, according to an article in the National Knife Collectors Association magazine, hung on the use of mumble as a synonym for gnaw. Gnaw-the-peg, in other words. The article implied a peg larger than a matchstick, perhaps as large as a cigar. Anyhow, it’s a pretty grubby payoff for a little boys’ game.

The version I played as a boy did not include the peg, by the way. It’s a terrible way to treat a knife. As a collector, I shake my head to think how many knives are an inch below the grass in the average Boy Scout camp.

From the OED

You wussies who don’t have to pull the peg out with your teeth. For shame.

When I was 20, I was briefly hospitalized. The other guy in the room turned out to be a guy I had gone to kindergarten and high school with. He had his hand all gashed up and needed surgery to repair his tendons ‘n’ shit. He had made up a bullshit story to explain how he was injured. But privately to me he confided that he had played that stick-the-knife-between-the-fingers game while everybody was shitface drunk.

You would think any idiot would know that alcohol and weapons do not mix. But the sub-idiots have yet to learn this… :rolleyes:

You are absolutely correct. Sorry about that.

The book also describes many other pastimes employed by kids before Playstations and soccer leagues…

Thank you for the reference BrotherCadfael-I knew it was in the back of my mind somewhere! :smiley:

Tony Chestnut indeed!